The front pages of all Spanish papers today majored (and minored) on the slash and burn program announced by President Rajoy yesterday. In pursuit of a deficit of 3% by 2014, from anything between 6 and 8% as of now. Benefits cuts, tax increases and an attack on the comfortable life of civil servants, which probably won't make much difference to anything but is certainly symbolic. Bang goes their Christmas bonus of an extra month's salary and wham goes their extra paid holidays. In the short term at least, I suspect their productivity will decrease rather than increase. But this may not impact on the Spanish economy at all. Meanwhile, given all the pronouncements made and assurances given since he won the general elections last November, the question is whether Sr Rajoy is smart or stupid. Or just another lying politician who makes it up as he goes along, 'guided' by Mrs Merkel and the Brussels Secretariat.
As I recall, a year or more ago Edward Hugh forecast that the Spanish economy would end up effectively being managed from Brussels. I thought of this when reading this paragraph:- El Pais has stunned the nation by publishing the leaked “Memorandum” imposed by the eurozone’s creditor bloc as the condition for Spain’s €100bn bank rescue. The draconian terms include an EU takeover of the Spanish financial system, with calls for haircuts on €67bn of junior and hybrid bank debt, a bad bank to wind down crippled lenders, “on-site” raids by inspectors, and intrusive demands across the gamut of fiscal policy. So, is this Mrs M's revenge for being ambushed by Sr Rajoy and M Hollande at one of their recent crisis meetings? There've been so many of these, one is easily confused as to which one.
Once upon a time, there were two Galician savings banks, both stuffed with directors on high salaries. These were Caixa Galicia and Caixa Nova. Forced by failure to merge, they became the mouthful NovaCaixa Galicia. Because both of them had to be fully represented in the new name, regardless of any other considerations. After a year, a bow was made in the direction of simplicity, common sense and reality and the entity became Novagalicia Banco. But only in regions in the north west of Spain. Elsewhere, it became EVO, "The intelligent bank." Got it? Confused? Well, stuff you. You're only the customer, actual or potential. In Spain, you hardly ever count.
Talking of customers . . . Big problems for 02 in the UK yesterday and today. As you may know, the company is owned by Spain's MoviStar (Telefónica). I've just heard their spokesman duck the question of whether there'll be any cash recompense. So it'll be interesting to see whether customers are being treated better than they probably would have been back home in Spain.
I touched the other day on whether talking on your phone while driving lacks the stigma here it has elsewhere. The same question occurred to me about smoking when I saw two young women puffing away on the table next to mine today. Interestingly, the young man with them wasn't smoking, a not uncommon scenario these days. I suppose one could, if one wished, adduce it in evidence for the claim that, for all the good it does them, men are smarter than women. More seriously, I read today that stopping smoking leads to an average weight gain of five kilos. Which probably weighs heavier on the minds of Pontevedra's young Twiggies than any possibility of shrivelling their lungs years from now.
I was hailed in the Corner this morning by an accountant who, introduced to me by a mutual friend, did some work for me last year. We talked about Panama hats and I took the opportunity to press her for a (long-overdue) bill. She told me not to worry about this. And then went and paid for my coffee. Or 'invited' me, as they say in Spain. What can I do? This is Spain and I'm never going to get a bill. So, I'm in hock to her. She has a favour in my(her?) favour bank and I must now reciprocate some time before I die. Though God knows how. I'll talk to our mutual friend about this. I hope she doesn't want English lessons . . .
Finally . . . Miscellania
- Three biscuits today in the Corner! I suppose I could ask Aquilino to stop being so generous.
- The café's original name was Porta da Vila. Which I'm pretty sure is Gallego/Galego for City Gate. And there can be no doubt that, walking up from the port and past the bullring, George Borrow entered the city through this gate, at the start of his few days here in the late 1830s.
- If you get an email saying you have a private message from someone you know, bin it. It's the latest phorm of phishing. Don't click on the message.
- This might well be the best recording of Soul Limbo, by Booker T and the MGs.