Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Spanish protest; Residence docs.; A federal Spain?; & A neat trick.

I've been known to ask what it'll take for the Spanish to do something more than moan about their corrupt, self-serving politicians. Well, something has finally snapped in Burgos, where thousands of people have taken to the streets to stop work on the remodelling of their main avenue. At a time of tightened belts, they're angered by what they see as pointless and misguided expenditure, possibly motivated more by kickbacks than anything else. As street protesting is now virtually illegal in Spain, several of them have been arrested and imprisoned. Here's David Jackson on a show which could run and run. And set a precedent for elsewhere. Let's hope so.

I've mentioned that, here in Pontevedra, there've been a lot of roadworks around the town hall and the offices of the provincial government. The main effect of these seems to have been a further cut in the number of free parking spaces in town. I guess the objective is to drive people into the new (and expensive) underground parking in front of said town hall. As yet, though, there hasn't been a whisper of protest here. It'll be a while before we go Burgos.

One of the things I achieved yesterday morning was a successful visit to the Foreigners' desk in the police station. This was to check whether my A4 sized green certificate of residence (useless for anything other than showing someone your ID number) had been superseded, as I'd read, by something else. Well, yes, said the lady, we now issue them in much smaller form. This gives the same information and, likewise, can't be used for ID purposes but the one you have is still valid. If you want the new one, it'll cost you 40 euros. I declined, of course. Especially as I still have my expired, laminated Residence Card dating back several years, which fits into my wallet and is accepted by everyone as proof of ID. Except eagle-eyed notaries. No wonder they earn so much.

On a wider front . . . This morning I read this rather interesting view on the upcoming Catalan referendum on secession from Spain:- Following what we must hope will be a resounding “no” vote, we need to adopt a new, fully federal model inspired by the US, Canadian, Swiss and other similar systems that share power properly between the centre and autonomous provinces or states. The regions must be given greater rights and responsibilities, and all component parts of Spain need to start living within their means, raising as much tax as they spend. Not only would this rejuvenate Spanish politics but it would also be hugely beneficial for the economy. Spain's component regions would be incentivised to experiment with radical, pro-growth measures and public sector reforms that are unthinkable under the current structure. The central government should control defence, foreign policy, trade relations, monetary policy, financial regulation and a few other key areas. Everything else should be decentralised: the regional parliaments should have complete control of health care, education, welfare, pensions, labour market rules, parts of transport and energy and as many other areas as possible Actually, I fibbed. This comment wasn't about Spain but about Scotland, the UK and its component nations. But surely it's just as true of Spain. The present quasi-federal situation cannot be sustained. That said, if the PP government has been stimulated by the Catalan threat (cf. the head-in-sand "It simply can't and won't happen"), then they must be discussing this in secret. And probably not with the regions. True, the same could be said about the UK government but I'd be prepared to bet it's rather more advanced in thinking about the post-referendum set-up than the Spanish government is.

Finally . . . Walking past a van illegally parked the other night, I clocked a note on the dash, saying "Mechanic repairing a lift in which people are stuck." Nice one, I thought. But you presumably can't use it in the same spot too often.

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