Friday, December 18, 2009

We have several bridges across the river that flows around the city of Pontevedra and we’re going to have a new one quite soon. Though no one knows quite when. Work began on it a early this year and then promptly stopped, once driving had been made more difficult on one bank of the river. The reason, I read today, is that the local council didn’t get permission for this work from Costas (‘Coasts’) - the body responsible for implementing the 1988 law which hasn’t quite stopped all the building near to water of the last 20 years or so. You’d think a local council with responsibility for policing its own planning laws would know about regional/national processes but apparently not. But not to worry. Our local paper tells us that, despite the five-month delay so far, the bridge will be finished on time. Given that even un-delayed projects never finish on time in Spain, if you find this credible you must be the sort of person who invests big money on the Christmas lottery.

If so, you’ll be interested to hear that – for reasons which escape me – the most popular sequence of numbers this year is that of Michael Jackson’s deathdate. Or 250609. In ways to which I’m not privy, you can apparently choose the number of your ticket or some subdivision of it. Or at least you can try.

Talking of Spanish institutions . . . here’s a nice piece by Lenox of The Spanish Shilling on another of these – the ubiquitous household maid. As I’ve said a few times, no self-respecting middle-class family can be without one of these in this allegedly not-overly-wealthy country.

I mentioned the other day that I was nonplussed to read of a parliamentary debate around a proposal to ease the penalties for drivers caught using their mobile phone, in favour of compelling them to buy a hands-free set for their car. Well, it was defeated, so my thoughts about it being a bit of Spanish pragmatism were clearly misplaced. Which I probably would have concluded even if the measure had gone through. For “Parliamentary sources said that behind the attempt to change the law was a company which sells such devices in Spain”. The CEO of which was quoted as saying she was proud to have been associated with the initiative. Doesn’t take much, obviously.

The Financial Times has some more harsh words for our economy. And today we’ve heard of a “hammer blow” being inflicted on Spanish banks by agencies worried about the amount of home-grown toxic debt held by them. Ironically, this comes the day after full page ads in the papers telling us that Santander had been voted the best bank in the world, along with several smaller accolades. Perhaps they don’t have many of the suspect c├ędulas. I guess it will all come out in the wash. And perhaps this paragraph on what is happening in Greece gives us a taste of what’s to come here:- Greece faces mounting pressure from markets and its European partners to follow Ireland and adopt stronger fiscal measures such as a public sector pay freeze, a ban on civil service hiring and hikes in indirect taxes, to restore competitiveness as well as bring the deficit under control. Among ideas being currently touted are steadily raising the retirement age to 65 for women, opening up a range of “closed” services (from notaries to taxi drivers) to improve competitiveness and introducing five-year rolling budgets for ministries (to curb pre-election spending). If this is to happen here, I suspect it will be over President Zapatero’s dead (or departed) body. Nobody’s yet rioting in our streets. Though the Madrid taxi drivers are pretty narked about their closed profession being opened up and have gone on strike to prove it.

Finally . . . Welcome to the two new Followers (awful word) to this blog. I say ‘new’ but one of them might be the joker who ‘resigned’ just after I’d begged for someone to take the number up from 39 to 40. Or is this just wishful thinking? Probably.

Postscript: I just thought I’d slip this in . . . . “502 pedestrians were run over in Spain in 2008, making it one of the main causes of accidental death in the country”. Guess where.

Postscript to the Postcript: I was nearly run down on the way into town to post this, when I was walking across the entrance to a side road. A driver turning simply ignored me and missed me by a whisker. I hope she didn't miss my curse. Need I say she was on her mobile phone?

1 comment:

Midnight Golfer said...

Is it just that life happens at a slower pace in Spain, even the rate at which banks have to face the effects of their unwise lending?

American bankers and investors probably wish they knew how to slow that process down, but I wonder if it isn't better in the long run if the whole cycle happens more quickly, and gets moving faster, instead of false starts and false hope.