Category: Basque economy (page 1 of 3)

How the Basque Country provides intriguing solutions to some of the world’s thorniest challenges

 

The Democratic Party’s Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took inspiration from Denmark when he proposed a 60 percent income tax increase in exchange for public services. However, American voters apparently did not welcome a candidate who wanted to increase taxes. Had Mr. Sanders taken inspiration from the Basque Autonomous Government instead of northern Europe, he may have had a better chance of gaining support from American voters.

The Basque Country, with a total population of 2.2 million, is the richest and most advanced economic region in Spain. According to an article by Sami Mahroum in the National, “it is among Europe’s top 20 percent of regions in wealth.”It also has the highest percentage of employment for medium to high-tech manufacturers in Europe. Many regard the Basque Country as a robust competitor to the advanced manufacturing regions in Germany. However, the greatest achievement of the Basque Country is how it has overcome local terrorism, globalization, and leadership challenges rather smoothly compared to both the Spanish state and the European Union.

Mr. Sanders could have also learned from the Basque Cooperative economic model. 60 years ago, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta formed the Mondragon federation of cooperatives. Today, Mondragon is Spain’s largest cooperative group, providing employment for more than 75,000 people and contributing 12 percent of the region’s GDP. Mondragon owns subsidiaries in 125 countries around the world. The Mondragon cooperative model is unique, as it has a cap on the CEO’s salary, limiting it to six times the lowest salary offered at the cooperative. Employees put aside 6.5 percent of their earnings toward a foresighted fund as a part of their pensions and contingencies.

The Basque Country’s unique cooperative model provides an inspiration in innovation for the world’s poverty and inequality issues. This model echoes the sentiments of American voters well, who are dissatisfied with globalization, rambling capitalism, big government, and high taxes. The Mondragon model serves as a mutual-capitalism or democratic capitalism model rather than the “invisible hand.”

For further reading: https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/how-the-basque-country-provides-intriguing-solutions-to-some-of-the-world-s-thorniest-challenges-1.623572

The Basque Country in Statistics

Whatever the level of interest you may have in the Basque Country, whether professional or scholarly or more informal or personal, there are several online resources that offer a wealth of statistical information to facilitate a better understanding of the basic structure of Basque society.

Gaindegia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing social and economic information about the whole Basque Country, Euskal Herria. Likewise, Atlasa, a related initiative, seeks to collate and present this same information in map form.

The Basque Statistical Office, Eustat, meanwhile, serves as a key source of information about the Basque Autonomous Community as does its counterpart in Navarre, (Na)stat.

If you’re interested in this kind of information, be sure to check out Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization by Mikel Gómez Uranga (free to download here) and Basque Society: Institutions and Contemporary Life by Gabriel Gatti, Ignacio Irazuzta, and Iñaki Martínez de Albeniz (free to download here).

 

Basque Economic Agreement Explained

Check out the following video, part of the Bizkaia Talent initiative and featuring Pedro Luis Uriarte (President of the Bargaining Commission of the Economic agreement from the Basque Government side in 1980), which explains succinctly the very special fiscal system that exists in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country.

If you are interested in this topic, check out Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization, by Mikel Uranga, free to download here.

See, too, The Basque Fiscal System Contrasted to Nevada and Catalonia: In the Time of Major Crises, edited by Joseba Aguirreazkuenaga and Xabier Irujo.

Interview with Mikel Amuriza, visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia

After a three-month research stay, we’ve decided to interview Mikel Amuriza, a visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia. He has been quite the presence around the CBS and we will miss him dearly.

Mikel Amuriza Fernandez was born in Bilbao in 1978 and studied “Ciencias Actuariales y Financieras” (like Business but more specialized in insurance) at the University of the Basque Country. He currently works at the Biscay Deputation, in the tax inspection department.

1)    What brings you to the Center for Basque Studies? How long will you be here?

The Biscay Deputation and the CBS have an agreement for cooperation and to promote the Basque Economic Agreement, so I got the opportunity to spend three months here.

2)    What is the goal of your project?

The main goal of my project is to analyze the American tax system to compare it with the Basque Country tax system.

3)    What makes your research unique?

 It is unique, at least for me, because there isn’t a comparative model of the two systems. It is also a great opportunity to experience this Basque Center, learn a little bit about Basque culture and history in the United States, experience American culture, and, of course, to work on the article on this subject.

4)    What have you accomplished since you arrived?

I have learned a lot about American society,  culture, and its economic system. And I also have learned about the Basque diaspora and its history.

5) Has the Center for Basque Studies helped you in any way?

In many ways: The library’s resources, the incredible people at the CBS, tools to work efficiently like a computer, office, the internet, etc., they have all helped me in my research stay. Also, related to my job, the Nevada Tax office, lawyers, and UNR professors have also aided me tremendously.

But the most important help has been from the people at the center.

6)    Are you enjoying the U.S.?

It has been an amazing experience, so if I can, I will come back, of course! 

7)    What have you missed the most since you’ve been here?

My family and my young son Martin.

Center publication presented at recent conference in Bilbao

At a recent conference in Bilbao, held on April 6, regarding the Economic Agreement–the principal fiscal mechanism regulating economic ties between the Basque Country and Madrid–in the media, Joseba Agirreazkuenaga presented the CBS publication The Basque Fiscal System Contrasted to Nevada and Catalonia: In the Time of Major Crises.

Read the event’s program here (in Basque and Spanish). This new publication seeks to analyze Basque fiscal systems in the context of the 2008 financial crisis. It also aimed to develop a comparative vision with the state of Nevada and Catalonia. It treats the politics of finance in multi-level public institutions during the economic crisis; long-term fiscal policies for dealing with economic downturns during the past twenty years; the development of treasuries in federal states, in non-federal states and in complex unions (Europe); taxation and citizenship in a globalized world; long-term trends for dealing with the crisis and strategies for the future in European and North American contexts (the Basque Country, Catalonia, Spain, Ireland, and Nevada). Most of the book’s contributions by distinguished scholars and public officials relate to the Basque Country, providing an analysis of fiscal policies or the evolution of public finances. A contribution on taxation and gambling is also offered. This book serves as a new contribution to studies on fiscal federalism in Europe and America. We hope that these reflections serve as a turning point to promote debate and for the formulation of future research. Fiscal analysis is now an important research line at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies, promoted and in cooperation with the regional government of Bizkaia, with the end of promoting research in a comparative perspective.

Got .eus?

PuntuEus logo. Image from the PuntuEus Foundation

In today’s globally networked world even Internet domains become key identity-markers. We recently came across a great article at basquetribune.com that discusses the growing importance of the .eus domain for many people with Basque connections. In “The Basque .eus Big Bang,” journalist Edu Lartzanguren guides us through the fascinating world of online community building, alluding to the notion that the .eus domain serves as a kind of Basque galaxy within the global universe of the Internet. Indeed, the .eus domain has experienced significantly greater growth than similar initiatives relating to other culture and community related domains like the Scottish .scot, .bzh in Brittany, or .gal in Galicia.

DNS names. Image by George Shuklin, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the words of the PuntuEus Foundation, the .eus domain helps “in the normalization of Euskara and … provides an international recognition for the country of Euskara.” It is on the one hand a social and cultural tool that serves to create an identity and, on the other, a commercial tool designed to establish a brand.

Spring 2017 Basque Multidisciplinary Seminar Series

This semester, like almost every semester, the CBS is holding a Seminar Series. Here’s a round-up of the lectures given thus far and a sneak peak of the coming presentations!

Professor Douglass kicked off the series with his paper entitled “Basques in Cuba,” based on his research and the conference held in Havana in 2015 entitled “Euskal Herria Mugaz Gaindi.” Douglass shared many anecdotes and the audience responded with many questions, carrying on the discussion well after the hour had quickly gone by.

Next up, Saranda Frommold, a PhD candidate at the Freie Universität Berlin,  shared her dissertation findings on “The Political Relations between Mexico and Spain regarding Basque Exile to Mexico (1977-2000).” She has spent three weeks at the Center, continuing her research. The presentation was thought-provoking and also ended in a lively question and answer session. Stay tuned for our interview with Saranda. We will miss her at the CBS.

Last week, I presented a paper entitled “Memoirs of Mobility and Place: Portrayals of Basque-American Identity,” written for a literature class, so a little out of my historical comfort zone. I must say, it went well, and I was excited to recommend Mountain City, by Gregory Martin, to most of my audience. It’s definitely a good read! I compared Martin’s portrayal of Basque communities in the West to that in Sweet Promised Land, Robert Laxalt’s famed memoir.

Next week, March 29 from 12:30-1:30, our Basque Librarian, Iñaki Arrieta Baro, will be presenting on “Bertsolaritza: Kultur Artea Network.” This will be a nice addition to our showcase on Bertsolaritza. Be sure to come visit and see the exhibit!

April 5 is sure to be a busy lecture day. Ziortza Gandarias Beldarrain, a PhD candidate here, will present on “Euzko-Gogoa: Gender and Nation,” as a part of her own dissertation research. Mikel Amuriza will then follow, giving a talk about tax systems. Mikel is a visiting scholar from the Diputación de Bizkaia, and will be with us for a few more months. We’ll be sure to post an interview soon!

Professor Ott will present on April 12, giving a talk on “German P.O.W.s in Post-War France,” part of her ongoing research on the topic. I’m sure it will be full of anecdotes and more!

Lastly, we have the pleasure to have Professor Boehm from the Anthropology department, as well as Women’s Studies and GRI, present on her recently published book. Her conference is entitled “Disappearance and Displacement in an Age of Deportation,” and I’m sure it will bring up many current events and a discussion of what is going on in the world around us.

Be sure to stop by from 12:30-1:30 on Wednesdays for our seminar series. Bring your own brown bag, sit back, and enjoy!

Bilbao wharf renamed in honor of women boat-haulers

A major site in the historically important neighborhood of Olabeaga in Bilbao was recently renamed in honor of the women who used to physically haul all kinds of vessels into central BIlbao.

A representation of the sirgueras.

With the industrial development of Bilbao through the nineteenth century, so there was a major increase in shipping traffic into the heart of the city via the Nervion Estuary. However, at the point where the estuary ran through the Olabeaga neighborhood, the river was so silted up that larger boats could not complete the final stretch that would take them into the center of the city. As a response to the problem, groups of men were hired to undertake the backbreaking work of physically hauling smaller vessels by means of a sirga (towrope) along that final stretch toward downtown Bilbao. Yet with the outbreak of the Carlist Wars and the exodus of men from the city, this work was taken up by women. The sirgueras (zirgariak in Basque) who came to do this work were cheaper to hire than men and could be hired in the moment; there was no need to employ them on a permanent basis. Check out the short movie Zirgariak (2006), by filmmakers Fernando Bernal “Ferber” and Urko Olazabal, which portrays just what this job entailed.

Working in such conditions of hard physical labor and  in the dirty conditions of an ever more polluted river, this was work that was looked down upon socially; whether men or women, the people who undertook it were considered ganapanes, humble laborers who earned just enough to cover their daily needs: at the very least, a loaf of bread. This partly explains why these women, in particular, have been excluded from the major narrative of the industrial development of Bilbao.

The newly named wharf, the Muelle Sirgueras / Zirgariak Kaia, stands as a testament to this forgotten collective.

Green Basque Country

There was an interesting article in the Noticias de Álava newspaper recently about a woodland and lumber fair held in Amurrio, Araba, last Sunday. It included the piece of data that, in the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC, made up of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa), there are 106 trees per person , with a woodland area covering 396,700 hectares, or 55% of the total terrain. It is estimated, moreover, that the lumber industry accounts for 12 billion euros annually. This all points to the lumber sector being an important part of the Basque economy.

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The Irati Forest, Navarre. Photo by Juanma juesas, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In “The Landscape of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country: The Evolution of Forest Systems” by Lorena Peña and Ibone Amezaga, a chapter in Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestarán and Miren Onaindia, the authors address in detail the complex issues surrounding land use in woodland areas in the Basque Country.

See the original article in Noticias de Álava (in Spanish) here: http://www.noticiasdealava.com/2016/10/24/araba/euskadi-un-total-de-106-arboles-por-habitante

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

October 18, 1997 marked the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – today one of the most emblematic sites in the Basque Country.

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The Guggenheim by night. Photo by PA. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hailed as a masterpiece and one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by architect Frank Gehry,  came to redefine the Basque Country as a whole and the city of Bilbao in particular: it was the “miracle” of Bilbao.

The “miracle” referred of course to Frank Gehry’s Bilbao masterpiece. Hailed as an “instant landmark,” it brought a new sense of relevance to architecture in the transformation of urban landscapes. It was the story of the architect as hero and, as the Greeks believed, of architecture as the first art—arché. Bilbao was doing for the Basques what the Sidney Opera House had done for Australia. Gehry, while complaining of being “geniused to death,” became not only the master architect, but the master artist.

These observations come from the introduction to Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here.

The Center also publishes other books on the social, cultural, and urban transformation of Bilbao and the Basque Country, for which the Guggenheim served in many respects as a springboard:

That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, by Joseba Zulaika.

Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

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