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Spain - Government and Economy
The Monarch is the official head of state but does not have an executive role although he does appoint officials and receives reports on government business. He represents the country at official functions both in Spain and abroad and he serves as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. The current king is Juan Carlos I, who has been in this role since 1975 after the monarchy was reinstated by Franco. The monarchy had been removed at the time of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and it was run as a republic for almost four decades.
Those who are officially resident in Spain and who are EU citizens are able to vote in the Spanish elections. Others are not permitted to vote. You are not automatically sent notification of your right to vote and will need to register on the ‘padron’ and be on the electoral roll (censo electoral). These two lists are independent. If you have registered on the padron but have not signed onto the electoral register then you may receive a letter reminding you to do so.
In order to sign on the ‘padron’ you need to visit the local town hall. You can be signed onto the electoral roll at the same time if you wish. If you do not they will send a letter before the next election asking if you wish to vote. You simply sign the letter and return it to the town hall. In order to confirm that you are registered to vote you can contact the electoral census office at the town hall. It should be noted that most of the staff in these offices are not English speaking.
Spain has one of the largest economies in the world and the country is considered to be one of the most developed. From 2000-2005 Spain has the distinction of creating more than half of all new jobs within the European Union. In recent years the real estate market has added a great deal to the Spanish economy, accounting for 12% of the employment market. However, over the last few years the country has suffered from the economic downturn which has hit most European nations. Those who had bought at the height of the property boom struggled and personal debt became an issue for many people.
However, tourism remains one of the largest parts of the Spanish economy and areas such as the Costa del Sol are still doing very well. Construction began to decline in 2008 but economic areas such as exports are steadily increasing. There have been steps taken to cut public spending and privatise a number of industries in the hope of preventing further economic problems. Unemployment has risen in recent years as these measures take effect and it is estimated that just under 20% of the population is living below the poverty line.
Inflation rates have fluctuated in recent years. The lowest rate was in July 2009 with a rate of -1.40%. The highest rate was in July 2008 when it reached 5.30%. In May 2011 it stood at 3.50%. Interest rates in the country are affected by the European Central Bank. The interest rate in July 2011 was 1.5%. It reached a high of 4.25% in 2008 and was kept at a rate of 1% for part of 2009 and much of 2010.
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