SPANISH BANKS: They're surely OK now, after years of closures, forced fusions, voluntary mergers, the creation of a 'bad bank' and several tests of their reserves and ratios. No? Well, No, says Don Quijones of Wolf Street here. Not everyone, he writes, is buying the government’s (macro) version of reality. Poverty is growing at a startling rate, unemployment continues to hover on the wrong side of the 20% mark, and public debt is almost 3 times what it was at the beginning of the crisis. To make matters worse, the European Commission has pointed out that, despite all the untold billions spent over the last four years trying to save Spain’s rickety financial system, the risk exposure of the banks remains inordinately high. Many have been caught engaging in “abusive” mortgage lending practices and could end up having to pay back billions of euros to customers. But not until after the elections!
SELF EMPLOYMENT IN SPAIN: A few years ago, a friend planning this asked the Tax Office if she really needed to pay almost €300 a month from day one, despite having no sales, never mind profits. The (verbal) advice was “Don't report anything until you're making a profit, even though you're legally obliged to”. Things might have changed since then. In some cases, I know, the (social security) tax is as low as €75. Anyway, here's an El País article (in English) which provides info on the bureaucratic challenge of setting yourself up as what's called a sole trader in the UK and an autónamo/a here.
SWITZERLAND COMES TO SPAIN: In Geneva once, I was stopped by a local friend from crossing the street on a red light when there was no traffic visible for several hundred metres in both directions. Jaywalking just wasn't done in Switzerland, he said. As the police around the country have now found a new source of revenue, this may soon be the case in Spain too. Yesterday's local example was of a woman crossing a street not far away from a zebra crossing. Given the annual fatalities on the latter, this might well have been a wise decision.
PRESIDENT RAJOY COMES TO HOMETOWN PONTEVEDRA: And gets punched in the face by a 'troubled teenager' for his trouble. As this will almost certainly garner sympathy votes for the PP party, some of us are convinced it was a set-up. Especially as the kid turns out to be a cousin of Rajoy's wife and seemed very pleased with what he'd done. As were some of the crowd. Wish I'd been there to applaud also.
DAFT BELIEFS: Spain's Interior Minister is very seriously Catholic. So religious, in fact, he's convinced he has a guardian angel. As if that weren't bad enough, he knows the name of the angel – Marcelo – and is convinced he helps him find a parking place when the going gets tough. Of course, he may have been joking when he was interviewed by La Vanguardia. But I doubt it. Anyone who attends Mass every day is likely to possess such bizarre views. But not everyone is mad enough to admit it.
FINALLY . . . NEIGHBOURLY MATTERS: Yesterday I found a mushroom in my garden, the first in 15 years. My neighbour, the lovely Ester, advised me not to eat it, as it was possibly toxic. I replied that, if she didn't stop her dog barking at 6.30 for half an hour every morning, I'd throw it over the fence next time he took to doing this. Thinking I was joking, she laughed.
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