Following a disappointing slide down the rankings in 2017, Spain has bounced back to rise one place in this year’s index. This is despite enduring a difficult year of political discord and upheaval. The Catalan independence referendum highlighted deep divides in the nation’s fabric, already scarred by the effects of the 2008 financial crisis. However, a more proactive approach to its digital strategy has supplemented a strong Engagement score as Spain looks to continue its rebound towards the top ten. Spain’s climate, cuisine, and vast array of tourist attractions also ensure the country retains immense cultural soft power. It must now look to attract business and investment following the political instability of the Gurtel investigation, which saw Mariano Rajoy lose a vote of no confidence and a socialist government installed. A rigid response to the Catalan separatist movement must be rectified and internal divisions must be addressed before Spain can truly unlock the potential of its soft power.
After Real Madrid’s third consecutive UEFA Champions League victory, Spain’s passion for football has helped maintain the country’s enviable cultural reputation. Sporting prowess aside, the attraction of tapas, rioja, and bullfighting means the Iberian nation remains the third most visited country worldwide. Spain also consolidated its impressive diplomatic network, ranking 7th in the Engagement sub-index. Finally, Spain dramatically improved its digital capabilities, one of our main recommendations in 2017. Combined with a strong Engagement score, Spain is building a platform from which to rise dramatically.
Although the economy is seemingly on the road to recovery, confidence in the state is weak amidst corruption scandals that gave new socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez a chance at power. Spain’s rise in the Government sub-index is perhaps indicative of turmoil in other countries in the index, rather than the strength of its own political institutions. Consistent political instability has also diminished business confidence in a nation that is struggling to rise in the Enterprise sub-index despite falling unemployment and stable growth.
After a significant improvement in its digital capabilities, Spain must look to improve its reputation as a secure and attractive environment in which to conduct business. A rise in the Government sub-index has come despite political developments and may hamper Spain’s ability to address a lack of business confidence. Spanish culture is a gateway to engagement – it must now be exploited to attract business whatever the political situation.