Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spanish governance; Cataluña; Galicia blots; & Yosemite.

If you came to Spain today and travelled around the entire country, you'd doubtless be amazed and impressed in equal measure. Magnificent new roads; a high-speed train system that's the second largest in the world; stunning geography; wonderful, friendly, fun-loving people; excellent food and wine; a mind-boggling historical heritage; and marvellous beaches. All-in-all, a thoroughly 21st-century country going places. Below all this, though, is a corrupt corporate-political nexus of truly depressing dimensions. Which forces you to ask how many hotels, roads, railways, airports and numerous 'vanity' projects were really necessary and how many were built primarily because of kickbacks. Is there another developed country in the world quite like this? Greece? Italy? Either way, Spain has been managed like this for centuries and one wonders how long it'll be before things materially improve. The daily litany of arrests and trials gives little cause for optimism. Meanwhile, folk like me are unaffected in our daily lives. Except to the extent that our taxes our inexorably rising to pay, inter alia, the interest on the debts run up to finance the investments and kick-backs. As yet, this isn't painful enough to spark a revolution. But one day. Maybe. One thing's for sure, absent pressure from Brussels, the politicians and their corporate friends have no incentive to clean up their act. They rarely pay for their transgressions. In fact, I wonder whether the word 'resign' appears in the latest Royal Academy dictionary issued this week.

Compare and contrast: "The IMF say Spain’s economy will grow by 1.7% in 2015. This is the fastest predicted growth of any advanced European economy. " And: 2. "The IMF says Britain will see its GDP increase by 2.2% in 2015." The only explanation for this discrepancy can be that the UK either isn't European or doesn't have an advanced economy. Or both. Or maybe it's just bad, selective journalism.

If you're truly interested in what is and isn't happening in Cataluña, this article will interest you.

Another new scandal in Galicia - a nun and two or three civil servants have been arrested for taking babies from single mothers, who were told they'd died. The nun was possibly acting out of misplaced religious reasons but the officials are thought to have had rather more pecuniary motives. But we'll see. 

Talking of Galicia . . . I think I mentioned its famous feismo the other day. This is the ugliness of buildings which mar the region's natural beauty. Well, here's something from the Voz de Galicia on chapuzas (botched jobs) that readers have told them about. Enjoy. 

Finally . . . Last week I mentioned I'd downloaded Apple's new OS, Mavericks. A day later, I learned they'd just introduced an even newer system, Yosemite. So I've downloaded this, also for free. It looks good but it's taken me a while to find out where the Reader button is. This allows you to read an article without all the crap that surrounds it and is well worth having.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

The high interests that Spain is paying are not only a result of the Investments and Kickbacks, but also of the inability to set financial policy now that Spain is caught in the Euro Zone. In the past, Latin economies used the printing of money, the hiking up or lowering of prime rates and devaluations of the currency as their safety-valve. Such measures - whose fairness is open to discussion - at least spread the pain over the whole of the economy and the population. And that is how they kept afloat. Now that this is no longer possible, the economic organism is changing its nature completely, and it is fascinating to see how all that will eventually work out.

As for the IMF not counting Britain among the Advanced Economies: that's a matter of the Truth That Does Not Dare To Speak Its Name. To wit: any economy that uses the Euro is doing badly. And all the countries, even within the EU, that have their own currency are doing better. But this must not be emphasized. It might give the people the idea that the Euro is not bringing Prosperity and Democracy to the continent…


santcugat said...

It's not just the debt, it's also the maintenance of all this infrastructure.

For example, the new 75 million euro bridge in Talavera, which was part of a ring road that was never completed (and thus has almost no traffic), is probably going to bankrupt the municipality just in maintenance costs.

Even the AVE system is going to require a huge amount of continuing investment in maintenance, and it's not clear that some of the less profitable routes are ever going to pay for themselves.

Sierra said...

You're obviously living in the wrong district. I've been paying the same motor tax since 2009, and council tax is down 8.5% this year.

The biggest fear is the continual talk of merging local authorities to eliminate the supposed duplication of services and because large districts are more efficient. Having lived through the reorganisation of councils in UK during the '70s, usually it leads to a proliferation of managers and co-ordinators, together with grandiose new council offices. No thanks.

Perry said...

Les Revenants said...

Is there another developed country in the world quite like this?

Japan: just google 'pork barrel politics' and 'Japan' and you'll come up with some doozies. Like the shinkansen from Niigata to Tokyo built at the behest of Tanaka. There are many, many more examples.

Colin Davies said...

@santcugat. Yes, indeed. I recall the comment of a Spanish friend years ago when I commented on the wonderful new roads. "Yes, but just wait to see what happens when they need repairing.

Can't see the Atlantic AVE route paying for itself, and If the night train goes, I'll really miss it.

@Sierra. I think most have mine have doubled, along with the water and rubbish collection charges.

@Perry: Thanks for that.

eljay said...

Chapuza isn't so much a "botched job" as making something work where it isn't supposed to be, perhaps making do with what you have at hand. Yes, some of them are really silly, but most of them are the functional make do efforts of people who don't have the money to buy the expensive fix they need. My Canadian friends call it a "kludge"
I enjoy seeing the new ones the paper gets every year....probably because my dad does stuff like this - but he was raised there :)
(.....and i won't say I'm guilt free myself ;)

Colin Davies said...

@elijay. Thanks for that nuance.

This is one definition, which sees to cover both meanings:-

botched job, shoddy piece of work, mess

I suspect one follows from the other. Someone genuinely tries to save money, either for himself or for a customer, but sometime later things come undone.

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