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Spain: night owls into early birds

Spaniards couldn't believe it, and more than one future Socialist bureaucrat was jolted out of bed Nov. 2 by the 8:30 a.m. news on national radio (culturally equivalent to American 6 a.m. news broadcasts).

The future deputy premier of the new Socialist government, Alfonso Guerra, had just stated that all the new ministers as well as civil servants will be expected to be at work, on the job, by 8 a.m.

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Far from being early birds, Spanish bureaucrats and former ministers have traditionally been night owls.

With the exception of the multinationals and the banks, for most Spanish executives and bureaucrats the workday begins well after 10 a.m. The public administration was particularly notorious: It was impossible to contact any high official until after 11 a.m.

Now, things are going to be different, Guerra assured. Not only will civil servants have to be there at 8 a.m., but also they will no longer be able to collect two salaries. They can, however, hold two offices. ''We are even considering making it against the law to be able to be in two different places at the same time,'' Guerra said, tongue in cheek.

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