Let’s start with some excellent news. Road deaths in Spain in 2009 continued their decline and are now less than half what they were ten years ago. Just imagine all that saved grief and pain.
And, if you get a pension from the Spanish state, here’s some more good news – Despite the fact there’s currently little inflation, the increase just announced is a fraction under a whopping 5%. Interestingly, what you get depends on which region you live in. Which is unimaginable in the UK. And possibly France as well. It turns out the highest pension is paid in the Basque Country and the lowest in Galicia. But rather more surprising is the fact that our not-so-very-rich neighbour, Asturias, awards the second highest pension. I wonder why.
It’s not terribly surprising to read, firstly, that after twelve years of the Blair-Brown biumvirate, there are one million more people on the state payroll in the UK; and, secondly, that they’re now far more cosseted than private sector workers. So, another way in which Britain has become more like Spain. If you’ve a reader of the British press, you’ll know that nowhere is this more true than in the higher echelons of the BBC. Anyway here’s an extract from an article on this subject:- The public sector has become so big and such a generous employer that it is sucking workers out of private companies. More than 20% of the population work for the state — nearly 1m more than when Labour came to power — and it is easy to see why. Most are better paid, have more back-up, are less stressed, have more holidays, work fewer hours, have more days off sick, are less likely to be sacked, retire younger and have better pensions. Many are even given honours for their work for the government. As I say, very like Spain.
The Spanish economy . . . Edward Hugh still feels pessimistic about our prospects and the impact this will have on Europe as a whole. Here’s his transcript of an interview he had with Paul Krugman, in which the consequences for the EU are touched on.
I’m guessing that this Krugman is the same as the one cited in the bucket of cold water presented by AP-E as his predictions for 2010. Agree with him or not, you have to admit he has some fine phrases - "Our long purge has barely begun.” "That is the elephant in the global tent.” “Japan, our Weimar-in-waiting.” And you can’t accuse him of not sticking his neck out. Here’s his final throw of the dice, possibly best summed up as “Lord, give me riots. But not just yet.” - “The European Central Bank will stick to its Wagnerian course, standing aloof as ugly loan books set off wave two of Europe's banking woes. The Bundesbank will veto proper QE until it is too late, deeming it an implicit German bail-out for Club Med. More hedge funds will join the EMU divergence play, betting that the North-South split has gone beyond the point of no return for a currency union. This will enrage the Eurogroup. Brussels will dust down its paper exploring the legal basis for capital controls. Italy's Giulio Tremonti will suggest using EU terror legislation against "speculators". Wage cuts will prove a self-defeating policy for Club Med, trapping them in textbook debt-deflation. The victims will start to notice this. Articles will appear in the Greek, Spanish, and Portuguese press airing doubts about EMU. Eurosceptic professors will be ungagged. Heresy will spread into mainstream parties. Greece's Prime Minister Papandréou will balk at EMU immolation . The Hellenic Socialists will call Europe's bluff, extracting loans that gain time but solve nothing. Berlin will climb down and pay, but only once: thereafter, Zum Teufel. In the end, the Euro's fate will be decided by strikes, street protest, and car bombs as the primacy of politics returns. I doubt that 2010 will see the denouement, but the mood music will be bad enough to knock the euro off its stilts.”
But not all is doom and gloom. Ambrose manages to end on an optimistic note. Just. “By mid to late 2010, we will have lanced the biggest boils of the global system. Only then, amid fear and investor revulsion, will we touch bottom. That will be the buying opportunity of our lives.” You can read it all here.
Finally . . . Here’s a tale relating to one of the reduced number of road deaths in Spain. What’s really significant here is that the case had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to confirm that what had been done was a sacking offence. Perhaps if the cop has actually caused the death things would have been clear earlier.