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For a country which has always been a tourist powerhouse, Spain still suffers from high unemployment, one of the highest in the Eurozone. This might be quite hard for people to understand considering Spain attracts over 55 million tourists every year, bringing 1,500 million euros worth of income into the country. Spanish tourism is actually generating more income than before the economic crisis, so what else do they have to do to? The Answer: Sponsorship, gambling, construction, price hikes and privatization:
Vodafone have now apparently taken over the Madrid underground system, purchasing the rights to rebrand the entire line for an estimated 3 million euros. Madrid’s central metro station Puerta Del Sol has been renamed Vodafone Sol, with line 2 being rebranded line 2 Vodafone. This has undoubtedly been greeted with some resentment, a possible reminder of the Franco regime where street names were changed without any prior warning. The site was also the focal point for protests during the recession.
If that wasn’t enough, backed by the American Gambling Association powerhouse Las Vegas Sands, there are plans to build the largest casino in Europe just outside of Madrid in what was a fierce battle between the Catalan giant and the Spanish capital. The 35 billion dollar project is set to bring 10,000 new jobs to Spain with a further 160,000 directly and 90,000 indirectly, and is estimated to be completed by 2025, with 6 casinos, 4 hotels, 9 theatres and 3 golf courses. EuroVegas though has been met by fierce competition, especially Conservative politicians, the Catholic Church, and outraged citizens. They share the opinion that the project is set to open Spain up to human trafficking, prostitution, drugs and gambling addiction. To add insult to injury the Madrid government are bending tax evasion laws for the American powerhouse and are even trying to overturn a ban which will stop smoking in enclosed indoor areas.
The belief is that this is the answer to Madrid’s economic problems, but this may be a gamble too far for the Spanish government. Leading experts say that this mass construction frenzy was what got Spain to where they are now, and that their economic model is not suitable for gambling, construction, but more on tourism and exports.
While excessive construction may have got Spain into this miss, they are also planning to tear down a belle époque building and courtyard in Madrid’s Plaza de Canalejas, in lieu of plans to construct a 5 Star hotel and shopping mall. 18 Major architects have signed a petition against the destruction of the building claiming it as a historic monument, but it seems as if the plan is to go ahead.
Privatization of hospitals may be on hold due to a ruling from the Spanish high Court, but plans to raise Spanish tuition fees are certainly moving forward. Madrid’s public universities will increase in price by 20% next year, a 65% rise in two years. This is in a country where the value of a degree is imperative no matter what job prospects you have.
While these moves may be considered quite controversial, considering the state the economy is in I’m unsure whether they have any other choice. The real test will come after the summer months are over and will definitely be a reality check for the Spanish economy when tourism drops, if EuroVegas falls through maybe their bid for the 2020 Olympics will be the answer they are looking for.