Sunday, May 18, 2014

Contextualising what’s afoot in Spain

No one can argue that Spain is among the big beasts of the euro zone, a country boasting high profile companies from banking to oil and gas. However, all is not well with this beast. The financial crisis and subsequent property market crash have taken their toll.

At present, the country has one of the highest unemployment rates in the euro zone, rising public debt and low consumer confidence.

To understand Spain's current economic malaise, one must contextualise the past – from recent politics to socioeconomics issues, from past histories to recent discontent. Veteran journalist William Chislett's brilliantly concise book - Spain: What everyone needs to know - helps you do just that.

The author, who had his first brush with Spain in 1970s and has lived there since 1986, begins the narrative by touching on the country's often turbulent history from the seventh century to the Franco years, and recent past either side of the Madrid bombings.

Chislett demonstrates strength in brevity, as this book of just under 230 pages, split into seven parts touches on the key protagonists who shaped or help shape Spain for better or for worse. In each case, from Franco to Zapatero, the author has interpreted trends and sentiments as he perceived them with a sense of balance, wit and proportion which is admirable.

Privatisations of state-owned companies from telecommunications to banks and of course that oil and gas behemoth called Repsol are duly mentioned with details of how, when and why Spain crossed that bridge. With the summary done, Chislett turns his attention to what lies ahead for the euro zone's fourth largest economy currently grappling with huge socioeconomic problems.

You can literally breeze through this splendid book and be wiser for it if Spain interests you. The Oilholic is also happy to recommend it to students of economics, the European Union project and those of a curious disposition with a thirst for improving their general knowledge about a country, its people and the challenges they face as a nation.

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: Front Cover – Spain: What everyone needs to know © Oxford University Press, July 2013.

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