Monday, September 22, 2014

Localism v centralism; South America; Inheritance tax; Galician excess; & Galician xenophobia?

As I've said before, there are 2 distinct zeitgeists in Europe. One is the desire for greater local democracy and control (Scotland, Cataluña, Flanders, Corsica, etc.) and the other is the creation of a 'truly democratic' EU supra-state. It's hard to see how they can co-exist. Hence the euphoria in Brussels when the majority vote in Scotland was for continued union with the rest of the UK. We will next see this tension played out in England, where one answer to the demand for greater local democracy is to create a layer of regional government. Since this would fit with the EU's infamous map for a future Europe, we can expect it to be resisted. Not only for this reason but also because it would create - a la España - another layer of expensive (but useless?) politicians and bureaucrats. The alternative is greater powers to the existing counties and cities/metropolitan areas. Interesting times.

I've talked about Spanish family fiefdoms - Santander Bank and El Corte Inglés - but nothing can match the Argentineans when it comes to this sort of thing. The last President was Sr Kirchner. The current President is his (hapless) widow, and the next President, she tells us, will be their son. Almost as bad as the Ghandis in India. But Argentina doubtless considers itself part of the developed world. Maybe it is.

Talking of South America, a Venezuelan friend tells me, in tones of disgust, that the late Hugo Chavez, the anti-US, socialist champion of the poor, has been found to have had a personal fortune of 200m dollars. Possibly thrust upon him in gratitude by said poor. Maybe his family will give it back.

If you live in Spain and if you want your heirs to get maximum benefit, you need to ensure you're resident in the right community. This is because Spain is a patchwork of laws, with each of the 17 regions ('autonomous communities') having the right to set their own rules. Near term, you also need to ensure that your beneficiaries are resident anywhere in Spain. For, higher rates of tax apply to non-residents. The EU has declared this illegal and things might change soon. But I don't think anything has yet been said by Brussels about differential rates between the regions.

Galicia has a population of just under 3m. All of these can avail themselves of 3 international airports, though many of them use the superior facility down in Oporto in North Portugal. Another area of excess would appear to be tertiary education, in that the region has 5 (public) universities - In Vigo, Pontevedra, Santiago, La Coruña and Ourense. In fact, the only city which does't have its own university is Lugo, though it does have a Santiago Uni. campus there.

Which, sadly, reminds me that the news this week is that Spain and Italy ranked joint bottom in an OECD assessment of literacy and numeracy among graduates. Only 12% of them achieved a 'high level'. Another case of more meaning less?

Finally . . . A local paper reports that 67% of the milk we drink in Galicia comes from 'foreigners' - Portugal, France and the next-door Spanish region Asturias.


Anthea said...

do the people who object to Asturian milk also object to beer from Madrid? Do Galician patriots only drink Estrella Galicia and never Mahou?

Colin Davies said...

I suspect so.