Spain’s dash into tourism in the 1970s and its property boom last decade largely passed by the Basque region, a cool, damp corner of the north with a reputation for separatist violence. Instead the Basques stuck with industry, by force of circumstance.
Euskadi, the Basque name for the hilly province of 2 million bordering France, now outshines the rest of Spain with a better credit rating than central government, the lowest regional unemployment and borrowing costs half those of other areas…
The Basque region’s secret has been in sticking to manufacturing over the property and tourism industries that ended in economic misery elsewhere in Spain when a real estate bubble fuelled by easy credit burst in 2009…
The Basque Country is Spain’s fifth largest regional economy, with a gross domestic product of 66.1 billion euros, meaning it accounts for around 7 percent of national GDP. The region’s exports are more or less evenly balanced between the rest of Spain and markets beyond Spanish borders.
Its deficit-to-GDP ratio is just 0.25 percent, compared with nearly 90 percent for the central state. It has the lowest unemployment rate in Spain at 13.55 percent, compared with 24.4 percent nationally…
The region, at Spain’s border with continental Europe, is rich in natural resources. A cradle of the iron and steel industry, it was an obvious choice as a manufacturing base.
“There was a clear bet on industry here, a bet on those traditional sectors, such as iron, steel, energy and small and medium-sized companies that make all those components for the energy and car sectors, that make things that you can hold in your hand,” Jose Luis Curbelo, director general of the Basque Institute for Competitiveness, said.
“That is the secret of the Basque economy,” he said. “Basque industry immediately internationalized, whether that was by producing components and gadgets for overseas companies, or by setting up shop and manufacturing abroad.”
“That process was much faster and much more committed than in the rest of Spain, so the collapse in the domestic market hasn’t affected Basque companies as much. A lot of their sales are global and they can withstand the crisis in better shape.”
RTFA for details, anecdotal tales and reasonableness of a people oppressed by fascists and democrats alike – who survived both.
Yes, you should expect a cranky Celtic geek like me to feel a bit extra love for a cranky Celtic people. The Basque nation is as independent-minded as a highlander — often as intolerant of their own species of Sassenach as well. Fortunately, arguing with the central government in Madrid never brought dedicated self-sufficiency to a halt.