Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sp. Politics; El Gordo Lottery; The Funny tax office; The EU; & New Words.

THE POST-ELECTION SCENARIO: The Times says that ('enigmatic') President Rajoy is 'on the ropes'. Best place for him, is almost certainly the majority view here. Let's hope he fails in his attempts to keep his job and the PP party in government. Right now, the only thing preventing new elections next year is the observation that Rajoy and the PP would be the biggest beneficiaries of this. So, a 'coalition of the losers' seems to be the best bet. But which one? As negotiations proceed, the chances are growing that the PP will dump Rajoy in favour of the ubiquitous female VP known – unaffectionately – as 'The Dwarf'. But semi-officially as La Menina, the Lady-in Waiting. She made a good show of looking unhappy with the election setbacks for the party. Inerestingly, the person being lined up to take over from the leader of the PSOE socialist party is also a woman – the president of utterly corrupt Andalucia. Plus ça change . . .

EL GORDO: As usual, I didn't win anything in yesterday's humungous Xmas lottery draw. But, then again, as usual I didn't buy any tickets for it. BTW - The winning number was 79140 and the prize was a mere €4m. Which I, for one, wouldn't really know what to do with. Except to keep it from ruining my daughters' lives. Possibly by giving most of it away. Surely something that would increase my popularity with them.

A LAUGH FROM THE TAX OFFICE: I've mentioned the horrendous Model 720 law of 2012 which hits foreign residents with property back home – or other assets above €50,000 – even harder than Spanish nationals. In a 3-page letter which tells you which initial fine (of the several) you'll have to pay, much of the text is taken up with the claim that the Tax Office (La Hacienda) went out of its way to publicise this outrageous development. As lies go, this is a pretty big one. The Hacienda did nothing to tell those most likely to be hit by it. A coincidence? I think not. Still, the politicians managed to get away with everything. So, not everyone is in the same doomed boat. I do hope no tax inspectors are reading this.

THE EU: Want to feel both disgusted and impotent?? Read the leader from today's Times at the end of this post. Once again, we're not all in the same boat. And guess who isn't. If this isn't enough for you, try this article on how the EU benefits the far-right in France. And this, about the impact on EU plans/dreams of the Spanish election.

FINALLY . . . NEW WORDS: Anyone know what these mean - streamt and strinkled? Saw them somewhere, as a pair.

And the Facebook foto: Find the future Lady President in this famous Velázquez painting, Las Meninas. She's either a Lady in Waiting or a dwarf. My guess is the latter.

And a welcome to our new Dutch reader(s).


Bureaucratic Bonanza in Brussels

The EU gravy train is back on track and at full throttle

Most European commissioners, officials, staffers and members of parliament are now on holiday until January. They may be hoping that public anger over their profligacy will have died down by then, but by rights it will burn on well into the new year.

At the end of what was supposed to be a two-year pay freeze for Brussels bureaucrats, they have awarded themselves a 2.4 per cent rise, backdated for six months. A further 2.4 per cent rise has already been approved for next year and another, larger, increase is expected for 2017. On retirement, unlike most public and private sector workers the world over, European civil servants retain the rare luxury of final salary pensions.

Ten thousand Brussels officials already earn more than David Cameron when their tax-free expatriate allowances are taken into account. Another 2,000 or so in the next salary band are closing in on the euro equivalent of the prime minister’s £142,500 salary. The number of EU judges doubled this year alone. Each is paid £197,000 annually, excluding the backdated Christmas bonus. As the EU workforce expands, so does its footprint: work is proceeding on a £280 million new home for the European council, which will meet there only six times a year.

As a homage to EU insulation and recycling guidelines, this building will restore and re-use thousands of old window frames. It is a monument to double-glazing and, like so much European administration, to double standards. At a time of willed or imposed austerity for most member states, the EU’s administrative class is growing in number and self-importance and awarding itself pay rises no other sector of the European economy can afford. No wonder patience among British voters is wearing thin.

In May this year Lefteris Christoforou, a centre-right Cypriot MEP, asked the European Commission what “the so-called Brussels bureaucracy” costs the EU and its member states. Four months later he received an answer that avoided the question except to put the “burden stemming from EU legislation” at £91 billion. In fact annual spending by the seven institutions of the EU has risen to £107 billion despite an undertaking two years ago to cut it by ten billion euros a year. That pledge translated into cuts in regional aid, but was undermined by an inexorable rise in the cost of Europe’s civil service and of its MEPs. The European parliament’s monthly excursion to Strasbourg costs £150 million a year. It wastes hundreds of thousands of working hours, with no justification except a 1992 treaty clause that France refuses to revise because of a marginal benefit to its economy.

The expansion of the Brussels bureaucracy since 2000 is in part a result of the expansion of the EU to include the bulk of eastern Europe. Defenders of the EU’s loose budgetary controls also point to its spending as a 1 per cent share of the bloc’s gross income. This is small compared with spending by national governments or the US federal government, but the truth is that there is no valid comparison because there is nothing quite like the EU. No other group of democratic states sets its remit and priorities with so little deference to democracy. Its budget commissioner tells The Times today that she hopes to set up a new public database to bring transparency to EU spending. Good luck to her, but why did it take so long?

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