Tuesday, October 25, 2011

While I've been in England, fires have raged throughout Galicia. Very close to home in the case of my house in the hills. As always, conspiracy theories abound. In the case of the conflagration near my house, one theory runs that it was started to facilitate grant of permission to open a granite quarry nearby. Just what the village needs. Especially the last house, closest to the granite hillsides. Mine. I don't, of course, care how the fire was started; I'm just glad the flames stopped at the fence and hopeful that the village can mount a successful rearguard action against this development.

I am, of course, trying to sell the house and the quarry development will be a deal-killer. Meanwhile, it doesn't help to read that the real estate bubble in Spain was the worst in the developed world. Or so says the Wall St. Journal. In case you don't know, it peaked in 2008, the year the house was bought - albeit at a price 25% below the asking price. And the official market rates have fallen less in Galicia than in most other regions/cities. Crumbs of cold comfort.

Back in the present, the ex-head of the organisation which protects artists' copy-write - who was sacked last July amidst corruption accusations - is demanding 1.2 million euros as compensation for unfair dismissal. Only in Spain?

Brussels has pronounced illegal an agreement between Telefónica and Portuguese Telecóm under which they wouldn't compete with each other in Iberia. How can the two semi-monopolies possibly have thought it was legal?

Which reminds me . . . It's reported that the Spanish competition agency is to fine 47(!) constructors for price-fixing in respect of road contracts, as a result of which the government was defrauded of many millions of euros. Did they really all think it would remain a secret? And in how many other countries would so many companies conspire so brazenly?

Insight/Moan 1: If I had a son, maybe there'd be a shampoo in the bathroom without coconut or almonds or whatever in it. Though possibly not, considering the bizarrely fragrant concoctions which used to be on the shelf of my teenage stepsons.

Insight/Moan 2:- It seems to be possible for people to get into my Skype Contacts list without any action on my part. Hence the stupefying messages today that BuzzMolls and mickyd000 had come on line. If you're ether of these, please let me know who you are and how the hell you got there.

Down in London, it's been discovered (using heat-sensitive cameras) that only 10% of the tents blocking the area around the entrance to St Paul's cathedral are occupied at night. In other words, the protestors repair to the comfort of home when the sun goes down. Who can blame them but it does raise a few questions. Especially as the small, local shopkeepers are the real victims of this demonstration.

If the current travails of the euro don't interest you, switch off now. For the rest of you . .

This is a brilliant article from Simon Jenkins of The Guardian, who considers himself a 'good European' but refuses to mouth the requisite platitudes. Here are a couple of extracts:-

Greece's bluffing of the high priests of the eurozone may, after all, be called. The unthinkable may be unavoidable. The priests are suddenly talking of "when, not if," Greece defaults. Greeks themselves seem to regard devaluation as a less painful discipline than state-imposed austerity, and are probably right. Their partial default and de facto departure from the euro would be a truly seismic moment, requiring the instant restructuring of debts and possibly currencies across the periphery of the eurozone, covering Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy. It would be drastic, but since it has been predicted ever since Maastricht, it can hardly be regarded as unimaginable.

Because being "pro-Europe" is a faith cult rather than a policy, its adherents dare not raise a peep of protest at its outrages. Not for the first time in Europe's history, a centralised superstate stalks the continent with a retinue of uncritical appeasers unable to see the wood for the tax-free salaries. Sceptics are treated like Rhett Butler in 'Gone with the Wind' – traitors to the great confederacy who should be shot for speaking home truths

This is a true reformation moment in Europe's history, when a centralised and authoritarian Holy Roman Empire, grown fat and arrogant on the tithes of subject peoples, suddenly overreaches its power and faces a crisis of legitimacy.

Europe is clearly at a turning point, turning against the single-statism of the European movement, with its straitjacketed currency, its flows of economic migrants and counterflows of subsidies, its everlasting crises and its humiliation of democratic governments. It is turning back to national identity, and there is nothing the EU can do to stop it.

And here's the whole text of an article in The Times by Sam Fleming. Which I can't cite because of the pay-wall. It stresses, quite rightly of course, that Britain's destiny is inescapably tied to that of the eurozone, even if she's never been a member of this club:-

President Sarkozy of France may be complaining that he’s tired of being lectured at by British politicians, but David Cameron is quite right when he says that the dithering and bickering over the euro crisis is having a “chilling effect” on Britain’s economy.

The UK banking system is now showing symptoms disturbingly similar to those back in the dark days of the sub-prime crisis. This time the trigger is the Greek debt contagion, which is infecting big economies such as Italy and Spain.

The Bank of England put it succinctly last week in a report based on its latest discussions with the top UK lenders. The wholesale money markets, where banks raise a big chunk of their money, are becoming badly strained again, increasing banks’ cost of funding.

If the euro-induced tensions do not ease soon, the banks say that they are ready to sting customers with higher interest rates.

There could hardly be a clearer demonstration of how deeply integrated Britain’s fortunes are with those of the hapless euro area; if the single currency sinks, the UK will be pulled down with it.

So it is small wonder that Mr Cameron and George Osborne have been issuing increasingly desperate calls for action. By failing to deal decisively with Greece, whose GDP is only 2.5 per cent of the euro area total, the eurozone authorities have allowed the entire continent to be consumed by the storm.

The weekend’s summit made only threadbare progress, with Wednesday’s follow-up meeting now the latest final, final deadline to stitch up a deal. However, even then it is unlikely that the continent’s resources alone will stretch far enough to restore market confidence.

The European Central Bank has repeatedly insisted that it is unwilling to print vast quantities of money to throw at Italy and other periphery states. That means the International Monetary Fund’s role will be critical in stabilising the area.

Italy — and potentially Spain — will have to be thrown lifelines by the IMF. That would require the lender’s resources to be bolstered by deep-pocketed emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil in a further sign of the profound shifts in global economic and political power currently under way.

As for the euro itself, even a big rescue deal by the time of the Cannes G20 summit on November 3 and 4 would do nothing to make it a credible currency area. The flaws that led to the present fiasco — a gulf in competitiveness between the core and periphery, and a lack of fiscal integration — would persist. For Britain, the perils of our close proximity to the euro will be with us for a long time.


Sierra said...

Wouldn't worry about fires - headline from today's newspaper:

"La lluvia registrada en Lugo en 24 horas iguala a la de los últimos cinco meses"

Things are back to normal.

Colin Davies said...

Yes but down on the coast, at least, there hasn't been much rain for these 5 months. In absolute terms, the Lugo downpour may not have been so much. Perhaps.

Strangely, the summer in Asturias was wet.

Eamon said...

Here in La Coruña it has been raining heavily since Sunday and looks like the same for tomorrow Thursday.

Az said...

Good luck with selling your house in what seems to be a terrible economic climate... hopefully you won't have trouble selling it.

Colin Davies said...

Many thanks, Azra. A couple have turned up today and seem very keen. Perhaps they haven't seen the notices about the bloody quarry plans . . . Vamos a ver.

Hope your teaching challenges continue to delight you. Both of my daughters are teachers of English. Well, were. The elder one in Madrid has just joined a publishing company there. She has to train n the in-house trainers.

Strong religious beliefs - as with my younger daughter, who's a strong Catholic - will always narrow your field.

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