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The most draconian spending cuts on record are plunging Spain’s cities and highways into darkness as ministries and mayors struggle to pay for basic services

Cars went barreling along the highway in darkness, ferrying families from Madrid to the beaches of Catalonia during the Easter holiday season, the black stalks of unlit streetlamps flicking past their windows. Truck drivers honked angrily as motorists switched on their full beams to pick out curves in the road, momentarily dazzling oncoming traffic.

Motorists traveling along the main highway linking the Spanish capital to Seville and the rest of the south face similar challenges.

“In some stretches it looks like they’ve been switching off the lights, in others they are missing the bulbs or the cables,” says Pascual Cabello, 32, who runs a fleet of eight trucks. “It’s only going to get worse,” he adds.

The most draconian spending cuts on record are plunging Spain’s cities and highways into darkness as ministries and mayors struggle to pay for basic services, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its May 14 issue. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is trying to pare the country’s deficit by about 27 billion euros ($35 billion), an amount equivalent to almost a third of central government spending last year, to appease European officials and bond investors.

At the same time, Rajoy is battling the fallout from Spain’s second recession since 2009. Unemployment had edged up to 24 percent, pushing up social security payments, damping tax revenue straining the country’s financial system.

The government this week said it will use public money to prop up the banks for the first time and ordered lenders to set aside another 30 billion euros to cover the real estate losses buried in their balance sheets. The state will take control of Bankia SA (BKIA), the nation’s fourth-biggest lender, converting 4.5 billion euros of preferred shares into ordinary shares.

Public lighting is one of the more visible casualties of the hard times.

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