Countering triump­ha­lism with sen­sa­tio­na­lism does not help,

Spain: Recovery And Truth

Madrid, Spain.
Madrid, Spain.

Enrique Badía y Liberal | While we re­main at­ten­tive to the in­ci­dence rate and the num­bers of hos­pi­ta­lised and dead, ans­wers to cru­cial ques­tions in any crisis are scarce or in doubt: what is hap­pe­ning, how long will it last? It is easy to answer that we are con­ten­ding with a pan­de­mic. However, it is not clear that we know enough about the how and why of each res­ponse chosen to deal with it, and even less about the path ahead and the con­se­quences that will fo­llow.

There is such a contrast in the range of judgements, opinions, assessments and prognoses that it triggers other questions: what to believe, who to believe? The discrepancies are not nuanced, suggesting that someone, perhaps more than one, is not telling the truth.

The truth. Beyond its intrinsic value in terms of decency and honesty, in periods of crisis it takes on a special relevance; not handled in just any old way, but adjusted to the Anglo-Saxon procedural formulation: the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In democracy, this is the cotton wool test. And for now, there is not much to be hopeful about here.

The somewhat cruel uncertainty associated with the damned virus – it has been going on for two years now – is complicated, if not aggravated, by sharp divergences about the situation, scant, if not contradictory, information, and a lack – due to laziness? – of education to orientate and raise society’s awareness.

In addition to the human drama associated with the accursed virus, with irreversible loss of life and persistent, undetermined after-effects, there is no small difficulty in understanding the socio-economic repercussions and their ultimate scope. It is not clear that we are being told the whole truth.

Countering triumphalism with sensationalism does not help, but rather makes it difficult to return to – whatever that means – normality. The past twenty-odd months of response and management have provided everything: good, bad, better, worse… enough to draw conclusions.

That is why it is particularly reprehensible that many governments, including Spain’s, are reluctant to promote a professional, rigorous and independent evaluation of everything that has been done or not done. It would provide an essential tool for dealing with future crises that – hopefully – may not arise. Truth can always be learned from truth. Partisan management, on the other hand, only serves to add a few minutes of glory amongst the followers and make things worse.

Entering into counter-factual reflections, speculating whether some of the socio-economic devastation could have been lighter with a different – more rational – response, does not erase the evidence that activity came to an almost complete halt for several months in 2020. And that a good part of the sectors remain, at best, at half throttle. Hence, to proclaim that recovery is in sight and is bright clashes with common sense. It is true that some indicators are evolving favourably.

The most celebrated one, employment, has yet to be cleared up in the next Labour Force Survey (EPA) as to how much of the addition comes from the public sector. But, without going into it in more depth, it is not necessary to be an expert to see that lines of activity with notable weight in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employment are still limited and limping along.

The hotel and catering and tourism sectors are often mentioned, but they are not the only ones that are far from returning to pre-pandemic scenarios (2019), with no prospects or temporary certainty of achieving this. The diagnosis of any complex economy requires considering and combining multiple data, expectations and even a certain dose of magic, in order to be useful or, better said, truthful.

To conceal that the breakdown has been major and to hush up that it will be costly to repair is a form of deception… or cheating. It is significant that the outstanding grade which Prime Minister Sánchez has assigned to his economic policy collides with a recent OECD analysis, placing Spain’s economy amongstthe worst performing and slowest to recover. At the same time…this cannot be true.

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