Sunday, October 28, 2007

Barcelona: business city or third world?

This year’s Cushman&Wakefield survey ranked Barcelona as the number 4 European city for business, after London, Paris and Frankfurt (Madrid was 7th). The survey has very nice words for Barcelona: "The Catalan capital has been one of the fastest risers in the ranking since ECM was first launched in 1990. This goes to support the view that the more a city is perceived to promote itself, the more it will be perceived as a good business location". However when you study the survey, you immediately realize that there are reasons for concern, Barcelona ranks first in quality of life for expats, but does very poorly in infrastructure, level of English and preparedness of the local workforce. In another words, the expats have a lot of fun (“s’ho passen de conya”), eat well, enjoy our mountains and beaches, but the local workforce does not meet the standard, cannot speak English and the infrastructure sucks.
I would agree to almost everything, except to the lack of preparedness of the workforce. It is true that the English level is poor, but if I see how Catalan expats do overseas, pretty well in general, I have to conclude that our universities are not that bad and, in addition to that, we are fast learners.
As you know, English and infrastructures are my pet peeve. I have been hammering it since I started my first blog Catalonia, Politics and Supply Chain. Catalans pleeeease learn English, do not forget your Catalan and Spanish, but pleeeease learn English. That’s the only way to get multinationals back with real jobs that cannot be outsourced.
But let me tell you my experience with infrastructures. When I left Catalonia, in 1992, I was proud of my city and my nation, Catalonia, the transformation in the 80s had been amazing. This summer I went back as every other year and I had to face a debacle, an airport with absolutely no organization, displays with the wrong information, the luggage took for ever to appear and if you dared to ask, they would look at you, as though you were a criminal. In the security check area, the tables were not connected to the scanner, so you had to carry two or three trays in your arms, in addition to your other personal belongings. When I suggested to the female Guardia Civil to connect the tables and the scanner so that we could push the trays instead of struggling to carry them, she told me: “no nos lo han mandao d'arriba” (we have not been told from “above”). Give me a break. I want to go home to Boston.
From the airport I went to my old neighborhood in Gracia. Most of the district had no electricity and you could hear very loud generators trying to pump up some electricity to the apartment buildings. We avoided the train, because it broke down all the time, leaving commuters stranded a couple of days a week. Then I decided to go to the Costa Brava, to Calella de Palafugell to be exact, and it took us more than three hours. We were moving at an average speed of 10 m/h and we still had to pay 10 bucks at the toll booth. The last straw was my trip to Montserrat. Even though I am not what you would call a devout catholic, I revere the Mother Mary of Montserrat. Whenever I go home I go there to pray and ask for protection for my family and me. But the bridge that leads to Montserrat had collapsed and I had to take a detour. But I got there and it was worth while. I always feel so much peace in that Basilica and this time I went there with my two little ones.
It would be very easy to blame the central government for all these mishaps, but I will not. The only people responsible for this chaotic situation are the Catalan politicians, a bunch of inept and conceited individuals whose only interest is power. They could not care less about the Catalan people. The PSC just follows party lines, even if, in many occasions, those party lines seriously damage the interest of the Catalan people, ERC continues to lick the PSC’s ass with the only objective of being somewhat relevant while Catalonia crumbles, and CiU is the most clear example of “botiflerisme”, betrayers by nature, losers, mediocre and unprepared.
My style is not to blame Madrid for our situation. However, when I read today's Antonio Burgos’s article in ABC, Catalonia, Third World?, I felt like a bitch who has to pay for the bed too. Thanks God I am American. I am flying to Pittsburgh on a Sunday night while my iPOD plays my favorite song Photograph from Def Leppard.
But in 2017, God willing, I will come back to Catalonia as the catalon-IAN politic-IAN. Please leave something left for me to build on.


Johnny Tastavins said...

Ian, unfortunately your descritpion of situation of Barcelona is quite accurate. Any way, I don't longer like to impeach to our stupid politicians. They are, indeed, responsible for that disasters, but even more ourselves, the catalans, voting them instead of kicking off their asses, are guilty. Our children will judge our performance, and my fear is that the resolution will not give a good picture of our stage.

It's nice to see that, finally, you already have a returning date. Welcome to the ruins of Barcelona. Do not delay beyond 2017, may be then there will be nothing to visit.

Alex said...


I'm glad you're back blogging. Your Catalan patriotism, cosmopolitanism and no-nonsense economics have been missed in the past few months. As someone from Québec, I can absolutely relate to that.

Fins aviat,

Uri said...

You're returning to Catalonia on 2017? If I may ask, why? How do you know 10 years in advance? I want to return to Catalonia someday too, but I need to finish my PhD first, then have kids (well, according to my wife, from CA), and then we might think about it.

Anyway, don't miss what President Montilla has recently (Nov. 7, 2007) declared in Madrid: among Catalans there's a growing feeling of "desafección" [that's the word he used] towards Spain, "a progressive drifting away from Spain" would be a way to put it. I saw it in Avui, El País, and El Periódico. Very interesting indeed...

Xevi said...


Jo també sóc partidari d'una Catalunya dins USA

ian llorens said...

The date is not cast in iron, but I hope it will happen. By then my parents will need me more than my kids and I hope I am still in time to start a ramping career as catalonIAN politicIAN.

I see many advantages for both Catalonia and USA, if Catalonia would join the Union. Now that I am an American, I can start working on that.

Joel said...

Hi all,

It's sad but you are right. A problem the catalans have is that, I don't know why, we love keep paying for the bed with no complain, or maybe yes we complain but always the same, Madrid this Madrid that, which sometimes is true but to cry here won't fix the infrastructures, give us the airport we deserve... we need less words and more action, no violence of course but at least something to show that we don't have an overdose of 'seny', I don't know if a tax strike as Pujol suggested is a solution, but we need something for sure.

This is the first time I read your blog (good idea to add it in your comments in La Vanguardia and Jamon) and I enjoyed so I'll be back.

A note for Uri, are you Xavi's friend in Phoenix?

Un catala emigrat que ja veurem si torna.


Anonymous said...

an, unfortunately your descritpion of situation of Barcelona is quite accurate.

Barcelona apartments

But unfortunately unless we do something abt it, the same thing would be repeated day in and day out.