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Will he or won't he?

Ask for a bail-out, that is. Zapatero is full of the "We're fine, thank you very much", while Economy Minister Elena Salgado tells us the banks' improved transparency, as insisted by the Bank of Spain, is working (and soon they'll have to spill the beans on how up to their necks in unpaid property loans they are, too). And Zapatero told investors that if they bet against Spain, they will lose money. Brave, bold, confident words. And The Economist last week said that Zapat-euro could be the man to save the Eurozone - if he acts quickly, bringing in more economic reforms, such as pensions - which caused a hoo-ha in the Spanish press, understandably. Otherwise, we'll be back to the peseta. Can't they Wikileak his internal memos to his ministers? Now that would make interesting reading. "Shall I give in yet, and ask for help? Waddya reckon, guys?" "No, stick it out a few more weeks. We don't want them thinking we Spanish are a load of wusses." And remember that they're small-fry compared to Spain, which has the euro's fourth-biggest economy, bigger than Greece, Portugal (also being menaced by the sword of Damocles) and Ireland put together. Zapatero insists that he's on target to trim the country's budget deficit (from 11% in 2009, to 6% in 2011). He needs 226 billion euros of investments to keep the country's economy afloat. But how does this uncertainty, this unmitigated financial horror story, affect Spanish people on a local level? How do they get by, when they've lost their job, and can barely pay their mortgage and other monthly bills? Well, some resort to a bit of stealing. This can involve small-time stuff like shoplifting food. In a town near where I live, some people have had their front doors stolen. Yes, seriously. One of the most profitable is copper cabling, whose price has doubled due to demand from China and their programme to bring electricity to a large percentage of their massive population, and now fetches over 5,000 euros per ton (a 16-month high). The wire is commonly found in many open, unprotected places, easily available to any passing thief, from electricity meters to phone lines, and also in high-speed train tracks (AVE) - you'd have to be pretty careful, and speedy, there. Football pitches have been left in darkness after thieves took the copper cabling from their floodlights. Last week, police in Madrid seized a haul of 103 tonnes - that's a tidy sum; I'll leave you to do the maths. The news is full of it, every day. In the past three months, there have been 90 crimes and 42 people (and those are just the ones who were caught; imagine how many more weren't) arrested for theft of metal. To be fair, a large proportion of these smooth criminals are Rumanian, rather than native Spanish - before I start offending readers. It's not the cheeriest way to head into December, and the Christmas season. Here's hoping your electricity and phone supplies, and train journeys, are safe. My phone line has stopped working twice in the past month. Maybe now I know why...
Blog published on 29 November 2010