BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain's left-wing government wants the massive coronavirus windfall it will be receiving from the European Union to transform the nation after the economic devastation caused by the pandemic.
Spain is set to receive 140 billion euros ($166 billion) — half in direct payments, half in loans — from the 750 billion-euro ($908 billion) recovery plan adopted by EU leaders last year as the continent's economy reeled under lockdown restrictions, job losses and reduced consumer spending.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the leader of Spain’s Socialists, unveiled his coalition government's plans for 70 billion ($83 billion) in direct aid that it hopes to invest over the next three years. In line with EU priorities, they place a heavy emphasis on creating a greener economy, digitalizing business and public administrations and boosting productivity, all while fighting gender inequality and ensuring Spain’s underpopulated rural areas don't get left behind.
“This is the biggest opportunity for Spain since its entry into the European Union, and that was 37 years ago,” Sánchez said. “These opportunities only come twice in a generation, and Spain is not going to let it go by.”
The EU's 27 nations have until the end of the month to hand in their coronavirus recovery plans to Brussels. Sánchez will first present his plan to Spain’s Parliament on Wednesday, when opposition parties can argue for changes.
Sánchez said his government has forecast a 2% annual GPD growth thanks to the financial injection for a nation of 47 million whose economy shrunk 11% last year. The first goal of the recovery funds spending is to offset the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the pandemic, above all in Spain's large tourism industry.
Meanwhile, Sánchez wants to shift the nation's economy by boosting renewable energy use and other initiatives to fight the effects of climate change.
The government's more than 200 spending initiatives include 13.2 billion euros ($15.7 billion) for adapting Spain's roadways for electric, hybrid and plug-in vehicles. Another 6.8 billion euros ($8.1 billion) will go to improving the energy efficiency of homes, and 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion) will be used to expand renewable energy use. Four billion euros ($4.7 billion) will ensure that a 5G mobile network is available nationwide, including in rural areas.
“In the short term, we want to promote the recovery our our economy. In the mid-term, we want to foster its complete transformation,” Sánchez said. “The pandemic has made even more urgent a transformation that was already necessary.”