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Donna Gee - Spain's Grumpy Old Gran


AENA: A private word on Spain's soaring success
23 May 2014

I’M getting to like AENA – and not only for the successful and efficient way it runs Spain’s airports. 
It also makes an impressive case for remaining outside the grip of the privateers.
The Rajoy government is bent on selling off AENA, which is responsible for all but a handful of the country’s airports.
Among the exceptions are controversial white elephants like Castellon, Ciudad Real, Lleida-Alguaire and now the deserted Corvera, where £200m of investment has yet to reap a centimo in return.
The argument for a public  AENA is convincing – particularly when its workers and supporters put their case so politely (UK trade unions please note).
When I flew from Alicante to the UK last week, around 30 pro-AENA actiivists were demonstrating on the main concourse.
Neatly but casually dressed, they were scrupulously well-behaved as they paraded up and down to a chorus of megaphone chants. 
Their message – delivered via leaflets in English and Spanish – made it clear who they blamed for the untold woes of Spanish aviation.  
In a word, it was civilised. 
Like many of those on the concourse, I initially took the 30-strong  party  for football fans. They were in fact workers from airports as widespread as Bilbao, Madrid, Palma, Malaga and Tenerife. 
And their message? ‘‘AENA is a public company that does no cost anything to the citizens. Not funded by the State Budget, but with rates and economic activity that is generated at airports.
“In Spain, the airports managed privately or individually by autonomous communities have been a disaster.’’
Last year, AENA made a net profit of €715m, according to the protesters, yet the government wants to privatise it.
This, say the workers, would reduce investment, leading to airport closures, increased fares, and reduced quality and safety.            .
I have mixed feelings about trade unions,  legacy of 30 years on the receiving end of print industry jealousy.  But I’d rather enthuse about the way the protesting CCOO workers conveyed AENA’s  viability  to passengers and airport workers.
Journalists were the favourite targets of the Bolshie bullies who intimidated Fleet Street until the Warrington-Wapping revolution of the mid-1990s. The printers earned more than journalists, legacy of their ‘down-tools’ militancy, but it rankled that they could never put the might of the pen to the sword.
Ultimately,  the printers were hurled en masse onto the scrapheap  by  Rupert Murdoch and Eddie Shah, whose newspaper empires were being bled dry by the militants. 
Shah showed his own credentials by launching a new low-budget tabloid daily, The Post, and closing it within three months.
A quarter of a century tlater, The Post’s staff writers and sub-editors are still waiting for our contracted severance pay.
We’re more likely to get a cheque from the Shah of Persia than from Eddie.


YOU don’t need to look far to appreciate that customer satisfaction is massively important to AENA.
And that Britain’s privatised airports care only about lining their shareholders pockets with as much of Mr Average’s hard earned as possible.
Park in the short-stay at Manchester  to make a pick-up and if the flight you’re waiting for is delayed,  it could cost you £20 or more.
My daughter was fleeced for £15.60 when she collected me from Terminal 2 last Wednesday. And the noose is tightening still further, with ever-tougher measures to prevent people making sneaky pick-ups outside the terminals without paying.
Contrast that scenario with Alicante airport, where vehicles are regularly left unattended in the pickup zone for what seems like hours.
I prefer to take take the safe option and use the official car park. The most it has ever cost me is around €2.50, which is roughly what the fare SHOULD be.
Unless you are a greedy British fat cat, that is.

Like 0        Published at 23:33   Comments (0)

90,000 reasons why expats are NOT leaving Spain ''in droves'
08 May 2014




SPAIN'S statistical revelation that British expats have been returning to the UK ''in droves'' came as a real eye opener.
The Daily Telegraph jumped gleefully on the figures and off we went on a 'bash the Spanish dream' campaign for the umpteenth time.
The blind were leading the blind once again.
Within a couple of days, a film crew from BBC TV's The One Show were charging around the Costa Blanca seeking sob stories of debt and despair.
It all kicked off when statisticians in Madrid announced that 90,000 Brits abandoned their sunshine dreamland last year in a desperate hunt for the joys of pure English rain and rust.
The Daily Telegraph’s typically boring appraisal suggested the economic crisis, lack of work and failing health among the elderly were to blame.

Even the BBC, the world's primary bastion of broadcasting correctness, didn't dispute the figures – which suggested the Costas would be just about empty now that Easter has come and gone.
Doubts grew among local cynics when it was established the numbers had emerged from local town halls. And, more specifically, from the Padron office.
As far as thee UK media was concerned, 90,000 was 90,000 and that was that. Fact.
Padron me, but who monitored the ex-expats on their way out? Where were the Spanish bureaucracy’s red-tape records revealing who exactly had left the country? 
For heaven's sake, half the Brits with homes in Spain  aren't even on the Padron. And the other half couldn't tell you why it exists at all.
As for how many actually have gone home (if indeed the number of Brits in Spain isn’t increasing), we all have our own views.
One Show presenter Joe Crowley repeatedly threw the figure of 90,000 at me during an hour of filming at my home in El Raso – and I repeatedly chucked it back.
I had no idea at the time, but I was riding my chuck, I mean luck. And, sure enough, back in London the programme editors chucked my footage into the bin. 
No complaints there, because I had no wish to be part of a programme dispensing misleading ‘facts’.
Personally, I believe the Spanish dream is as vividly exciting as ever for the vast majority of Brits.
The economic situation is also looking up - and had Joe spoken to local estate agents rather than voiced-over empty streets and For Sale boards, he’d have been put right on the resurgent property market.
The reality is that, against a backdrop of cranes and construction workers, a new building boom has begun.
Phill Smirke of The Property Shop is one of those professionals who insists the housing market is on the up.

He also maintains that, far from being forced to sell and leave the country,  expats whose homes have plummeted in value since 2007 could well recoup every centimo by 2019.
Admittedly, the lack of work remains a killer for young families, but most of the Brits settle here when they no longer need a job.
And while supermarket shopping can be as costly as the UK, where in England can you enjoy a three-course Chinese meal for a fiver? 
In a country where a couple can dine out seven days a week for 100 quid (with a bottle of  decent wine thrown in), it  makes no sense that 90,000 would flee.
One person who knows the REAL story is expat Phil Hughes, who works with the Guardamar del Segura council.
He revealed: ''Every council wants people on the Padrón, the list of residents from which the local government receives money from Central and Regional government for healthcare, education, major roads etc. 
''So for 10 years at a time, we add as many people as we can. 
''People leave but they rarely ask to come off before doing so. Therefore, when people like me are asked to 'conduct a census of foreigners' by the National Statistics Office (INE) every 10 years, they find  that a huge amount of "residents" have been dead, moved, or simply never actually lived in the houses in which they were registered for many years.
So, every 10 years, local councils with a "transient population" will have a jolt from the INE. It's just that this year, we are on the back of the worst financial crisis in memory, and so the figures appear to be a sudden event when in fact, it's the result of a 10-year 're-adjustment'. 
''In the UK one would conduct a written census. Here, let's just say it's 'less than thorough'.. 
''The figures quoted are just plucked out of the sky. The reality is absolutely a whole lot worse, but over the last six or seven years, not just 12 months.''

Ultimately, The One Show took a non-confrontational line in their broadcast, but stuck to the figure of 90,000. A vox pop  of expats produced predictable comments, which left my friend and neighbour Marjory Norris suitably unimpressed.

Like me, Marjory – who has lived in Spain fo 12 years - believes the expat community is growing  rather than shrinking.
''It was much ado about nothing,'' was her verdict on the  One Show broadcast.

Not quite an example of the blind leading the blind, then.
More like the bland leading the bland.


Like 0        Published at 23:19   Comments (2)

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