Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Even before Spain's phoney boom, the country had the highest ratio of bank branches to people in Europe. Back then, when the banks charged you for breathing the air inside them, they could possibly afford this excess. Then came the era of cheap money and easy loans and the banks invested even more in branches, eager to suck in as many new property holders as possible. Now, of course, they've gone into reverse and are closing branches and laying off staff in their thousands. As someone has said today, by the end of this year the industry will be back to what it was in the 70s. So much for Sr Zapatero's much vaunted “soundest financial sector in the world.”

As more and more is revealed about the abuses committed during the boom years, it becomes ever clearer how the country's saving banks(cajas) acted as a money machine for the bankers and politicians running them. Institutionalised theft, in a word. And now there's an official report – from The Association of Inspectors – which includes the accusation that “When evidence of wrongdoing is discovered in banks, the usual reaction of the Bank of Spain is to look the other way." Much the same way as senior politicians in Madrid deal with corruption in Valencia, Andalucia, Galicia and elsewhere. One could be forgiven for thinking there's no political will to tackle these cancers in the bodies political and financial.

A small aside on the issue of lay-offs . . . All of a sudden, civil servants aren't being as ill as they traditionally have been. Absenteeism was down 36% last, as people seek to avoid giving excuses for the sack.

I think my last forecast for the AVE high-speed train in Galicia was 2018, against an official date of 2012. It seems, though, that I may have to extend this yet again. Despite being from Galicia, President Rajoy appears bent on proving that Cataluña is better off being part of Spain by prioritising the line from Barcelona up to Girona. This despite the fact that the Barcelona-Figueres-Paris line came into operation today. Real politique. No wonder Galicians feel hard done by.

The power of old time religion. Ever heard of a mother beating a son to death because he couldn't learn his tables? Thought not. In contrast, “A mother who beat her seven-year-old son to death when he failed to learn passages from the Koran sobbed in the dock yesterday as she was ordered to serve a minimum of 17 years in jail. Cardiff Crown Court was told that Ege, a maths graduate, had ambitions for her son to become a Hafiz, someone who can recite the Koran from memory. Despite enrolling him in special lessons at a mosque, Yaseen struggled. The court was told that Ege admitted using a stick to hit her son and then setting fire to his body when he died after one particularly savage beating.” Seventeen years in a prison cell should give Mrs Ege enough time to learn the Koran off by heart herself.

Talking about the stick in place of the carrot . . . I was myself strapped by Christian Brothers for not learning the Catholic Catechism. And for just about everything else. In fact, I was once strapped by Brother Ryan at the very start of a lesson. When I asked what it was for, he said “For all the trouble you're going to cause me during this lesson!” I took it as a compliment.

Still on religion . . . It's said that over 50% of people in the USA believe in the Rapture, that is the end of the world and the ascent into Heaven of all those who are saved. In fact, there's one chap there who's been mapping the world earthquakes, droughts, floods, tsunamis, etc. against the Biblical prophesies of such things. Worryingly, perhaps, he's pretty sure the Rapture is only round the corner. As you'd expect, he's not worried about this as he's sure he and all his family will be Raptees.

Finally . . . Talking about being picked up, there's something called Shop & Collect in the UK now, under which you buy on line but collect the order yourself from a nearby retail outlet. Say Waitrose, if you are buying from John Lewis. Amazon has gone a step further and started installing lockers – you unlock them using a code sent to your phone – in some shopping centres. Solves the “You weren't in” problem. Anyone seen any evidence of it in Spain yet?


Sierra said...

Is it too cynical to suggest that the section of Madrid-Galicia AVE at Medina del Campo was programmed to be finished early to give the impression to drivers on the A6 that the whole line was nearing completion?

Colin said...

Probably not!

Colin said...

Probably not!

Azra said...

Heard about that story of that woman who beat her son to death for not learning his Hifz (Quran by memory) and one of our Islamic leaders here in JHB actually called it sad, unnecessary and plain wrong. This is what happens when mothers are too controlling and dogmatic.

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