Friday, December 21, 2012

The (Other) End Of The World

It's that time again, the South of Watford winter break. Well deserved, as always. Defying Mayan or any other prophets of doom I'm taking off this afternoon for Chile. As that country seems to be doing a lot better than Spain I might have to resist the temptation to stay and grow avocados or something similar. The picture below is of a place I've been before, and hope to repeat this time around; Puerto Varas and the Osorno volcano. As Rajoy might say, have a good festive season - if you can.

  Puerto Varas Osorno

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spanish Rescue....Rajoy Speaks Out

It's a South of Watford world exclusive. Spanish Prime Minister and well known man of action Mariano Rajoy spoke to this blog with unprecedented frankness on the possibility of his government asking for an EU financial rescue package. This is what he had to say:

"If we choose to ask for what you like to call a 'rescue' then we might do it; or not. On the other hand you could tell me what we might be doing. Today we are not asking, tomorrow we might. Or not. We've taken a difficult decision not to ask for it until we do. But first we need to know whether we will be asking for it or not. If we feel the need not to ask for the rescue then we must first establish what we are not asking for. Is berry difficul todo esto."


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Mystery Of The Hole In The Wall

A very strange thing happened last week in Spain. An elected representative of the Partido Popular resigned after his involvement in murky events came to light, and not only did he resign but he did it quickly. Even stranger still, his own party did nothing to defend him. Odd when you consider how long the PP affords protection to people who take money supposedly destined for children suffering sexual abuse or for those suffering from AIDS and spend it instead on apartments in Valencia.

But everything is odd about the case of Santiago Cervera, a member of the Spanish parliament for the PP until his sudden resignation just over a week ago. Cervera was arrested in Pamplona two days before he resigned by a unit of the Guardia Civil who were staking out the drop off point for a supposed blackmail attempt on the president of the local savings bank. They caught Cervera in the act of retrieving the (fake) package that had been left as bait in a hole in the wall of the city's old fortress.

Cervera claims he has been the victim of a setup and after his resignation produced anonymous emails that claimed to offer confidential information on what had been happening in the Caja Navarra savings bank. This information was supposedly to be placed in that same hole in the wall in Pamplona, and Cervera claims that he only went there motivated by curiosity. The investigating judge is clearly not convinced, and has formally notified Cervera that he could be facing criminal charges. 

Now it is apparently well known in Navarra that Cervera and those running the Caja do not get on, just as it is well known that Cervera has plenty of enemies there as a result of the political shenanigans of the last few years involving the PP and their, occasional, partners in the ruling Unión del Pueblo Navarro. Perhaps this history is the reason why Cervera ran on the PP list for Madrid in last year's general election despite his long association with Navarra.

Santiago Cervera would not be the first person in the PP that you would link with sinister activities such as blackmail, there are many other far more likely candidates. Indeed Cervera - and you have to take this statement in the general context of the PP and how they behave - had something of a reputation for integrity and for campaigning for greater transparency in politics. As I say, I wouldn't like to stretch that point too far; we're talking relative integrity. Perhaps that's why his party dropped him so coldly and quickly?

Or maybe they know more than we do? The details we have of the case so far just don't fit. The emails produced by Cervera were dated almost a week before the president of Caja Navarra went to the police over the alleged blackmail attempt. So if Cervera went to the hole in the wall earlier there would be nothing at all to find and life would have resumed its normal course. Now we must await further news from the judicial investigation. Running with the bulls isn't the most dangerous sport they play in Pamplona.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Happy Anniversary

With all the fuss around the Catalan elections, the first anniversary of Mariano Rajoy's election slipped by almost unnoticed. Of course it's still not a year since he (allegedly) took office as it takes a month or so after the elections for a change of government to take effect in Spain. Anyway what a year we've had, packed with hugely impressive achievements of all sorts. This is really just a small sample:

Unemployment - at the end of the third quarter of 2011 Spanish unemployment stood at a measly 4,978,300. Thanks to the rapid and forthright measures taken by Rajoy's government to reactivate the Spanish labour market, we have now reached the historic high of 5,778,100. The once remote possibility of having 6 million unemployed in Spain will now almost certainly be happening in 2013. If that perhaps seems a bit grim, it's not all bad news. Hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs have been created in the public sector for friends and relatives of senior PP politicians. 

Economic growth - if last year the economy was showing some weak signs of recovery (Spain was no longer in recession) the new government swiftly put paid to any of those old fashioned notions about the necessity of economic growth and now we have -1.6 growth and a profound recession which is predicted to last throughout next year at the very least. 

Taxes - the party which took to the streets against an increase in sales tax when it was imposed by Zapatero quietly deleted the web page publicising this campaign shortly before Rajoy introduced a further increase in the same tax. Income tax has also been increased but then the requirements of having a balanced view oblige me to put the other side. The onerous burden of shared sacrifice means that the enormous fortunes stashed away in the SICAV investment funds have retained their hugely generous tax status untouched. A similarly generous tax amnesty for fraudsters has flushed out less than half of the target figure even on the government's own figures.

The banks - in one year we have gone from "we won't put a euro of public money into the banks" to the Bankia fiasco and possible fraud and the creation of a bad bank. Worse, that is, than the others. 

Still, at least the pensioners have been protected? The last remaining unbroken electoral commitment of the few that Rajoy actually made has just fallen, with the breaking of the link between pensions and inflation. Rajoy had made a sort of implicit contract with pensioners, they would vote for him to protect their pensions whilst he made sure that future generations would never enjoy the same conditions. He lied.

Yes, it's been quite a year.