Friday, November 14, 2008

Regular readers will know that one of the hangovers from Franco’s regime is a massive film dubbing industry. It’s rare to see a film in its original language with subtitles here and the upshot is that most Spaniards have no idea what an actor or actress really sounds like. This can lead to some very surreal situations such as the one I experienced while driving last night. A radio program was addressing the US cinema’s treatment of the race issue and extracts were played from both To Kill a Mockingbird and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Meaning, of course, that two Spanish dubbers spoke relevant bits. After which, the commentator blithely referred to these as among the finest of performances by Gregory Peck and Spencer Tracey . . . I almost crashed.

So Mr Zap has gone to Washington. Or at least New York. Where he will apparently preside at the death of what he’s dismissed as an era of neo-liberal economics initiated by President Reagan and Mrs Thatcher. And which he blames for all Spain’s current woes. Nothing to do, then, with the cheap credit, excessive levels of both debt and consumption, high inflation, pervasive urban corruption and a massively artificial construction bubble over which his party has presided for 5 years. It’s all down to those nasty Anglos. I’m surprised he didn’t call them fascists.

But, of course, he’s not alone in washing his hands of blood. As this article points out, over in the UK, the even-longer-in-office Mr Brown is doing exactly the same in respect of the even bigger “train wreck” which is the British economy. You have to hand it to these socialists. They certainly know how to bring a grin to one’s face. What is truth?, asked Pilate. And departed smiling.

And talking of corruption, El País reports today that private company directors will now face prison sentences in Spain. Just like those in the public sector, I guess. So they must be quaking in their proverbials. And El Público tells us that fraud in the field of solar panel grants has now reached 3 billion here. Thanks to President R and Mrs T, I suppose.

One of the reasons I’m contemplating moving to France in a few years times is that its health service is reputed to be the best in the world. Or so I thought. But now I see several others are considered superior and the place to go is Holland, Denmark or Austria. Germany even. More worryingly, Spain is below the UK. So perhaps it’s a good job the government here compels me to take out private insurance as a condition of residence. Click on the magnifying glass here for a readable snap of the Euro Health Consumer Index.


The author of The Economist review of Spain gave an interview to El Mundo this week. This right-of-centre paper rather naturally focused on Cataluña and the reaction there. Click here for the text. What Reid says about Cataluña applies just as much to Galicia, I believe.

As if to prove the point, there was more nonsense in our papers today about the Galician Nationalist Party’s view that the Ombudsman should be strung up with piano wire for daring to make a comment about the growing conflict over Galician. One of the Voz de Galicia columnists today quotes someone else’s remark that a language has two types of enemy; those who oppress it and those who impose it. Quite.

The houses being built opposite mine here in Poio are just brick shells at the moment. It's taken almost 3 years for them to reach this stage but, in a year or so, I expect them to look like this:-

And then, for two to five years after that, they will surely look like these, 50 metres away:-

But to be more positive, the olive trees and [?]silver birch in this garden weren’t there yesterday. Not to mention the shrub on the roof. Impressive, eh?

Shame about the ugly boxes they adorn. But, hey, what's a boom for if not to be greedy and careless of aesthetics? Ask the odd couple, President R and Mrs T.


Displaced Mallu said...

Hi Colin,
Been a follower of your blog for a while now to keep myself updated about Galicia. I am from India and had been to that part of the world last year. My girlfriend lives near Villagarcia and I was there to visit her. Loved the place and brought back a lot of great memories. Was there for less than a month, so didn't get to know so much of the place like I do now by reading your Blog. Will keep coming here time and again and be abreast of what is happening in Galicia.
By the way, I remember a distinct chicken smell when one passes by Poio :).

Colin said...

Hi, Syham. Good to hear from you and glad you like Galicia. Yes, there is a chicken roasting factory alongside the road to Vilagarcia. Cheers.

Colin said...

Sorry about mistyping your name, Shyam

Galician said...

I have now read the now famous report from The Economist, and to be honest I did not find it very accurate.
I was shocked by some of the statements. I guess many things are debatable, like the convenience of having “special reports” written by journalists that live abroad and just visit the country for 3 weeks. Or the author opinions about Spanish Universities (having myself studied in two public Spanish Universities and in one of the most prestigious English Universities, and therefore knowing some facts to judge by myself).

Sometimes the author gives the impression of looking for any source that corroborates what he wants to write, like for example, when he tries to prove the lack of prestige of the Spanish Universities…by mentioning the “world’s top 150 compiled by Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University”!!. A list, by the way, that was elaborated only taking into account research parameters (although the author fails to mention it). Anyway, I would be curious to see how the Jiao Tong University is ranked.

These and other opinions expressed in the report are quite subjective topics and therefore it would be very difficult to reach a consensus (I mean, in social sciences you cannot prove thing as in hard sciences).

But there are at least two mistakes that are irrefutable and I think are illustrative of the poor quality of the report (in my opinion):

* In the “In search of a new economy” article the author includes a map with the “principal motorways”. In that map, the A6 is missing. This is the motorway which connects Madrid with the northwest of Spain (Galicia, and parts of Asturias and Castilla) and is one of the six “radial” highways which are the base of the Spanish network. On the other hand, there is a red line connecting Galicia with the Basque Country, and that motorway is not even finished. So, if he thinks that the map adds some relevant information to the article, he should have spent 5 euros on a road map. On the other hand, if the information is not important, it would be better to remove the map rather than leaving a bunch of meaningless lines.

* In the article “The perils of parochialism” he claims that “the electoral system gives disproportionate weight to small nationalist parties”. That’s plainly not true.
With the numbers from the last general elections and a few calculations we can make the following table

PSOE 169 – 160.12
PP 154 – 145.78
CiU 10 – 11.05
PNV 6 - 4.34
ERC 3 - 4.22
BNG 2 – 3.01
Nafarroa Bai 1 – 0.885
IU 2 – 13.76
UPyD 1 – 4.34

The first column contains the number of seats each party got. The second, the number of seats they would get in a pure proportional system.

So, PNV and Nafarroa Bai got a bit more than the proportional part, but this is more than compensated by the “deficit” from CiU, ERC and BNG. That is, the Basque Nationalists are favoured, but the nationalists as a whole are not.
IU and UPyD are the big losers, but the ones collecting their seats are PSOE and PP. That helps to explain why the system is not changed.
So, rather than blindly trusting what he was told by some [maybe biased] people, he should have spent two minutes of his time checking the statement by himself.

Anyway, the comment is especially ironic coming from a Brit, since the number of seats that UPyD and IU would get with the method used in the UK would be most likely zero. The British system gives even more weight to parties concentrated in small constituencies.

Sorry for the long post.

Sierra said...

Whilst discussing The Economist, noted there was no mention of this article: