While renowned for its tourism, Spain has much more to offer with breath taking landscapes, untouched countryside and traditions that go back centuries. Located in Southern Europe, the Kingdom of Spain was originally under Islamic control prior to a number of wars that resulted in the independent Spain of today.
Like Britain, Spain had been very progressive in building an Empire that took in the likes of Cuba, Puerto Rica, Philippines and Guam – although these were all lost to the US in the Spanish-American war of 1898. Further colonies were later sold off to German, thereby reducing the span of the Spanish Empire.
The demographics of Spain are still highly influenced by the colonies of old, with the country still proving very popular with Latin America, Eastern Europe and North Africans. Such was the flood of immigrants at the turn of the century that the Spanish Authorities instigated an amnesty whereby all “illegal inhabitants” were granted residency thereby ensuring the government were able to prevent the emergence of an underground culture.
While the political scene in Spain has historically been fairly volatile, with tensions between different areas of the country, this appears to have calmed of late. This has made Spain the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union. It has also entrenched itself with having the tenth largest economy by nominal GDP and the 15th highest Human Development Index in the world. It is also a member of the United Nations, European Union, NATO, OECD and the WTO.
Overall the Spanish economy is listed as the 8th largest in the world, by the World Bank with particular strength in areas such as Tourism, Textiles, Ship Building, Automobiles, Construction and Chemicals. Unlike the UK, France and Germany, Spain was very slow to react to the changes in the world economy resulting in a difficult economic climate in the 1980s and 1990s. There have since been major changes in the economy with unemployment down to a respectable 7.6% from highs of over 20% in the 1990s.
The country has historically been very poor at inward investment, and has one of the lowest investment levels in Europe, although there are signs of change. Low productivity, and a very active underground economy are slowly being addressed, as is the standard of the Spanish education system that has been slated by European observers in the past. Another aspect of the weakness of the Spanish economy is the continued high inflation rate, large underground economy and its education system ranking among the lowest in the OECD member states. It is also currently in the midst of a property slump with rising unemployment, reaching as high as 18.7%.
On a more positive note, Spain has one of the largest tourist industries in the world, proving particularly attractive to the British who have taken over many of the more popular seaside resorts. The weather, the landscape and the cost of living have also attracted many foreign nationals to move to the country (with a high number of retired folk choosing the country as their new home).
On the tax front, Spain has a corporate tax rate of some 25% with income tax varying between 15% and 45%, depending on your level of income. While taxes are actively being used to improve and develop the infrastructure, there is still much work to be done in some areas of the country. The European Commission is forecasting that Spain would enter its deepest recession starting 2008.
Prospects in Spain
While Spain has suffered from problems in the past – an unstable political background, lack of inward investment, a delay in responding to competitive issues and low productivity levels – these issues are all being addressed.
The country is now beginning to flourish and making full use of the vast array of landscapes and climates available, from the snow capped mountains of the North, to the blistering heat of the South. The country is now facing its greatest challenge as it registers a zero growth rate in the last two years and there have been forecasts of a deep and widespread recession in its immediate future.
The Spanish employment market has often attracted a great number of immigrants for some of the lower paid jobs, but there are also vibrant high paid industries in some of the larger cities. This is the only silver lining for the country, as the property market in Spain continues its slump and no end is immediately in sight. The country was also one of the first to adopt the Euro, which has again opened new doors for Spanish industry, and offers some degree of stability. All of these prospects help explain the growing population of Expats living in Spain.
Key Facts on Spain:
Bordered by Portugal, France, Andorra, Gibraltar and Morocco
Food: Paella and Tapas
Temperature: Sub zero in the mountains of the north, to basking hot sun in the South
Industries: Tourism, Construction and Automobiles
Education: Historically poor, but great improvements of late
Health: Life expectancy 80 years