The Internet Laughs at Spanish President Rajoy's Ignorance About His Country's Debt

Un momento de la entrevista a Mariano Rajoy el 6 de julio. Captura de pantalla de la web de Tele5

A moment during Mariano Rajoy's interview on July 6. Screenshot from the Tele5 website.

Mariano Rajoy's term as president of Spain, one that has been characterized by a lack of communication between the government and citizens, is about to come to a close. During his four years, he has faced numerous criticisms for holding press conferences from a plasma screen instead of in person without allowing time for the press to ask questions.

Perhaps the upcoming elections are the reason why the usually media-averse Rajoy granted a televised interview on Monday, July 6.

This interview, which focused on the Greek referendum and negotiations between that country and the European Union, has made clear the president's limited capacity to improvise his answers. In response to the question, “Do you believe that Greek will pay at some point?”, Rajoy said:

[Grecia] debe mucho dinero, debe algo más del 90% de su PIB, es como si España debiéramos, pues 900 000 millones de euros, que es una cifra astronómica (…)

[Greece] owes a lot of money, they owe more than 90% of their GDP, it is as if Spain were to owe around 900 billion euros, which is an astronomical figure (…)

It is worth wondering where the president got these numbers, since Greece's debt surpasses 175% of its gross domestic product (GDP). Nor is the comparison “as if Spain were to owe 900 billion euros” apt, although he's correct in saying that the figure is astronomical. The truth is that Spain owes a much larger amount, about 1.046 billion euros, which represents 98% of Spain's GDP.

Rajoy, who has argued this year that “the crisis is history” in Spain, seems to be the only person capable of seeing this supposed turnaround in the economy. The debt, which stood at 66% of the Spanish GDP when the conservative Popular Party gained power in 2011, has grown by leaps and bounds, to which the bank bailout has undoubtedly contributed. Of this public assistance to the banks, which surpass 100 billion euros, over 43 billion are already gone.

Executives at the institutions that were bailed out continue to maintain all of their privileges without the government requiring them to apply austerity measures. Meanwhile, tax increases and Rajoy's reforms have increased the number of Spaniards at risk of exclusion, put job inequality and insecurity on the rise and eroded essential public services.

Netizens have preferred to look at the president's blunder comically, filling Twitter with caustic comments:

I imagine [Spanish Economy Minister] Guindos last night explaining the issue of Spain's debt to Rajoy with puppets.

Since they told Rajoy the total amount of the debt, he's had five injections of ephedrine and hasn't had a reaction. I fear the worst.

Rajoy can negotiate a haircut and get us a wig.

In any case, his advisers think that Rajoy's psyche cannot yet recognize the magnitude of the public debt, like the baby in Life Is Beautiful

Many netizens also left comments, like antuan, grima, and Hanxxs did on Spanish social news site Menéame:

De este tío se hablará en los libros de Historia. Pero no como él espera.

They'll be talking about this guy in history books. But not in the way he hopes.

Veo a los meneantes muy perdidos, Rajoy se equivoca en un informativo en directo en Telecinco. Cuando el juez le cite para declarar sobre la financiación del Partido que dirige, alegará demencia senil y tendrá pruebas que aportar. Plan genial de Arriola una vez más.

I see Menéame users are very lost, Rajoy is wrong in a live news segment on Telecino. When the judge ordered him to make a statement about his party's finances, he'll argue senile dementia and will provide evidence. [Popular Party political adviser] Arriola's great plan once again.

Pagaría por ver las tomas falsas de sus apariciones en plasma tv. Como algún día se filtren esas grabaciones el descojone puede ser total.

I would pay to see outtakes of his appearances on TV. If these recordings are ever leaked one day, I would piss myself laughing.

Paco Bello, founder of online magazine Iniciativa Debate, wrote an article that reflects his anger at the president's misinformation:

Que el presidente del Gobierno de España concatene errores garrafales sobre un mismo asunto (…) ofrece una conclusión: Mariano Rajoy no sabe nada, es como una ameba (…)

En una sola frase comete tantos errores inexplicables sobre su principal tarea como gobernante, sobre aquello que debiera quitarle el sueño, que es para echarse a temblar (…)

A lo mejor es verdad que nos merecemos el país que sufrimos. Pero me gustaría que lo sufrieran especialmente sus votantes, y al resto que no nos hicieran pagar tan cara la decisión de tanto necio y tanto obtuso.

The fact that the president of the Spanish government committed blunders on the same topic […] leads to one conclusion: Mariano Rajoy does not know anything, he's like an amoeba […]

In a single sentence, he makes so many inexplicable mistakes about his main role as a governing leader, about things that should make him lose sleep and shudder […]

Maybe it's true that we deserve the country we are suffering. But I would especially like for the voters to suffer and for the rest of us not to have to pay so much for such a foolish and dim decision.

Bolsamanía, a website about the economy, spoke with Rajoy's team, which denied he made any sort of mistake in his comment and blamed the controversy on a misunderstanding:

Mariano Rajoy en realidad se refería a lo que equivalen los dos rescates de las instituciones a Grecia. En este sentido, cuando el líder popular hablaba de una deuda del 90%, se refería a que ese es el porcentaje del PIB que se corresponde a lo que debe Grecia de los rescates.

Mariano Rajoy was actually referring to the amount of the two bailouts from the institutions to Greece. In this regard, when the popular leader spoke of a 90% debt, he meant that this is the percentage of the GDP that corresponds to what Greece owes in the bailouts.

In the end, the whole controversy has served to make other important information that emerged during his interview go unnoticed, like the fact that the president has not yet even decided on the month that the next elections will be held (despite the current term ending in November) or that his disregard for consulting citizens:

(…) un gobernante tiene que resolver los problemas, no está para hacer referéndums.

[…] a leader must solve problems, not make referendums.

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