Spain: System Error

2013-07-24 Highway A-14. Alguaire, Lleida, Catalunya. Highway A-14 began to be built where it was easiest to expropriate soil, far from all possible junctions. When successive budget cuts stopped the construction in 2012, all there was left was a 10 km long chunk of asphalt that goes from no place to nowhere. The works to connect it with the provincial capital started in 2013. Total cost: €84 million. Photo: Marc Femenia / Kontinent



By Marc Femenia – At the turn of the 21st century, in Spain nothing was impossible. No construction project was too large or too difficult. In the peak year of 2006 Spain constructed more houses than France, Germany and Great Britain put together. Spain had Europe’s longest highway network, twice as many commercial airports as Germany, and the world’s second longest high-speed rail network. Spain was the land of gold and honey and the economic growth seemed to have no limits. The world was in awe of the “Spanish miracle”. When reality finally caught up with Spain, in 2007, its urbanized surface had increased by 52 % in only 18 years, and its landscape was littered by a myriad of deserted infrastructural projects. Airports without passengers, highways without cars, hospitals without patients… Not to mention the two million empty houses no one wanted to move into. All built with the money of the future generations. What was once built as proud monuments over economic success, has now become the embarrassing evidence of a political system characterized by bad planning, thoughtless investments and widespread corruption. A system that has plunged Spain into its worst economic crisis since the advent of democracy. Since 2008, Spain has been the main recipient of loans from the European Investment Bank, receiving more than €68 billion, more than half of which has been invested in new infrastructural projects. Thus, several megaprojects are already being planned throughout the territory, and the highway and high-speed rail networks continue their expansion, albeit at a slower pace. This is a sampling of the consequences of having unrestrained construction leading the way for the Spanish economy.