Policy wonk digest – Spain

Madrid street performer1
One of Madrid’s many excellent street performers, this guy now needs to audition for a licence to do his thing.

  • Vodafone has sponsored one of Madrid’s metro lines, and received naming rights to its central station as a result. What was Sol is now Vodafone Sol and on many maps it is represented only by the Voda logo. I’m sure some historical purists are a bit irked by this but in a world where, like stadia, metro systems are generally highly subsidised, I’m all for them attracting corporate sponsorship like stadia too.
  • Madrid, its plazas and metro are all famous for street performers and buskers, many of whom we have enjoyed immensely. But with high levels of unemployment regulators have become concerned that there will be too many, they will be too average, and too loud. As a result street performers now need to audition for a one year license, they’re required to move spots every two hours and they can’t be within twenty five metres of another performer.
  • The audition video from one music group, who call themselves the Potato Omelete band went viral after they choose to sing their criticisms of the Madrid Mayor’s policies.
  • Unemployment in Spain in horrific. It currently sits at 23.6%, a number that is high by any standard but has recently been celebrated as the lowest since 2011. Young Spaniards we talk to find it totally implausible that we left jobs at home to travel for a year. Here, if you have a job you hang on to it as hard as you can.
  • One strategy firms are using to avoid further redundancies here is to reduce employee’s hours so that they don’t return after their lunch break. It’s like a more drastic version of the ‘nine day fortnight’ some employers in New Zealand used at the peak of the economic crisis.
  • Largely a response to a history of violence from Basque separatist group ETA, Spain has some of the most draconian ant-terror laws in the world. In many countries free speech is illegal if you use it to incite violence. In Spain praising terrorists can land you in jail too. Julen Orbe has recently been convicted for writing an article marking the twenty fifth anniversary of an ETA fighter who died in a car bomb malfunction. This New Republic account of his case, and the issues that surround it, is excellent.