Monday, January 30, 2012

No sooner do I mention public myopia when it comes to footballers' obscenely vast salaries than some journalist cranks out an article on the theme. Not for the first time, I might add. Anyway, here it is.

An American gambling magnate would like to build a European version of Las Vegas in Spain, either in Madrid or Barcelona. What's stopping him is the reluctance of some politicians to alter the tax laws so as to attract investors, even though the scheme will create 261,000 jobs. The head of the Madrid regional government is in favour of the tax breaks but opposition politicians from the Socialist party are not. Which, on the surface, looks a bit odd. Given that there are around 500,000 people without a job in Madrid.

Still in Madrid - Today saw the opening of the third trial in so many weeks of Spain's crusading judge, Baltasar Garzón. Giles Tremlett does justice to the subject in today's Guardian, reporting that:- The already astonishing drama surrounding Spain's "superjudge" hit a new peak as corruption was added to the charges against him and thousands of his supporters blocked streets around the supreme court in Madrid. Click here for more.

And still in Madrid - The city has announced today that it will be bidding for the 2020 Olympics. Or perhaps the 20020 Olympics. The logo has come in for a bit of ridicule. Which is British understatement. See here for the story.

Finally . . . Europe. The Greeks appear to be not too happy about German proposals to turn their country into a satrapy of Brussels with some unelected bureaucrat as the satrap, exercising power over everything to do with taxing and spending. Odd people. Mind you, they could have avoided this development by implementing the measures they agreed to implement a year ago.

As to the wider picture, here's an overview from Sam Fleming of The Times:- Inter-governmental relations within Europe are even more tumultuous. Already the new Spanish Government of Mariano Rajoy is demanding that the country’s deficit targets are eased in the face of unemployment that has just passed the five million mark. Mario Monti, Italy’s Prime Minister, has been publicly seeking more recognition from Germany of the sacrifices his nation is making, warning of a popular backlash against Teutonic austerity. In France, the Socialist presidential candidate François Hollande has put forward a “back to the Seventies” electoral program that will dismay the Germans. While Berlin urges its partners to lower costs, trim budgets and galvanise economic competitiveness, Mr Hollande is planning a lower retirement age, higher taxes on the rich and big business, and 150,000 state-aided jobs. If he wins the election, as many analysts expect, Mr Hollande threatens to reopen negotiations on the German-led fiscal compact that European leaders are aiming to settle today. This may prove to be a hollow threat but it is still explosive. It will be formidably difficult for political leaders to avoid further fumbles as they grope their way through 2012. Despite the efforts of central bankers, we may find ourselves back on the edge of the precipice before long.

Is this really what monetary union was intended to foster?

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