Friday, April 13, 2007

Municipal Elections 2007....Autobombo Comes At A Price

Some words in Spanish just sound perfect for what they describe, and autobombo is one of these words. Although it could also pass as a Spanglish definition for a suicide bomber, it really refers to those who engage in self-promotion; in the cases to be discussed here with the aid of huge amounts of public money.

In recent months vast hoardings have appeared around Madrid containing little or no information for those who stop to read them, but always containing the slogan of the sponsoring authority. Advertising budgets for both regional and city administrations have risen spectacularly in the last few years as spending on promoting the actions (or even just the thoughts) of these administrations has become a convenient way of avoiding the need to use party funds to pay for political propaganda. The Comunidad, the regional government for Madrid, currently spends 160 million Euros a year on publicity. On all of the massive posters they put up appears the slogan "La Suma de Todos", when what should probably really appear are the words "You might as well read it since you've paid for it".

Horrible....where is the traffic?

As the elections approach, so the amount of pseudo "informative" advertising has also gone up. Not to be outdone, the city administration also invests heavily in convincing the electorate that their administration thinks only of making our lives better. What little money remains in the city budget following the massive project to bury part of the M-30 ring road, has been spent on publicity campaigns designed to sell the project as a huge bonus for the city. The vast number of leaflets distributed about the M-30 project show an idyllic picture of a river surrounded by trees and green parkland. The reality of course is very different, whilst the tunnels under the river may be operational for traffic, the surface above them continues to be a huge, dusty, building site and will remain so for some time to come - the river itself is still missing in action.

The municipality has yet another expensive campaign in motion which seeks to convince voters that all of the major works carried out in the last few years have been of great benefit; just in case anyone might think they have only been for the benefit of the companies milking public funds to carry them out! This campaign features old photographs of familiar Madrid landmarks such as the Gran Via, the Puerta del Sol, and the statue of Cibeles. The idea behind the campaign is to suggest that if it were not for the great works carried out by our wise leaders, we would still be stuck in a time warp where horse drawn carriages trot down cobbled streets and people hang their washing out to dry by the river; how ugly and uncivilised - not a four wheel drive in sight. At least in my case this effort has been wasted; I look at these pictures and think about how nice it must have been to be able to walk across Cibeles (anyone trying that now lasts about 3 seconds), or catch a tram in the Puerta del Sol. Frankly, the river with washing drying on the banks looks a lot nicer than it did with a four lane ring road going down both sides of it.

Sadly, around 50% of the population of the city appear to be resolutely indifferent to whatever happens inside the municipal limits. I have never lived in a city where so many of the inhabitants appear to have so little interest or pride in the place where they live, and the administration of the city reflects this indifference. Hence the heavy concentration on traffic projects which exist mainly to permit those who enter the city to leave it again without having more than a fleeting contact with their surroundings. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that should the central area of Madrid eventually collapse into the honeycomb of tunnels beneath it, the main reaction of a good proportion of the inhabitants will be to complain about the extra time it will take them to get back to their homes in the suburbs. The heavily subsidised autobombo is designed to reassure this section of the population that everything is fine in the city, and that there is no need for them to to think too hard about what might be going on.


JAL said...

Autobombo también hace referencia a embarazo autoprovocado

Charles said...

Watch you wish for, Graeme. If you think the money gets dished out to the clan with Gallardón, Madrid under Carlos Sebastián Gascón's brother would be beyond the pale...


Graeme said...

There isn't any money left Charles - it's already gone and the city has a huge debt for the next 25-30 years. I don't actually object to them spending money, I just have this old fashioned view that they should spend it on the provision of services for the people who live in the city.