LAST week, the BBC aired a feature entitled Corruption is the word in fashion in Spain, reporting that a new political scandal is uncovered every day.
For long-term residents living in Spain this revelation will not come as a big shock.
The ‘c’ word is never far from the lips of expatriates, the media and Spaniards alike.
It would seem that now, even more than ever before, corruption is rife within the very foundations that are
meant to hold the country together.
Indeed, over the past three years, no less than 18 Mayors, seven from the PP, and five from the PSOE, have
been arrested for bribery, misuse of public funds, perverting the course of justice and money laundering.
The big question is; why Spain? What is it about this country that seems to fuel such crimes among the politicians who should be acting as moral role models?
In his new book author Daniel Montero decided to get to the bottom of the country’s inherent problem and shockingly uncovered that some of the biggest injustices taking place are actually perfectly legal.
If UK residents thought they were the only people governed by money-grabbing politicians then they can now
be consoled by Montero’s findings.
For his investigations have now exposed the heinous excesses of officials the length and breadth of Spain.
He took the time to calculate that the country boasts a jawdropping 65,896 councillors, 8,112 mayors, 1,206 regional parliamentarians, 1,031 provincial deputies as well as 650 deputies and senators.
That is even before you include the Prime Minister, his three Deputy Prime Ministers, plus another 530 highranking state officers.
All in all, it adds up to 76,000 professional politicians hoovering up a cool 720 million euros a year in wages – a
burden shouldered by the taxpayer.
While most Spaniards have to work 35 years to collect the maximum pension of 32,000 euros a year, a Deputy
or Senator has the right to that after just seven years.
Furthermore, ex-ministers can collect 80 per cent of their wage for two years, about 5,400 euros a month
– paid irrespective of other wages or employment.
Indeed, many retired regional presidents, in Cataluña, Extremadura and the Basque Country collect pensions
Jordi Pujol and Pasqual Maragall enjoy 57,600 euros a year while Juan Jose Ibarretxe receives 45,000 euros.
Such figures don’t sit well when the average pension in Spain is just 757 euros a month.
Perhaps most ironic is the fact that Spain’s most powerful individual, Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, takes
holidays paid for by his very own electorate – the Spanish people.
When he’s not running the country Zapatero travels around with an 100-strong entourage consisting of numerous political advisors and bodyguards.
Each scoops at least 80 euros a day, you do the maths, that’s 8000 euros forked out every day by unsuspecting Spanish citizens to fund Zapatero’s jaunts.
Big spending is unsurprisingly not restricted to Zapatero and his loyal followers.
The debts owed by Spain’s political parties are officially spiralling out of control.
According to the Tribunal de Cuentas the parties represented in the Spanish Congress now owe 144.8 million euros.
This is despite political parties receiving an average of 184 million euros a year in grants to support their various activities.
In contrast, last year alone, 60,000 Spaniards lost their homes because they could not meet the mortgage payments.
It is a bitter pill to swallow, especially when those made homeless are passed in the streets by these indebted officials, driving the latest luxury cars.
For Montero has discovered that 14 of the 17 regional presidents all drive round in Audis.
The Mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon, can be spotted cruising the avenues of the capital in the latest Audi A8 – costing a fraction over half a million euros.
However, such lavish purchases by Mayors are, in actual fact, perfectly reasonable as there is no glass ceiling on their wages.
Despite presiding over a town in financial ruin, former Mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yague was still picking up a pay packet of some 85,000 euros a year.
Yet even this pales into insignificance compared with Spain’s best paid politician, no, not Zapatero, but Barcelona Mayor Jordi Hereu, who enjoys a whopping annual salary of 177,393 euros.
These extravagant wages would be bearable if these political figures worked around the clock to repay the faith shown in them by their faithful supporters.
Unfortunately, Montero has calculated that only 33 per cent of the 350 deputies in Congress devote all their working time to their political responsibilities.
The vast majority of politicians juggle their official duties with work commitments on the side.
So it is important to keep a bit of perspective the next time more Spanish political scandals come to the fore.
The truth is that the country’s ruling elite are undertaking some of the most abhorrent injustices as a legitimate part of their day job.
The book by David Montero, ‘La Casta. El increíble chollo de ser político en España’, is published by La Esfera de los Libros at 22 €.