Tuesday, December 18, 2012


At dinner on Friday night, one of my Spanish friends expressed disgust that a senior member of the government had shoe-horned her husband into a job in the administration. “Ah, yes”, said another, “but this guy is good businessman and that makes all the difference.” No one disagreed. Or, rather, I did but I kept my mouth shut. I wasn't going to convince anybody that this wasn't the point.

An English friend asked me recently why I thought President Rajoy hadn't bowed to the inevitable and sought a bail-out from the EU. I replied that I felt it had to do with face and pride, not to mention the avoidance of control of the Spanish economy from Brussels. Or do I mean Berlin?

You have to feel sorry for Rajoy. On the one hand, he's struggling not to do what Brussels/Berlin wants him to do and, on the other, he's struggling to get Spain's profligate regions to do what he wants them to do. Reportedly, he has tried to initiate reforms to Spain's over-layered system of government, only to be told to row back by the regional barons of his own party. And there are other regions defying him over the introduction of a small charge for prescriptions and over the cancellation of the 13th month salary usually payed to civil servants at Christmas. As I regularly say, it's no way to run a country at the best of times and only makes things worse at the worst. Anyway, here's The Economist's take on the challenges Sr Rajoy faces. And here's Iberosphere's review of his first year in office. As they say - “His favourite sport is following the route that others set for him and letting time pass, trusting that some invisible hand will compensate for his impotence.” Mrs Merkel would surely agree.

The EU, it's said, is all about convergence. Presumably to something that looks rather like Germany. When the recession-cum-depression is finally over, it'll be interesting to ask two key questions? 1. Is Spain any more like Germany than it was in, say, 2000. And 2. Has Spain progressed or regressed since, say, 2000. Of course, right now no one knows, not just what the answers to these questions are, but when we will be able to ask them with any hope of getting clear answers. Meanwhile, we have The Economist's comment that Spain has experienced a sickening fall from the ranks of Europe’s new rich to those of its new poor.

Finally . . . I can tell you that, even if you are a multiple non-appearer for your medical appointments, this won't be held against you. You can go on doing it with impunity. Live and let live.

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