A survey of 29 health services across Europe says there’s now a three-tier situation here. At the top of the best group is Austria, followed by Holland, France, Germany and the Nordic countries. Britain rates only 17th, behind Estonia and just above Italy and Portugal. As yet, I can’t find Spain’s ranking but I suspect it’s above Britain’s.
One of the accusations levelled at President Zapatero is that he’s well and truly let the genie of nationalism out of the bottle. Evidence of this is said to include the refusal of town halls across the country – especially in the Basque country and Catalunia – to fly the Spanish flag and the recent burning of pictures of the king in Catalunia. But these are, in reality, pin pricks and the really interesting development has come from the president of the Basque Country. As part of his permanent game of chess with Madrid, he’s announced a series of [possibly legal] steps which will culminate in an [illegal] referendum on Basque independence. So, exciting times. And we wait to see how much of a political price Zapatero pays in next March’s general elections, not least because the new left-of-centre- but-not-soft-on-nationalists party mentioned yesterday is likely to take votes from his PSOE socialist party.
I read two reports about Spanish banks yesterday. The first – from The Economist – said they’d traditionally attracted the country’s best brains and had recently achieved impressive results, both domestically and internationally. The second – from the BBC – said that Banco Santander’s UK subsidiary, the Abbey National, was in trouble for deliberately decelerating the transfers of clients who’d decided to move elsewhere. This decision - described as ‘bonkers’ by the industry’s own trade association - was attributed to the parent company in Spain. I can’t say whether this is true or not but I can say it’s consistent with the traditional way the clever clogs who run the banks here treat customers. In my case, this included a huge charge simply to transfer my funds to another bank. So, I wasn’t too surprised to read that the real expertise of Spanish banks lies in their IT-based capability to profile their locked-in clients and market a wide range of services to them.
Here’s a huge surprise – The youth of Pontevedra, having been asked whether they’d like to inconvenience themselves by moving their botellón to the fairground on the edge of town, replied they’d much rather stay where they were and to continue inconveniencing all the residents of the old quarter by destroying their chances of sleep on Friday and Saturday nights. Next step?
Talking of local matters, I should follow up yesterday’s comment on random testing for drunk driving by reporting that Spanish friends last night assured me – with a hint of regret – that this was now much more extensive than before near places of nocturnal entertainment.
And still on matters Galician – The Bank of Spain says that civil servants here earn on average 65% more than people in the private sector. This is 21 points above the national difference. I knew Pontevedra was a relatively prosperous place, full of well-paid funcionarios, but I had no idea this was a region-wide phenomenon. Of course, it has to be stressed the statistic may reflect a low average in Galicia’s private sector, as well as a high average among the bureaucrats.
And the last bit of local news – Galicia now has its first manufacturer of solar panels. In Cambados, to be exact. Let’s hope it does a better job than the Murcian company which was last week reported to have installed a community’s panels not only in the wrong place but also upside down.
Finally, here’s something amusing from fellow blogger, Trevor ap Simon. I always enjoy his posts, though I have to admit I don’t always fully understand them. This time, though, I know exactly what he means. And, if you’ve been following the recent comments to my blog, so will you. In which case, you have my sympathy.