Thursday, January 25, 2007

The total of empty houses throughout Spain turns out to be around 3 million, against 230,000 here in Galicia. Because of the non-existence of a rental market, desperate people are inevitably resorting to squatting. El Pais says this is understandable but must be stopped and it calls for something better than the ‘lamentable’ coordination between the regions and Madrid on the issue of high demand and nil supply. And it stresses that renters must be given the protection of a law which stops them being taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous tenants. Meanwhile, some local governments – ours for example – have said they will eschew taxing owners of empty flats a la Catalunia and will, instead, force local councils to build more cheap, protected buildings. Strangely, the prices of these have a habit of rising faster than the uncontrolled buildings. Presumably the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The Spanish President, Mr Zapatero, boasted a week or two ago that his government would be responsible for the country’s per capita GDP being higher than Germany’s by 2010. Strange, then, that Spain will be receiving massive EU grants until at least 2013 and, if I’m any judge, for some time beyond. But I guess begging at Brussels is a safer strategy than imposing higher taxes on voters whose income has soared and then redistributing it. However illogical. To say things like this, of course, is to commit the sin of ignoring ‘European solidarity’. What this term actually means depends on where you are standing.

When I was young, I used to tease my smoker friends by claiming they couldn’t chuck the habit because nicotine destroyed exactly that part of the brain which would enable them to do so. It now seems I was half right. Scientists claim they’ve discovered a region deep in the brain, the insula, which is intimately involved in smoking addiction. If this is damaged, they say, the body's urge to light up is erased. Time to invest in companies making keyhole surgery tools.

Galicia Facts

Galician temperatures have risen on average by 1.46 degrees in the last 24 years. The range is from 1.18 in La Coruña to 1.81 in Lugo, up in the mountains. Ourense – a place of massive seasonal extremes – comes in second highest at 1.55.

I mentioned the other day that, because of a shortage of prey and carrion, wolves were venturing ever closer to our villages. Now come tales of wild boars grubbing in the nearby forests and press reports of packs of feral crows killing lambs on farms up in the hills. I guess it’s possible all these reflect the impact of the August fires on the flora and fauna of the hinterland. Any views from Biopolitical?


murcian said...

As a follow-up to your recent comment on Spanish names - from the local paper:

"THE MINISTRY OF JUSTICE has refused Spanish nationality to a Colombian woman because her name is Darling. The civil registry judge says the name is inadmissible under current Spanish legislation."

Any idea where the list of proscribed names can be obtained?

Colin said...

I wonder if there is a complete list anywhere. If so, it must grow every day. The law is Law 20 of 1994 which "no acepta nombres que puedan afectar la dignidad ni que puedan inducir a error respecto al sexo del individuo". More research necessary.

Colin said...

OK, if you type this in your browser, you'll get a treatise on the names accepted and rejected in Cordoba at least. Please let us have the best . . . .

Colin said...

Sorry. Here it is . . .

Biopolitical said...

Hi Colin! Thanks for the invitation :) I don't give much weight to those anecdotes. And notice that fire affected 3% of Galicia's land area, and that those areas have suffered recurrent fires over the years. So, we shouldn't expect any exceptional effect of last year's fires on the flora and fauna; only more of the same.

Regarding the rental market I agree that the problem is the lack of protection of renters' property rights. Subsidizing home building solves nothing.

I partly blame local councils for the high prices of homes. They get much (80% on average according to some newspaper, I think El Mundo) of their revenues from reselling land and taxing building-related activities. They own much land and they control what is done on the land they don't own by means of zoning and building regulations. They use these oligopolistic privileges to keep land prices artificially high and thus boost their revenues. They then use those revenues to build mountain elevators - or at least that's what the council does here in La Coruña.

Regarding temperatures, what effect has the choice of that particular 24-year interval on the 1.46 degrees result? A lot. Choosing another interval would yield a very different figure. Climate is warming but not at a rate of 1.46 degrees per 24 years.

I also take the opportunity to comment on a frequent topic in this blog. Like many other Galicians I don't care the least about nationalist ideas. I think the government, Galician or otherwise, should be neutral about language, culture, trade, immigration and the place of birth of business owners. I am all for open borders and globalization.

Colin said...

Thanks, Marcelino. As ever, I find it easy to accept/agree with all you say. And I appreciate the comment re nationalism. Thank God most Galicians feel the same way.

Olivia said...

Hi Colin,

I am a teacher looking to relocate to Galicia (Vigo in particular), and I was wondering if you would be able to give me some advise in terms of looking for properties to rent. I would be grateful if you would be able to share with me your insight into the market, what I should be looking for and also whether you have any contacts of any reputable estate agents. If you could email me back at

I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks in advance,

Kindest regards,