As has been noted by others, you’d be forgiven for not knowing there’s a recession here and that unemployment is close to 20%. As in other countries, there are basically two groups of people now – those suffering on the dole and those in work who, because of low mortgage rates and deflation, have never been better off. At least for now. And the Spanish do tend to live in the here and now. As for the unemployed, I’m not aware of any real unrest and wonder whether this is because many (or even most) of these are young people (anyone under 35 in Spain) living with or at the expense of their parents. Will things change for the worse in 2010? My guess is yes. Except for those dumb enough to invest in the lottery and lucky enough to win.
Meanwhile, those ornery Catalans have taken another step away from Spanish-ness and begun the process of banning bullfighting in their bit of the dissolving Spanish state. The right-of-centre paper, El Mundo, sees this as an issue of liberty and pluralism and will be beefing up its coverage of bullfights in sympathy with this stance.
The company we all love to hate – Telefónica - has been in the news twice this week, showing exactly why we do. First, there was a review of internet prices around Europe, showing theirs to be 70% above the average. Secondly, the company was fined 11 million euros for “placing obstacles in the way of rival companies”. I suspect the two developments are not totally unconnected.
Spain can be a funny place sometimes. The chairman of the employers’ association has defaulted on a loan from the Caja Madrid for the trivial amount of 26 million euros. Yes, a personal loan of 26 million euros. What on earth did he want to do with it? Buy into the Cali drug cartel? Anyway, if I’ve got this right, the bank says he tricked them as the shares offered as security were already pledged to someone else. It will be interesting to see if he retains his position as chairman of the employers’ association, on the grounds that he’s got what it takes to succeed in business here. Failing that, there’s always politics.
I bought some new tyres yesterday. As ever, they were 20% over-inflated by the mechanic. Which reminded me this is a place which, if not exactly devil-take-the hindmost, is certainly one in which you do have to constantly look after your own interests as a consumer. Meaning you often have to think for others as well as for yourself. This can be tiresome and even tiring – especially when buying tyres/tires - but is not, I guess, the end of the world.
Finally . . . Here’s a splendid dig at the EU from Gerard Warner, who feels the Italians, of all people, have “overthrown the fatalistic notion of the irresistible march of Eurofederalism”. We will see.