Wednesday, December 05, 2007

For goodness’ sake, what sort of would-be dictator is President Chavez of Venezuela? The man can’t even rig an election. No wonder the country is a byword for inefficiency. And just where was its equally famous corruption when he needed it? Can you see Castro screwing up on this scale, even from his deathbed? Truly pathetic. The only dictator-like action we can now expect from Chavez is that he’ll ignore the will of the people and continue with his plans to make his job permanent. I wonder how this will go down with the left-wing luminaries in Britain who wrote to The Guardian last week exhorting us all to accept the outcome of an election which they clearly hoped and expected the now-busted-flush Chavez would win.

Back here in Europe, Romania is reported to be suffering a desperate labour shortage of 500,000 people and to be turning to China as a source of replacements for those who’ve obeyed the injunction to go west. I can’t help wondering – doubtless unfairly - if there are that many Romanians begging and scamming their way around Spain. Now into my 4th week of waiting, I can confidently state none of them is working here as a plumber.

The word of the week – solidarity – cropped up again yesterday, in a column by Pedro Arias Veira In the Voz de Galicia. A ‘politically- incorrect’ report from the BBVA bank on regional fiscal balances had, he said, shattered the assumptions and beliefs on which Galicia’s nationalists had traditionally based their moaning and whingeing. In fact, he insisted, the data proved Galicia benefited hugely from the ‘intraterritorial solidarity of the constitutional state’. By which, of course, he means Spain. This view will naturally be scorned by those idealists who rate dreams over economic realities but their challenge remains that of convincing the rest of the voters to buy into their vision of a free Galiza. At their considerable expense, it’s now clear. Can’t see it happening, personally.

On a lighter local note – Five or six years ago, there were no roundabouts [circles] in Pontevedra. Now, you can’t go more than 20 metres before hitting one. Literally in too many cases. The challenge has been to educate the city’s drivers on how to negotiate these without hitting each other en route. The size of the problem is evidenced by the fact that 25% of the city’s accidents occur on said obstacles. Anyway, the first phase in the traffic police’s campaign was educational and was based on diagrams which, frankly, I found incomprehensible. They certainly didn’t explain why driving schools here all teach their pupils to go slowly round the outer edge of roundabouts, whichever turn they’re going to take. Anyway, the police have said it’s time to stop being nice guys and, from yesterday, they’ve begun to fine those who are in the wrong lane or making an incorrect signal. The evidence of my own eyes suggests this will amount to a financial bonanza for the city. More to the point, such is my own confusion about what’s right and wrong in Spain, I fully expect to be collared myself. Which won’t do much for my blood pressure.

If, like me, you’ve had occasion to ask what the difference really is between a dialect and a language, here’s a short and useful dissertation on the subject. In brief, the two answers are – 1. It all depends, and 2. It hardly matters as, in the end, all languages are dialects. Clear?

Spain is different? A cross-party demonstration against ETA terrorism in Madrid the other day was marred by [supposedly] right-wing individuals screaming maricón in the face of government politicians. As this means queer, poof or fag, one is forced to ask in how many other developed societies this remains acceptable. The dictionary does say an alternative meaning is merely bastard. But I’m not sure this helps with Spain’s image on this subject.


Xoan-Carlos said...

So Madrid subdises all other regions in Spain? Is is just as true as saying that London subsidises all of the UK. Any comparison between the GDP of a country's capital and any region in the in that country has to allow for the following:

1) Most multinational companies (and even some larger "Galician" companies such as Fenosa, Enedesa or Banco Gallego) are domiciled in Madrid (but sometimes Barcelona), and pay corporate tax in Madrid (regardless of where they generate their profits).

2) In addition, most financial services firms are based in Madrid and pay taxes there (in addition to corporate tax) regardless of where their customers are based. If I decide to phone my BBVA or Santander stock brokers from Vigo, those firms will pay stamp duty on that transaction on my behalf in Madrid. The same will even happen when I pay money into my Caixa Galicia pension and shares are bought on my behalf by it's brokers in Madrid.

3) A disproportionate amount of public spending is undertaken by central government based in Madrid. Therefore, the ministry of interior may buy 500 police cars for use throughout Spain, but those purchases are made in Madrid.

Galicia IS more dependent on the public purse (whether the Xunta or central government), but this is largely due to the above factors, which favour other regions (mainly Madrid) and Galicia's much smaller working age population.

Had it not been for Galicia's historical economic neglect, those Galician tax payers of working age would be contributing to Galicia's economy rather than having emigrated to other parts of Spain and Europe.

Adi said...

those beggars from all-around Spain might come from Romania or Slovakia or whatever, but still they are a different race: that is gypsies
though, the scammers and credit-card falsifiers, well ... that's a different story