An interesting discussion about Greece on the BBC last night. All four participants clearly shared the view that Greece would leave the eurozone at some point. But no one cared to guess/predict when or how. Or what the gravity of the consequences would be. As the FT correspondent put it "This is not now an issue of economics but politics; the Greek people have become a key factor and no one knows what they will do."
As if the EU has ever been more about economics than politics. Off the top of my head, I could list 5-10 huge errors that have arisen because of the preponderance of political dreaming over economics. But I have no confidence we'll ever hear any EU politician (or reader Moscow) own up to any, never mind all, of these. That said, an ex Labour cabinet member in the UK has opined this week that the people should be told the truth and that the government should stop using "weasel words" about the crisis. Just as he and his colleagues didn't when they were in power. The luxury of Opposition!
Anyway, the most interesting comment last night was from a German economist. He took the view that not only would Germany never leave the eurozone but it would move heaven and earth [assuming the German people would accept this] to save the EU. But, if Greece had to go, so be it; Germany then would marshall all its forces to protect the weaker members such as Spain. No mention of Portugal, Ireland, Belgium or Italy. So the inference to be drawn was they'd be allowed to leave as well, allowing shrinkage back to a hard core membership of (morally and economically) pure countries. Predominantly in the north of europe, of course. But vamos a ver. These are exciting but worrying times. How much will my (southern) euros (New Pesetas?) be worth next year?
Finally on this theme . . . An angry Greek writes . . . “Like most Greeks – who suffer from it – I know that the heart of our problem is a huge, parasitic and inefficient public sector, which EU funds, unwisely and often corruptly distributed by our politicians over the past two decades, made even bigger and less productive.”
Finally on this theme 2: “Greek default is still likely despite last night's vote of confidence in the Greek parliament. . . For the next three years, we're going to see different economies work out different problems. For European economies, especially Greece, it would be through default." More here.
Interestingly, Belgium is one of the very countries to increase its per capita income over the last twelve months. And it's the only one not to have had a government over the same period. Perhaps there's a lesson there somehwere.
As for Spain's economy . . . The IMF, while praising progress, retains considerable concerns. For Spain itself and, thus, for the eurozone as a whole. Click here for details.
More evidence is said to be merging of Iranian involvement in the crackdown in Syria in the face of denials from Tehran. You'd never guess from watching the “impartial” Tehran-based Press TV. Their major concern is that the US and UK governments are helping the corrupt Bahraini government to stay in power.
It's enough to make Ozymandias laugh. As one of the consequences of the country's loony EU-driven construction bum, Spain is awash with airports redundant to need. And I'm not talking about the two we really can't justify here in Galicia. At least these have flights. And planes. Click here for info on the follies that don't. And for the comment that, as I've long suspected, “Signs abound that Spain has not fully learned the lessons of its profligate spending.” And that “Spain has a history of pouring public money into dodgy projects to fuel the careers of ambitious politicians and local entrepreneurs” And that “The airports and other projects illustrate how regional governments and government-linked savings banks drove themselves into a debt swamp from which it will take years to emerge.”
Less appealing was the comment in the article that “Spain recently announced a high-speed rail link to the sparsely populated northwest region of Galicia, a plan many economists see as an extravagance.”
By the way, this article, like a multitude of others, cites Spain's 21% unemployment rate as if it were gospel. But no one here believes this figure. Everyone knows there are people – especially down in Andalucia – who are both working and collecting dole. Why? Because, as with the phoney redundancy payments that the Andalucian government has just owned up to, an official blind eye is turned to things which are seen to help maintain the 'social peace'.
Which reminds me . . . Even the Bank of Spain is now demanding that the regions produce accounts of what they are up not. Not just me. Given that they spend about half of the country's money, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was about time. It's not quite Greece but it's in the same ballpark. With everyone here accepting, as they do in benighted Greece, that all politicians are corrupt and self-serving. Something to smile (or perhaps sigh) at when times are (apparently) good. But not when the cows are leaner than anyone can recall.
Bullfighting: I've read recently both that this is dying and that it's in very robust health. I wouldn't have the faintest idea myself. But here's IberoSphere on the subject. They are, it seems, in the pessimistic camp. Whatever, I'm guessing we won't have José Tomás in this year's corridas in Pontevedra in August. Incidentally, he was thought by some to be at risk of dying after the goring he received in Mexico a year ago. My friend Alfred B. Mittington was disappointed the risk didn't materialise.
Talking of Alfie . . . Here's his response to my point that he cared more about dumb animals than about his (smoker) self:- "Yes, I do indeed value animals higher than myself. As it happens, I value them higher than human beings. Let us not forget that animals are 'Before Good and Evil,' as the paraphrase goes. Hence they are, by definition, innocent of all crimes and sins. Which is not what one can say of any human being. Or, to put it in those hallowed words of Frederick the Great: 'Now that I know Man, I prefer dogs…'"
After getting this, I asked Alfie - "So, starving in a raft on the sea, you'd eat your fellow men before the ship's dog??" To which he replied - "A hypothetical question which allows for no answer. What I do know, however, is that the other fellows would eat me before the dog ever would."
In answer to another question, he advised - "'Beyond Good and Evil' is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche. His Übermensch was supposed to have escaped the shackles of - mainly Christian - morals of Good and Bad. Animals have not escaped that. They never got there. They did not eat that bloody apple (which wasn't an apple, incidentally, but a kind of wild grape)."
But at least we agree on one thing . . . Alfie again:- "Of course the dog would be eaten first. And after that people would begin eating one another."
Finally . . . I bought something at our local DIY store (BricoKing) this morning and was asked to pay about 50% more than what was on the price tag. When I pointed this out, the checkout girl muttered something about it being a new price. Well, no. The price was the same when I checked it out around two weeks ago. So, was this incompetence or dishonesty? As so often, I'll never know. More on retailing tomorrow.