Spaniards are used to getting up every morning to yet another corruption scandal. In fact, corruption is the country’s biggest worry, ahead of the stubbornly high 24% unemployment rate.
According to Transparency International, the perception of corruption in Spain is even worse than in much poorer countries like Botswana or Bhutan.
Professor Victor Lapuente, one of the most prominent Spanish experts in this field, explains the data:
“Developing countries are catching up in terms of quality of governance”.
The focus is on politics. “Whenever politicians have no discretionary power to choose key staff in the administration, there is less corruption”, says Mr. Lapuente, who emphasizes the importance of journalism to expose irregularities.
But politicians are not the only ones to blame. The question as to whether businesses charge VAT is important in Spain, where the submerged economy accounts for 20% of GDP, said Mr. Lapuente.
“Everybody is equally responsible, because evading VAT also amounts to corruption”.
So, is there any solution? “We have several anti-corruption authorities, but these are run by the very corrupt system they are supposed to police, hardly an effective solution”.
Instead, Mr. Lapuente prefers measures fostering meritocracy, flat hierarchies and transparency. As one of the last European countries to do so, Spain has finally passed a transparency law, which Mr. Lapuente considers a first small step in the right direction.
“It’s a shame we took so long. The only explanation is that we were “drunk” with the housing bubble”.