Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I touched [again!] on nationalism yesterday. I’ve since read that, although all 17 of Spain’s ‘Autonomous Communities’ have representative offices in Brussels, only 4 of them have set these up further afield – for example in the USA, France, Germany and the UK. These four are the usual suspects of the Basque Country, Cataluña and Galicia plus the Canary Islands, whose nationalist aspirations are unknown to me. Each would-be nation has different location priorities but a big one for Galicia is Argentina. This surely reflects mass emigration to that country, rather than the fact that hundreds of thousands of Argentineans can vote in Galician elections. Usually just after the party in power has channelled considerable sums of money through the office in Buenos Aires. But I guess this is just a coincidence.

Talking of politics, I liked this comment in one of today’s British papers – “Oddly, while so much of the modern political class has become steadily more obsessed with status, salary, perks, position and preferment, those involved have declaimed their moral credentials ever louder as if in compensation for their other failings. There is now a huge oversupply of extremely bossy individuals elected to local government, the devolved institutions, the British Commons and the European parliament, who are certain they know what is best for us and can justify their endless interference as being always in the public interest and by extension an obvious moral good.”

For one reason and another, the Spanish government is taking on increased debt. This is getting more and more expensive, possibly reflecting concern about the country’s economic fundamentals. Madrid is now offering a bond with a return 85 basis points above those of Germany[3.78% v. 2.93%]. A spread which may widen, of course, if Germany deals better with the recession and its consequences. Which seems to be widely forecast. Meanwhile, official inflation here has fallen to 1.5%, against the 4 to 5% increases announced this week by the government and quasi-government service providers. And compared with the minimum of 2% being demanded for the unions for pay increases. Naturally enough, talk of strikes is in the air. So a tough year ahead. But, so far, Sr Zapatero looks like successfully talking his way through it, a la Tony Blair. Helped by an Opposition which doesn’t seem to be able to get its act together at either national or regional level. Of which we will surely see the evidence in the Basque and Galician elections on March 1.

I didn’t go to Pontevedra’s horse-led procession parade in honour of the Three Kings last night. Experience suggests that, if it’s dry, you run the risk of getting killed in the stampede of adults fighting for the sweets chucked by the riders or, if it’s wet, having both eyes poked out by aggressive umbrellas. But I did have a Three Kings experience in the middle of the day, when three cars drove past me in the pedestrian quarter with their horns blaring loudly and some strangely-dressed coves hurling sweets out of the windows. Very Spanish, I thought.

On this theme, there was a lovely topical cartoon in one of the papers yesterday. It showed the three kings, labelled as Melchor, Gaspar and Vaspagar[You are going to pay]. The first two were in standard Magi attire but the last was dressed in modern clothes and was carrying a briefcase with the title of Cobrador do FRAC on it. I don’t know what this means but, as the chap was fat and sporting a top hat, I guessed he might be some sort of American. I don’t suppose it’s this, even though the nationality fits. This seems more likely. Debt enforcers.

Finally, I was interested yesterday to see the Spanish word damnificados used to describe those poor souls enduring long delays at Madrid airport. It seemed most appropriate for an experience in somewhere equivalent to one of the seven circles of Hell.

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