Friday, 23 November 2012

The Ancien Regime 6

Spain and the Rise of the Idiot State

Alicia Sánchez Camacho - smart in only one sense of the word

"If every Spaniard confined himself to talking about what he understands, and nothing more, then there would be a great silence, which we could all use for studying."           
Antonio Machado

This month Mariano Rajoy’s PP government budget for the next bleak year in Spain was published. Among the details of the operating budgets of the government departments, the salaries for the government’s handpicked special advisors reveal that Prime Minister Rajoy himself has 245 “wise men”, but of this cohort of technocrats 68 have not yet completed high school education.

In UK terms, it’s as if a quarter of PM David Cameron’s special advisors and spin doctors hadn’t an O-Level between them. In US terms, it’s like a fourth of the President’s men couldn't boast a High School diploma. The implications of that lack of basic competence at the highest levels of government are staggering.

The Financial Times habitually ranks European finance ministers by their performance. The PP's Luis de Guindos has just come last, slipping from 13th last year to 19th of 19 this year. His FT profile notes his distinctive financial experience: "He was executive chairman of Lehman Brothers in Spain and Portugal from 2004 to 2008". An impressive professional background indeed, helping to drive a centuries-old institution into bankruptcy. That should prove valuable experience in the months ahead as Spain skates towards insolvency of an even greater scale than Lehmans.

In Catalonia, where elections are being held, the PP’s candidate Alicia Sánchez Camacho holds up a placard in a TV debate showing her projected budget calculations. According to Alicia’s team, 700 + 500 + 118 = 1,218. Except it doesn’t, it makes 1,318. I suppose her special advisors didn’t stay in school long enough to learn basic arithmetic.

In Madrid the PP city government is undergoing convulsions following the death of four young women in a crowd crush at a Halloween mega-rave event. The preliminary proceedings reveal deep incompetence and negligence within the Madrid municipal machinery for licencing and safety. But this is at a time when mayor Ana Botella desperately needs to establish her city government’s credibility in these areas ahead of a third bid for the Madrid Olympics in 2020. So far two of her councillors responsible for safety and event licences have resigned pending investigation. All evidence points to the fact that although the municipal authority was theoretically responsible for assuring crowd control and safety, no competent checks or inspections were made at any time.

At the same time the biggest scandal ever to engulf Madrid and the ruling PP is oozing out of the courts in a constant tide of sleaze. Bankia is the king of all housing bubble busts, a vast black hole of bad assets. The huge accumulation of negative equity was concealed until after the previously public-private savings bank went onto the stockmarket as a private bank group, an IPO that was foredoomed to failure given the huge burden of hidden debt. Rodrigo Rato was the CEO of Bankia and the architect of its flotation; before that he had been Finance Minister in the government of José María Aznar’s PP and president of the IMF. He was nominated to the CEO post by the PP government of the Madrid Autonomous community, as was former minister Ángel Acebes.

Since the key question in the Bankia case is how the  black hole of debt was concealed by the bank’s accountants, it may be seen as significant that the delegates to the auditing and oversight committee of the group, appointed by Madrid’s PP, were completely unqualified to oversee financial accounts.

Mercedes Rojo-Izquierdo was nominated as delegate by then-president of the Madrid Autonomous Region, Esperanza Aguirre. But Ms Rojo-Izquierdo (whose name, ironically for a conservative stalwart, means “Red-Left”) hasn’t the foggiest about numbers and accounting, as she was a student of pharmacology who had dropped out of college. She expressed doubt to her sponsor Aguirre about her own competence to fill the post, but was told not to worry as there were others on the committee who did know what they were doing and she should take her lead from them. For these services to auditing she received €144,000 per annum.

All of which tends to suggest that Spain is ruled over by the least qualified and most clueless gang of political and business leaders - Partido Popular loyalists to a man and woman - ever to hold power. For why that might be so, the reader is referred to this blog's previous discussion of cronyism as the defining characteristic of Spanish culture
Welcome to Spain. It's funny for a while, but after a lifetime it gets old


68 out of 245 special advisors without high school diploma

No comments:

Post a Comment