The backcloth to the cabinet reshuffle here has two key elements:- 1. (To quote someone else) - “The recent corruption scandal involving senior figures in the PP does not seem to have had any effect.”; and 2. Thanks to his masterless inactivity, President Zapatero's popularity rating has finally fallen and is now on a par with that of the hapless leader of the Opposition. He’s now said to have got his closest allies around him – including the Emperor of Andalucia – but I’m confident there’ll be another big change by the middle of next year, when it’s become obvious this lot are just as powerless as the last one. And a few more banks have failed, despite Spain’s much-vaunted superior regulatory environment. Rules, Shmules.
On the latter, there’s an interesting dialogue in the comments at the end of this FT report of several days ago on Spain’s soaring unemployment figures. You have to start at the end and work upwards. Spain really is a case-study in what happens if, for political reasons, you hose money at a country with corrupt politicians, an inappropriately low interest rate and a total disregard for the environment. After the phoney boom comes the suffering. Not that this will affect the corrupt politicians, any more than it will affect the money-grubbing MPs and feather-bedded bureaucrats in the UK. Is all this really the inevitable consequence of a long period of peace? Do we need the occasional war to ensure that we maintain perspective? Answers on a postcard, please.
And why am I reminded of the eternal question around development aid as to whether it does more harm than good in the longer run, while making a small proportion of the population a great deal richer on the back of someone else’s money?
And what does it mean that the ECB is criticising the measures hailed as a breakthrough at the G20 meeting last week?
Questions, questions, questions. But few clear answers.
Meanwhile . . . In the small town of West Kirby, on Britain’s Wirral peninsula, there are three chemists (pharmacies) within 10 metres of each other. And another round the corner, a hundred metres or so away. And a fifth in the big supermarket 400 metres further on. I guess they must all be profitable, assisted by the average age of the population and the presence of a large medical centre in the centre of town. Putting it another way, in a free market they respond to customer need and demand. Here in Poio, we used to have just two pharmacies, after a second one opened last year. But, against the protests of the residents, the latter was closed down a month or so ago at the request of the pharmacists’ association. Inevitably, it lacked some piece of paper or other. Most vociferous in their complaints about its opening were, of course, the owners of the existing pharmacy. But, to raise our gaze, I see that the new Ministress of the Economy has been charged with developing a new model of economic development for Spain. God knows she needs it. Though one is, of course, on very thin ice at the moment in pointing to the UK as an example of what should be done. Except perhaps when it comes to being aware of what customers want and giving them the required level of service. Back to WingMirrorMan. And the guy in London who fixes laptop connection sockets in less than a day for 80 quid, compared with the 350 euros that PC Box demand here. But, to be fair, this does include securing you more storage space by wiping your hard disk of much that you wanted to keep.
Actually, in my really pessimistic moments, I do sometimes wonder whether Spain will still be open for business in ten years’ time. Time for tiffin.
Finally, a reader to a column in a British paper I read this morning commented that “There are thousands of youngsters in Britain today who's education is/was substandard.” Well, yes. Obviously. But perhaps Atlas just nodded. As he does when I write too.