Thursday, January 19, 2006

The latest inter-regional spat to capture the headlines – though it’s been simmering for months – is between Castile y León and [who else?] Catalunia. It concerns the latter’s demands that documents from the state archive be transferred from Salamanca to Barcelona. Meanwhile, negotiations over the Catalunian Constitution seem to heading for a messy end, proving [once again] you can make all the people unhappy all the time. And the third senior army official in a week or so has been sacked for interfering in politics. All in all, I have some sympathy with an editorial in today’s El Mundo suggesting Spain is going backwards down a time tunnel. They attribute this, of course, to the country’s mismanagement by President Zapatero. In particular to his pandering to the nationalist [i. e. regionalist] coalition partners who keep him in power.

I mentioned the other day that, because of the tolls, very little commercial traffic uses the excellent autopistas of at least this region. One consequence is that traffic on the parallel National roads is slowed down by the huge trucks bringing logs up from Portugal to our local wood mills. Stuck behind one of these today, I resolved to run for local mayor when my Gallego is up to it. Once in power, I’ll force the heavy traffic onto the autopistas and liberate the other roads for the little guy. Except I won’t, as I’ll then be chauffeured – free of charge - along the toll roads. All power corrupts. Even before I’ve got it in my case.

These days, many Spanish banks try to attract new customers with a one-month interest rate of around 6% pa. Or 0.5% of the total. But this is not quite what it seems, especially after tax. For the bank you move your money from will charge you 0.3% just for making a couple of clicks on a keyboard. This may not sound much but here’s what it costs to transfer a large sum, e. g. to pay for a house:-
100,000 euros: 300 euros = 360 dollars = 207 pounds
150,000 euros: 450 euros = 540 dollars = 310 pounds
200,000 euros: 600 euros = 720 dollars = 414 pounds.
I don’t know what the situation is in the USA but a UK bank would charge you a maximum of around 20 pounds in each case. All this is, of course, designed to deter you from changing banks and, in the UK at least, would be illegal as being in restraint of trade and anti-competitive. But, if you think this is bad, ponder on the fact that banks here also charge you handsomely for receiving your money if you bring it from abroad. And then charge you to keep it in your account. And for every single little transaction you make. So, can you be surprised that I regularly rail against their rapacious practices? Not to mention their gross inefficiency. Except when it comes to fleecing customers, of course.

The Queen Sofia in Madrid yesterday admitted they’ve mislaid a statue weighing 38 tonnes. This is quit a feat. But, sadly, they won’t be able to sell on their expertise to anyone because they don’t know how they did it. They’re investigating but, as the statue went walkabout in 1992, I for one don’t hold out much hope.

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