The Spanish Challenge: 08/03/2012

Hello loyal reader,

If I had to tell you the story of Spain over the last few hours, this is what I would say…


“*As you read these words, millions of Spaniards and millions of non-Spanish residents here are struggling furiously to make their lives work within the great social, economic and political system which we call Modern Spain.*

*Modern Spain is struggling to survive as a society and as a system or, more properly, as a whole series of very complex systems which intermesh with each other, and which then interact with other very complex systems at the international and global levels.*”

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**TODAY’S NEWS FROM SPAIN ([COMMENT HERE][spanishchallengelink])**

1. **RAJOY SAYS HUGE CUTS COMING IN APRIL**. He’s gone as far as to say to insiders that if Spain were a company, it would now be in administration or bankruptcy. He’s waiting for the Andalusian elections to end, but in April is preparing to raise VAT,to introduce copayment for healthcare and to raise the retirement age. ([El Confidencial][elconfidenciallink])

6. **WILL RAJOY SIMPLIFY SPAIN?**. An ABC article today suggests Rajoy is also getting ready to simplify the way Spain works: regional TV stations, regional government bodies, thousands of useless laws, duplicate government structures and regional ‘embassies’ are all up for the chop. ([ABC][abclink])

8. **LABOUR REFORM REACTION**. The government has pushed through its contentious labour reform plan in the Spanish parliament today and the socialist party, which voted against the new law, has reacted by publishing a video decrying the Popular Party’s lies. Spain’s conseservative politicians all said they wouldn’t make it cheaper to fire someone before the general elections, which is what they’ve done now they’re in office. ([Cadena SER][serlink])

4. **CATALANS TO TEACH IN CATALAN** The Catalan High Court has decided that the new Catalan Education Act should stand as is, because the contentious ruling which was being appealed was issued by Spain’s Supreme Court, so who are they to argue with that. This means that Catalonia’s independence-seeking first minister/prime minister/president Artur Mas is happier today than he was yesterday. ([El País][elpaislink])

9. **A NEW ANTI-EVICTION LAW?**. The government seems to be preparing a new anti-eviction law to stop thousands of Spaniards being kicked out onto the streets by the banks for not paying their mortgages. Looks bad on TV and all that. The idea appears to be to let people continue to rent their properties and hand in the keys, thus cancelling out the mortgage obligation. ([Libre Mercado][libremercadolink])

Meanwhile, on the streets of Spain…

10. **DEAD PEOPLE EVICTED FROM CEMETERY**. Yes, you read that right, the financial crisis has reached the dead. In Teide in the Canary Islands, someone from the town hall has paid a visit to the cemetery and liberally plastered official stickers all over the tombstones warning residents with dead relatives there that if they are not up-to-date with their grave rental payments—€236 for a 5-year stint—their relatives’ bones will be moved to the municipal ossuary (skeleton repository). ([Canarias 7][canarias7link])

4. **VALLADOLID INTRODUCES €15OO FINE FOR BEGGING**. The northern Spanish city of Valladolid has introduced a new municipal bylaw which awards €1500 fines to beggars for asking for money in the streets. “*How are we supposed to pay that,*” ask the beggars, “*when we have five children to feed?*”. Good question. ([El Mundo][elmundolink])

5. **MADRID SOUP KITCHENS FULL TO THE BRIM**. ABC reports that Madrid’s soup kitchens are full of starving children. “*There are many children in Madrid who go to bed without any supper,*” said Father Angel, founder of charity organistion Messengers for Peace. “*Poverty exists, it’s hidden and it’s going to get worse; it’s becoming something shameful, like it was in the past.*” ([ABC][abclink2])

3. **SPANIARDS CAN’T BE ARSED**. According to the latest CIS sociological reference survey of attitudes in Spain. They did’t quite say it like that, of course, but pointed out that 85% of Spaniards haven’t considered moving house to find a job in the last 12 months, even within their own region. ([CIS][cislink])

Yesterday, I offered Mercadona as a stirring example of something good happening in the Spanish economy, and today its chairman Juan Roig has been kind enough to tell us what he thinks about Spaniards and their ‘can’t be arsed’ attitudes…

2. **MERCADONA BOSS SAYS COPY THE CHINESE**. Not shy of offending his countrymen, he said: “*In Spain there are more than 7,000 Chinese shops and supermarkets because they have a culture which encourages you to make an effort; that’s something we don’t have.*”([Expansión][expansionlink])

Thank you for reading.

Regards from Murcia,