Spain through the looking glass

Missing millions

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It’s time to tackle the issue of Spain’s missing millions, and before you jump to conclusions, I’m not talking here about the huge pile of cash that the Spanish government owes to its creditors in Germany and France, nor even about the fortune in unpaid taxes owed by Spain’s individuals and businesses.

The missing millions I want to deal with here are the countless small denomination notes that appear to have simply vanished. Every day it seems that there are fewer and fewer of these elegant little bills to be had; no longer do we have wallets bulging with grey 5-euro notes. Tills nationwide are emptying of those very pretty red 10-euro bills, and the receipt of a 20-euro note has – speaking personally, at least – become something of a cause for wonder.

The evidence I have for this is of the best possible sort: purely anecdotal and without the slightest scientific basis. I have conducted no polls and have spoken to no experts. There is a lack of supporting data. The simple fact, however, is that nobody in Spain seems to have any bills of a useful denomination. Several times now I’ve tried to pay for something with a 50-euro note or even a 20 only to have people look me the way you might stare at a man who has only shaved half of his face.

“You don’t,” they always say, “perhaps have anything smaller?”

When I reply in the negative, one of two things happens. Either the sales assistant/bartender in question gets slightly huffy and sends  an underling off to fetch change from one of the Chinese-run stores nearby or I am handed a huge pocket-fraying pile of metal. Neither of these options is disastrous – as my friend Lawrie always says “money is money” – but I can’t help wondering what has happened to all these notes.

The answer could lie with Gao Ping. This Chinese entrepreneur cum art aficionado cum public enemy number 100 (I’m assuming every politician and financier in Europe comes higher up the list than him) was recently revealed as the head of a multi-million dollar money-laundering operation which involved thousands of tiny payments being wired back to China. He, surely, is partly responsible for the missing millions. But I am beginning to suspect other forces must be at work.

It could be, for instance, that the nation’s pensioners have – after a half decade of crisis – lost all faith in the banks and are reverting to that time-honoured practice of squirreling their money away under the bathroom tiles.

Or perhaps there is actually a hidden revolution happening in this country. Maybe Spain’s charcoal-suited banking overlords are secretly withdrawing Euros from the vaults in preparation for an imminent rollout of inky New Pesetas. And perhaps members of the ruling Popular Party are at this very moment engaged in a major sell-off of the country’s currency reserves. They might already be swapping truck loads of Euros for van loads of US dollars or Swiss Francs in expectation of a not-so-distant day when the whole system crashes down around our ears.

Then again, it could be that I’m just not having much luck with change.


Written by georgemills25

October 30, 2012 at 10:20

Posted in Uncategorized

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