Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Emotional rescue

I wake to find that Moody's have severely downgraded twenty-eight Spanish banks, including ours. Which is thoughtful of them. We might of course ask where they were when these banks were blowing ginormous great holes in their own balance sheets. But we can ask that sort of thing all we like, and never get an answer.

Our bank is, like most Spanish banks, a largely regional bank, bigger than some, but not too easy to access if you're outside Aragón or Guadalajara. There's no sign of any response to Moody's on their website, which is not such a surprise: just a few weeks ago their directors voted to merge with two other banks and there was no front-page notification of that either. Or, for that matter, anything sent to customers to tell them this important news.

One suspects that in Britain the merger would have provided an opportunity for all sorts of mailshots and adverts telling customers how it would improve not only their bank accounts but their lives, while the downgrading would have been met with a blitz of rebuttals and denials.

Either be told nothing, or be told buckets of horseshit: perhaps it's a cultural question more than a question of better or worse. Particularly as it has not been a splendid week for my British bank either.

Still, Spanish society is undeniably less open than British, in certain important respects, which fact has consequences, perhaps the stolen babies scandal among them. Try and make a complaint to an organisation, state or private sector, and see how you get on: if you get a reply you'll be lucky and if you're even luckier, you'll be invited to phone an expensive 902 number to find out why your complaint has been rejected. Expats tend to go mad at this sort of thing. Spaniards tend to accept it.

That said, there has been some discontent at the near-invisibility of the Prime Minister in the present crisis. (I say "present crisis", but it has been going on for four years now.) Nobody-telling-us-anything is not quite so acceptable when it's the elected leader of your so-called democracy who's gone missing. He's not been entirely invisible, it's true, but it's also true that one sees a lot less of Rajoy than one sees of De Guindos or Sáenz de Santamaría or Cospedal.

This is the sort of thing that almost entirely escapes international news coverage, since journalists are kept informed through regular press conferences and don't necessarily notice, or care, if the voting public are not similarly privileged. (One thinks how few Westminster village journalists cared that Tony Blair had an appalling attendance record in the House of Commons.) But in truth these things are quite important, for democracy and politics and the faith of the electorate in both: if, for instance, the government jacks up VAT when it had promised not to, both in the election campaign and afterwards, this does actually matter. It probably matters more than De Guindos' latest press statement or what some clown from a City equities firm has to say about it. But of the three, it's substantially the least likely to be reported.

Rajoy did, however, show up at the Congress of Deputies last week, in order to be taunted by his various opposite numbers about his refusal to use the term "rescate" about Spain's formal appeal for funds to support its banks. (Which, in passing, makes me wonder why Moody's would downgrade a sector that's likely to receive very shortly a huge wallop of cash. But I am just a humble punter.)

Personally I don't care very much whether Rajoy uses the term or not. The politics of the matter is that any claim Rajoy makes to be in charge of the situation is rendered a nonsense by the rescate, which is true enough, but as I never thought he was, or could be in charge of the situation, I'm not so bothered.

Nor do I particularly care for the term rescate, which literally means "rescue" although contemporary English tends to use "bailout", a term I like even less. But it seems to me that the whole point of a rescue is that you are pulled out of the water. And it also seems to me that not only are we deeper in the water than we were before, but that they are attaching fresh weights to us.

I wake to find that Moody's have done this. Or the financial markets have done that. Every morning I wake to find somebody has done something that makes me want to go back to sleep. Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

No comments:

Post a Comment