DRIVERS and taxpayers in Spain who assiduously avoid paying for toll roads will be delighted to learn that they will end up funding them anyway as the public will be bailing out the owners of nine privately managed highways to the tune of €5.5 billion.
After two years of negotiations, the Spanish government has found itself in a similar position to many expat homeowners, chasing money owed around a labyrinth of complex accounting and vulture funds.
The modern day highwaymen borrowed billions from various banks, which have in turn sold the debt on to international vulture funds, which are now calling on the state to fulfill its role as guarantor and fork out the cash.
Now a hastily-formed 100% state owned company will be created to take over the nine roads and write off half the debt in one expensive stroke for the taxpayers.
The nine, mostly ring roads from Madrid to Andalucia, Barcelona, Valencia and Portugal, were built before the recession with the expectation that eager drivers would pay for the privilege of a faster route.
But when the crisis bit, people were understandably reluctant to fork out up to €10 to save half an hour on their journey. The roads were used by a tiny fraction of the numbers hoped and now it is up to the government to somehow engineer a profit from them.