Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Making Money While The Sun Shines

It's time for some new vocabulary on South of Watford. Today's word is cazaprimas, or “car-thar-primars” for speakers of SSAE (Spanish Standard Airport English). A cazaprimas is a subsidy chaser, someone whose money goes into those sectors of the economy that attract the highest level of public subsidy. The classic model of cazaprimas took full advantage of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy in the days when half of Europe's budget was dedicated to agricultural subsidies. A famous case in Spain involved the production of linen which was then mysteriously destroyed in a series of fires once the generous subsidy had been claimed.

Nowadays the cazaprimas has diversified, which brings me to the topic of solar power. It was strange, for years I was wondering when Spain was going to start showing some interest in energy produced from the sun. A country with so many hours of sunshine seemed dedicated to ignoring the possibilities of the technology, whilst wind farms seemed to cover every available hillside. Then things started to change, and this summer on my travels around different parts of the country it's been hard not to notice the solar power plants that have suddenly emerged. The reason for the change is simply because of a very generous subsidy scheme that guarantees the purchase of all electricity produced by these plants at high rates.

A not so subtle variation on the theme has emerged in the region of Castilla Leon where it seems that evolution of the species has taken a further step with the introduction of what we can call the funcionario-cazaprimas. Several people in senior positions in the regional government there seem to have fallen into the common trap of confusing the public good with their private gain, and have ensured that the permissions for new solar power plants go to companies with which they are directly or indirectly involved. All of this is now coming to an end, the government has decided to cut the subsidies from this month and solar power is expected to lose its attraction. The cazaprimas will move on to something else while Spain continues to grapple with an increasingly urgent need to diversify its energy sources.


Lenox said...

My wife ran a charity (riding for the disabled) during the nineties until ill-health took her out of the limelight. We would often come across 'agencias' who would gladly find us 'subvenciones'. Standard whack: 20%!!
In fact, at the very least... twenty per cent of all charity in Spain is ripped off. I have always found that one of the strangest things about this country.

Graeme said...

Imagine you're at a party and someone asks you what you do for a living. Can you just calmly reply "I rip off people who try to raise money for charity". It's not the worst occupation in the world but it's hardly something to be proud of.