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by Euro Reporter
2013-11-28 11:35:39
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Spain has been in the 'wrong' time zone for 7 decades

It was 1940 and World War II was raging. Nazi Germany occupied Norway, Holland, Belgium, and then France. Fascist Italy had already joined with Adolf Hitler. The Fuhrer wanted Spain's support next. So on Oct. 23, 1940, Hitler took a train to the Spanish border to woo Spain's Fascist dictator, Francisco Franco. But Spain was in ruins from its own Civil War in the late 1930s, and Franco didn't have much to offer. He stayed neutral, but switched Spain's clocks ahead one hour, to be in line with Nazi Germany. Ever since, even though Spain is geographically in line with Britain, Portugal and Morocco — its clocks are on the same time zone as countries as far east as Poland and Hungary. Now, more than seven decades later, the Spanish government is weighing whether to change them back.

Spaniards are notoriously late-night creatures. In Spain, the sun rises and sets much later than in the rest of the time zone it's in, called Central European Time, or CET. on average, than other Europeans set. They also work longer hours — but at lower productivity. In an office park on the outskirts of Madrid, Emilio Sainz, 30, mills around waiting for his bosses to finish their afternoon siesta. "Here you work too many hours, but you need to stop at midday for two or three hours, and then finish too late," he says. "It's something cultural." Sainz is a freelance camera technician who just moved back to his native Spain from Britain, and is having trouble adjusting. He doesn't like working until 8 p.m., even with a big break at midday.

"Go back home, take a big lunch — a typical Spanish meal. The siesta is optional, but if you have time you can do it," Sainz says, shaking his head. "But for me, it's sometimes more useful to keep English time. Like, to come back home earlier in the evening, to have some time on your own." In many Spanish barrios, you can't get a cup of coffee before 9 a.m. The post office is open until 9 p.m. Of course, you'll have to wait even later than that for restaurants to start serving dinner. Economists say Spain's time zone feeds that schedule — and costs the country dearly. "We have no time for personal life or family life," says economist Nuria Chinchilla, who studies work and family life at Spain's IESE Business School. "Therefore we are committing suicide here in Spain. We have just 1.3 children per woman. And it's because we have no time."

Chinchilla is lobbying for Spain to go back to Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT — the time zone it was on before Franco changed it in the early 1940s. "Because otherwise, we are not sustainable!" Chinchilla exclaims. "In the crisis, we have seen that the companies that are flexible, that have more rational schedules, then they are more productive too — and they are able to be more flexible in the way they are going out of the crisis." Spain has already shortened its to try to align work schedules with the rest of Europe. And this fall, a parliamentary committee approved a proposal to change back to GMT. The full legislature is expected to vote soon.

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Millions in Spain have electricity cut during economic crisis

The number of Spanish homes that saw their electricity cut off has more than doubled since the start of the economic crisis. More than 1.4 million households in Spain saw their electricity supply cut off last year for failure to pay their bill. The number of disconnections has more than doubled since 2006; new statistics show, providing stark evidence of how deeply Spaniards are suffering in the economic crisis. The cost of electricity has soared by 60 per cent in the last five years while the average household income has decreased by 8.5 per cent, according to information provided by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE). The majority of those who saw their electricity cut were reconnected within 48 hours after paying their outstanding bills.

Spain’s two largest utility companies, Iberdola and Endesa, which supply electricity to 80 per cent of private homes recorded disconnections of 588,120 and 524,814 in 2012 respectively. Extrapolating the figures to include those households whose supply is provided by smaller operators, the Spanish daily El Pais newspaper estimated that around 1.4 million homes were cut off. The government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy introduced a reform of Spain’s energy sector last July as part of wide-reaching austerity programme aimed at reducing the nation’s public deficit. Under the reform saw the slashing of state subsidies of energy providers and was fiercely criticised by the industry and consumers alike. Spain officially emerged from a two-year recession last quarter but the unemployment rate still stands at 26 per cent.

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Ally of Spain's PM convicted over £500,000 tax fraud

Carlos Fabra, 67, the former regional leader for the ruling Popular Party in Castellon, eastern Spain was found guilty on four counts of tax evasion and ordered to pay a fine of €693,000 (£580,290) on top of the same amount owed to the taxman. But he was acquitted of accepting bribes and influence peddling following an investigation that lasted ten years. Fabra, who held the post of provincial president for more than 20 years before stepping down in 2010, built up a reputation for extravagant public spending projects during the height of Spain's construction boom.  He oversaw the controversial building of Castellon airport, a white elephant costing €150 million that was inaugurated in March 2011 and has yet to see a single aircraft land on its runway. At its entrance stands a 25 metre high metal sculpture meant to represent Mr Fabra himself - a monument that cost the taxpayer €300,000 and was branded a sign of "megalomania" by his political opponents.

Mr Fabra, who always appears in dark glasses because of a long-standing eye injury, said he would appeal his sentence. The conviction came at a sensitive time for Mr Rajoy, whose Popular Party has been damaged by allegations of corruption. In 2008 Mr Rajoy described Fabra as "an exemplary citizen" even as he was under investigation but the party has distanced itself from the former president of the Castellon region. "He has not held any position in the party for some time," Maria Dolores de Cospedal, the PP deputy leader told reporters following the ruling on Monday. Mr Rajoy was forced to fend off calls to resign earlier this year after claims by disgraced former party treasurer Luis Barcenas that he was among is those to receive regular "envelopes of cash" from a secret slush fund.

Mr Barcenas, who is currently in prison on remand while he is investigated for €47 million he held in Swiss bank accounts, claims the PP was illegally funded for decades. Francisco Camps, the former Popular Party president of Valencia region and longstanding ally of Mr Rajoy also faced corruption charges but was acquitted in January 2012 for a lack of evidence. Revelations of apparent corruption have touched a nerve in Spain as it citizens struggled with a double dip recession, unemployment of 26 per cent and deep austerity cuts fuelling distrust of the political elite. At a national and regional level, at least 130 politicians from across the political spectrum are currently facing corruption charges ranging from embezzlement to influence peddling and nepotism. Corruption has even tainted Spain's royal family with the son-in-law of the King currently under investigation as part of a wide-reaching corruption scandal cantering on the Balearic Islands. The issue of corruption consistently makes the top three concerns of Spaniards in polls after unemployment and money troubles.

 


    
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