Switzerland was known for its precision when I lived in Zurich in the late 60s. The accuracy of Swiss watches, the reliability of project planning and the punctuality of the trains were remarkable. If the timetable scheduled the 11.42 train from Basel to arrive in Zurich at 12.37, even in the unlikely event of a dead buffalo on the line, it would somehow arrive in Zurich at 12.37.
In theory, Spain is also a country of impressive precision. The last bus is scheduled to leave Nerja at 20.20 and arrive in Malaga at 21.43 (not 21.40; not 21.45). That is the theory. The problem is that it is often late leaving Nerja and never arrives bang on schedule in Malaga. The single fare is €4.51 (not €4.50).
Every time somebody buys a ticket, either at a kiosk or on the bus, coins amounting to nine centimos have to be counted out and included in the change handed to the passenger – unless he has the right change.
The local bus at the top of our road is due at 23 minutes (not 20 or 25) past each hour, but rarely arrives before half past.
Recently I made an appointment at the clinic for a blood test. The docket showed it to be for the following Friday morning at 09.07. So much for the precision. I arrived at 9 o’clock and had to wait until I was finally seen at 09.48.
For taxation departments and accountants, the precision must be a nightmare. For example, grandchildren are granted an allowance of €15,956.87 before they need to pay inheritance tax. Why not €16,000? After deducting this allowance, the tax rate on the excess, ranging from €31,956 to €39,943 (not €32,000 to €40,000) is 11.05 per cent (not 11 per cent). Is there a reason for this?
There are numerous similar examples but the amount of revenue lost through tax evasion by non-declarations runs into billions each year.
The budget for the refurbishment of Fuengirola’s train station is €2,636,590 (not €2,630,000). And I saw a hoarding announcing an extension to a road in Axarquia at a budget of exactly €147,303.43 (rather than €150,000). In fact, such projects are often completed at double the allocated budget – or, of course, not at all.
I read recently of a case of animal cruelty where the perpetrator was sentenced to three months and one day (not just three months) with a fine of €307 (not €300) plus costs. Does a sentence of over three months carry some kind of stigma?
The question I am asking here is how much does this meaningless attention to detail cost the administrators? How many extra hours must be worked by accountants, tax officials, assessors, the police, the judiciary and the bus companies in handling such precise figures? Would not rounded numbers or five-minute intervals be less confusing and just as effective?
David Worboys’s opinions are his own and are not necessarily representative of those of the publishers, advertisers or sponsors.