Thursday, April 19, 2012

The King of Spain has been in a spot of bother this week. Despite the straitened times, he decided to swan off to southern Africa to shoot, of all things, elephants. I guess he momentarily forgot that he's the Honorary President of the International Wildlife Fund. Well, this week at least. Who knows about next week. He also chose to be snapped in front of a dead elephant and alongside a woman who, as they say here, is not his wife. Interestingly, she turns out to be German. So, not content with taking over the economic management of the country, they're now doing the same to the monarchy. Anyway, the King has said he's sorry. Though this hasn't stopped the calls for him to abdicate.

Talking of control of the economy, I see that EU inspectors from Brussels who were in Madrid have been demanding to know how the Spanish government intends to bring the regions under control. On this subject, here's an article on said regions and their debts. Suppliers are going bankrupt waiting for payment, which must be particularly annoying if you paid commissions upfront to get the business in the first place.

To be more positive, Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the launch of the AVE high-speed train in Spain. The first line ran from Madrid to Sevilla, which just happened to be the bailiwick of the then President, Felípe Gonzalez. So, two decades on, how are we doing with the AVE in Galicia? Well, none of the government's promises/predictions have ever held water and I increasingly think my pessimistic guess of 2018 is likely now to prove optimistic. If, indeed, we ever see the train at all. Perhaps our only hope is that the current president, Mariano Rajoy, is Galician and may not be averse to some pork-barrel politics.

Talking of Galician politicians . . . The mayor of Santiago is looking at criminal charges over the 291,000 euros he owes the IR as unpaid sales taxes on sixty-one properties he invested in. Apparently his timing was off and he now owes seven million euros to various "financial entities". Presumably he did all this (mis)investing in his own time.

Still on Galicia, here's an excellent site devoted to pictures of the towns and cities of this region. Aptly enough, it's called Discover Galicia.

I've read a stack of articles (well, six or seven) on the Spanish economy this week. And none of them has had even a hint of optimism about them. Quite the opposite. One was entitled "Spain marching headlong into Depression", for example. The consensus is that Spain can't achieve the deficit target set by Brussels/Berlin and that attempts to do so via 'austerity measures' will take the economy from recession to depression. And there's also agreement that it would be difficult-to-impossible to bail Spain out, should she (as expected) become insolvent. One wonders who Mrs Merkel is taking advice from. Obviously not from the writer of this comment:- "Under EU orders, Spain is promising what might be the tightest fiscal squeeze that it or any other European economy has ever faced."

This comprehensive and very readable article spells out the essential dichotomy, viz. that Spain is too big to fail and too big to save, if she does.

And here's Paul Krugman, writing from a wider perspective:- "It’s hard to avoid a sense of despair. Rather than admit that they’ve been wrong, European leaders seem determined to drive their economy — and their society — off a cliff. And the whole world will pay the price."

Finally . . . Can there be any clearer sign of the recession/depression than this? One of the wi-fi cafés I used to frequent no longer offers this facility. "Why not?" I asked. "New owners." was the reply. Well, the new broom has swept me out of the place. They'll be sorry.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

My dear Colin,

I fear you are wrong. We will, in the long run, see the AVE from Coruña to Lisbon. What we will not see, is anybody IN IT.

Yours, Alfred

tim said...

The 1880s Rural Depression, 1930s Civil War Asylum, 2012 Economic Recession.... Migration... is entering a new phase judging by the number of English Language students object being to find work overseas... Keep 800 Euros cash in the top drawer to jump on a plane to avoid debt repayment is a common theme around the bars these days... South America the way out.

On the brighter side the sun is out and the local bar only wants 1.00 euro for a beer.

Ferrolano said...

I was about to agree with Alfred, until I thought; “Who would want to go to Lisbon, when you can stay in Galicia?”

CafeMark said...

Actually you can already see the AVE in Galicia - it runs between Ourense and la Corunna, calling at Santiago. It will be a while yet before it's high speed all the way to Madrid, although the Madrid-Zamora section should be operational in 2013. They've announced building of the intermediate section and according to that should be built by end 2015. Personally I think it's a bit of a waste because of the low numbers they'll get - lines like Madrid-Toledo or Madrid-Barcelona are far more utilised than the Galicia line will be.

Colin said...

Thanks, Mark. You're absolutely right and I should have made it clear I meant completion of the lines. Especially the section southwards of Ourense, to Madrid.