Friday, May 09, 2008

The question was raised recently as to whether I exaggerate in saying/implying that Spain is a pretty corrupt place. As I wrote then, one problem is that we’ve had so many reports of financial skulduggery during the ‘fat-cow’ years it’s really quite hard to avoid this conclusion. In yesterday’s press, for example, we learnt that the chief of police of a Madrid town – and a mere 26 of his men – have been arrested for extorting money from bars and prostitutes. And that six of the numerous ex-Marbella councillors accused of massive urban corruption have accepted a deal under which their jail sentences are reduced. Oh, and that the [under arrest] mayor of a town in the Balearics now infamous for its ‘savage’ urban development claims he had no idea his two palatial house were illegal. My guess is he can’t recall where he got the finance from either.

Two amusing reports about the Catholic Church this week – another constant in Spanish life. Firstly, it’s initiating a campaign to coincide with-tax return time and designed to encourage us to tick the box sending 0.7% of what we pay to the church’s coffers. Apparently, the line to be taken will be Buy from us. Try our product. And, if you’re not happy, go somewhere else. Hell, maybe. Secondly, it’s introduced a search engine as a fund-raising vehicle. I just tried el diablo and aborto, with interesting results.

The Spanish Finance minister has made more admissions about the worse-than-predicted economic situation but has rejected a suggestion from the banks that the government raids its pensions reserve so as to improve liquidity in the construction sector. And quite possibly help the banks as well. The minister says the industry needs to put its own house in order. It will be interesting to see whether he maintains this – doubtless popular – hard-nosed stance. Especially as El País claims his colleague, the minister for Housing, is to offer tax breaks to lessen the effects of the crisis.

The international organisation, Save the Children, ranks Spain as the 12th best country in the world to have a child. If asked, I’m sure the country’s rug rats would say it was easily number one when it comes to being a child.

Galicia Facts

Ours is one of six Spanish regions in which funds for health services are raised via a one-cent tax on petrol. But not for much longer, as Brussels has declared this illegal. The Xunta is naturally demanding that Madrid makes good the loss. As it will when Spain’s wealth tax [el patrimonio] is abolished from the end of this year. And all this against the backcloth of a massive drop in receipts from the huge 7% tax levied on property transactions. So, not a good time to be a regional minister or a town councillor trying to maintain expenditure and balance the books. So, tax increases to go with the rises in food and fuel prices? Austerity, anyone?

Such is the herd instinct of Pontevedra’s young fashionsistas, there’s now hardly a young female on our streets not wearing a keffiyeh. Or some variant of it. And this includes schoolgirls. I wonder how many of them would know where the West Bank was. Or even Cisjordania, as it’s called here. Is this happening elsewhere, I wonder. Vigo, for example. Or are the women more independent-minded in our ‘overly commercial and too big for its boots’ neighbour?

The Anglo Galician Association – open to all who speak English – now has a Forum on the web. If you have a query about Galicia, why not register and post it.


mike the trike said...

I see the same fashion here in Coruña as well and I would assume women are wearing it purely for fashion and not as a political statement.

moscow said...

Sorry, the following does relate to your post only tangentially, but you might want to put up the article down underneath for consideration, Colin. There are certain aspects about Britain that perhaps you may be glad to have left behind - I mean, apart from the stalwart issues frequently bemoaned by you. When I lived in Britain I was always acutely aware of the fact that being a foreigner allowed to me ride through the class barriers of society with certain impunity. But it must be tough to be made to feel a bit of an oik just because you haven't been to the right school or university - i.e. Oxbridge. That uneasy feeling that no matter how much you try in life there are certain inner circles that are beyond one's reach. If I remember correctly, in the past, not only did you call Spain corrupt but unmeritocratic as well. Granted there is that 'enchufe' thing. Generally, however, this is something all Spaniards can partake in, to lesser or greater degree. But in no European country are people as rigidly classified according to how they speak to the extent that they are in Britain. And, any suggestion, that things are on the mend, or have changed since the eighties, should be put paid to by the content of the following article.,,2279015,00.html

Colin said...


Well, I will say two contradictory things:-

1. I was brought up on a poor council estate, went to Christian Brothers school in Birkenhead and then went to university in London. But I never experienced the slightest unease at being an oik from the wrong whatever. And my lowly origins never seemed to be a factor in my career progression. Perhaps because I ditched my Scouse accent early on, albeit only accidentally.

2. Whenever I returned to the UK from life abroad, I was always struck by how much class consciousness there was and how repressed southern Brits [at least] were.

I leave it to others to explain this paradox. I'm off for a siesta.

I will read the article, of course, but even ahead of that I'm prepared to accept that things haven't changed much.