Posted 5 months ago on June 24, 2013, 1:29 a.m. EST by giseljanz
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When Spain's housing market collapsed in 2008, no region felt it more keenly than Andalusia.
While today the unemployment rate in Spain remains the second highest in the European Union, hovering near a record 27.2 percent, the southern autonomous region of Andalusia is even worse off: unemployment rates in its provinces range from 36 percent in Malaga to 40 percent in Cadiz.
As a result, the government of Andalusia – one of only two autonomous regions in Spain not governed by the Popular Party – is walking a fine line these days, caught between central government’s austerity measures which are affecting them more acutely than the rest of the country, and pressure from their constituents to break with Madrid and mitigate the effects of tax hikes and spending cuts that are squeezing the regional economy to the breaking point.
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Boom to bust
A mere six years ago, the Andalusian economy – which depends heavily on construction, about 10 percent more than the rest of the country – was booming.
Tourists were buying up existing homes in the area and building new ones, transforming quaint seaside villages into sprawling urban areas. New construction was in demand and coupled with the influx of foreign capital, construction costs soared.
“Before 2008, people here were making so much money on new construction that they were doing things they’d never done before, like buying fancy, new cars and paying 250 euros [$330] for a meal at a restaurant,” says Joaquin Ruiz Lagares, a small business owner from Malaga. “It was crazy, we were living like Americans.”
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The construction boom was accompanied by a rise in rental costs, prompting many Spanish residents to opt for mortgages that offered lower monthly payments – and left them vulnerable when the debt crisis hit.
Like many in Spain, Andalusians blame the PP for making matters worse.
They see Madrid's austerity measures as the reason why so many businesses have had to shut their doors, making it harder to find work. And with one of the highest eviction rates in the country, they accuse the federal government of making it easy for banks to foreclose on their homes, by sanctioning controversial hidden clauses in mortgages.
But most Spaniards do not have what Andalusia has: a regional government led by a party other than the PP. As a result, coalitions have formed throughout Andalusia to pressure the regional socialist government to buck Madrid's lead and find a more humane way to navigate the crisis.
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