Monday, October 25, 2010

The Last One Out Of Madrid Won't Need To Turn The Lights Off

Even though José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero managed to avoid the booing during the military parade on October 12th, he couldn't evade everyone who had a bone to pick with him. Zapatero was cornered at least for a few minutes by Madrid's mayor, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, who tried to convince ZP to lift the credit restrictions imposed on those municipalities who are heavily in debt as part of the crisis measures imposed by the government. Madrid is of course a leader in the debt league table, although it seems that Gallardón has at least found some sort of temporary solution to avoid the rubbish collection in the Spanish capital from coming to a standstill.

Madrid's ruler has, however, opened a new front over the lighting for the M-40 ring road around Madrid - one of the ring roads he didn't get around to burying before the crisis hit. The city administration is responsible for paying for the illumination on this road, and as part of the war over the blocking of further credit Gallardón has threatened to let the lights go out. That is, of course, if the thieves don't get there before him. According to a report I read last week the road is steadily getting darker because the high price of copper is encouraging those entrepreneurs who operate on the wrong side of legality to rip out whole stretches of the copper wiring which enables the lights to work. I'm glad I live in the centre, it's all getting a bit Mad Max out there in the outskirts. The city has for the moment decided its not worth replacing the copper that gets stolen, so at least some of those living near the road might get to see the occasional star...or traffic accident.

The Partido Popular, to which Gallardón belongs, has something of a double standard when it coes to public debt. Anyone surprised by that? Having criticised Zapatero for the national debt and even proposing at one point that deficits should be made illegal, the administrations run by the PP manage somehow to be amongst the worst offenders. Gallardón, in particular, has shown himself to be a master in this respect. Before becoming mayor in Madrid he managed to triple the debt of the regional government. The PP reminds me of the Republicans in the US who slam a Democratic administration for any budget deficit but then (as under Reagan and Bush jnr) manage to run huge deficits when in office that never produce any general benefit of any kind.

One right wing commentator who I read only occasionally, because reading "Zapatero is to blame for everything" every day isn't that interesting, attempted the other week to explain why Zapatero was personally responsible for the deficits run up in PP strongholds like Valencia. The piece was a classic of the genre, whilst acknowledging that the PP rulers of these regions might bear a teeny share of responsibility for the situation it turned out that Zapatero was really behind it all simply because he allowed them to do it! This leaves people like Francisco Camps as having less personal sense of responsibility than the average two year old. I know, it's a bad example, and in passing let me apologise to any two year olds who might feel offended by the comparison. The comments on this piece were almost worth framing, as it was pointed out to the author in a not very gentle way that this is what they call the "estado de las autonomías".

This weekend, in the PP's regional conference in Madrid, the party leader Mariano Rajoy explained why there was no need for him to be spelling out any kind of alternative to the government's policies. The PP, he said, was already showing what it would do at national level in those cities or regions where it currently holds power. So there we have it, any future PP administration will presumably be run on an ever increasing debt mountain coupled with rampant corruption and favours. As a programme for the elections I think it needs touching up a bit.


Roberticus said...

Strange that for all their GOP-philia and talk of economic decentralising, the PP can't fathom that there is virtually no example of any polity anywhere which managed to reduce its layers of bureaucracy and red tape by reducing local autonomies and increasing centralisation....especially when the central capital in question is an artificial capital; whatever its economic and cultural successes, Madrid was essentially a 16th century version of Brasilia or Bonn... administration was its economic life.

Graeme said...

Well the PP is really only centralist in the sense that they oppose autonomy that threatens their political concept of the Spanish state. I don't see Aguirre or Camps volunteering to give up any of their local power.