I can't remember who the person was who said something to the effect that Spain's problems were never about spending..


Three years ago the mayor of Alcorcon embarked on a hugely ambitious project.

Some 100m euros ($124m; £80m) was to be invested in a world-beating culture and arts centre, complete with nine buildings, three underground levels, and even a circus.

But it did not work out.

The area where the project was being built is now a sorry sight.

Inside, light fittings hang loose and the half-finished futuristic buildings are surrounded by a graffiti-covered corrugated iron fence.

A project that was meant to put the local area on the map has instead become an unsightly symbol of Spain's past unhealthy habit of regional overspending.

Many regions in the country owe billions of euros, partly because some local politicians built anything from airports to swimming pools to cultural projects during the boom times.

Some of those projects now lie unfinished, empty or inactive. Others were completed as planned.

But most of them have one thing in common: they have left big holes in local public finances.

Take Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences, which was opened back in 1998. The cultural initiative was finished, it is fully operating and very impressive.

But its budget deficit is still some 600m euros, with local media claiming that costs doubled to almost 1.3bn euros.