Bill Anderson: By the book!

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American writer,  Chris Fussell, wrote. “ In any bureaucracy, there’s a natural tendency to let the system become an excuse for inaction.” On a day to day basis, it does often seem that bureaucracy exists to make the simple complicated, and there are always the jobsworths who appear to have to have turned it into an art form. 

I go to an official office to pay a bill and get told I have to go to the bank. After waiting in a long queue, I get told that as it’s after 10:30 I can’t pay it, but the official invoice had the wrong date on it, anyway. I go back to the office and am told I will have to come back tomorrow for the updated invoice. I go back to the bank and get told I can’t pay it by card as it’s not my bank. Then I go to get the cash out,  but the queue is so long that it’s past 10:30 and I have to go back with the cash the next day. This is true, by the way. I couldn’t make this kind of stuff up even though I have written two fictional novels!

I am kind of glad, to some extent, that by the next elections I will have had 4 years in opposition to observe things from inside the tent which is a very different perspective than outside the tent. One of the real frustrations, however, is big projects, big events, always seem to get sorted and go ahead, while the day to day needs and requirements of individuals just have to wait and take their time. Getting a new bulb in a lamppost seems a Herculean task. Getting a building licence can take a couple of weeks or maybe a year, depending on who is dealing with it. Getting a straight answer is rarer than hens’ teeth.

There are a lot of jokes about Spanish bureaucracy and some of them are even true, but when bureaucracy serves to prevent and punish rather than to find solutions, I feel that somewhere along the line it has lost its way. “Doing things by the book” seems to be a challenge to find something wrong with every paper process, whereas it should be an opportunity to help get things right. The Civil Servant’s agility at playing pass the parcel is often Olympian.

I have been here so long now that I have no idea if this is repeated in other countries including in my country of origin, but it does seem to me that every time they try in improve things the idea is to add a new layer of bureaucracy which gives a perfect excuse for delaying the finality of the process. Never ask the question, “How long will this take?”, as the answer will either be that it depends on the workload, or “two weeks”  which like tomorrow, rarely if ever comes. Now, I’m not explicitly knocking Civil Servants here, but the system within which they work, doesn’t.

So often, people are just dismissed and told to come back when they have it all in order. SOME “funcionarios” need to be reminded they are our servants and not our masters. Maybe some politicians, too.


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