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Spain Today by Lenox Napier
España Hoy por Lenox Napier
Business Over Tapas
A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:
with Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner
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11 February 2016 Nº 147
Tourism is our greatest industry, and it is growing each year. No doubt, unrest elsewhere helps fuel Spain’s growth in this field. It seems that everyone chooses a holiday here – it’s close to home, relatively cheap, warm and easy beaches (and the Mediterranean without a tidal pull). The food is good, the drink is easily available and there’s nothing much here that bites, stings or poisons (although the British are very worried about the Pine Processionary caterpillars). Rather than bless their good fortune however, the larger hotel companies and apartment agencies – as have many sectors in Spain before them – are now talking of ‘unfair competition’ from small-scale operators – those who try to make a small living from the crumbs that fall from the table. There’ll be no crumbs, say the main players, and the legislators once again listen.
House sales are up, says El País, with 2015 showing an increase in sales over the year before by 11%, with 354,132 homes sold, of which 78% were second-hand homes.
‘The Spanish real estate market is showing signs of a slowdown in the face of headwinds caused by political uncertainty, warns one of the associations of estate agents in Spain.
Madrid’s College of Real Estate Agents (Coapi) has warned that the political instability resulting from the inconclusive General Election in December is starting to undermine the confidence of buyers and investors. “Buyers are proving ever more reluctant to close deals, preferring to wait and see what happens on the political front,” say Coapi, in a recent press release...’. Story at Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight.
From the same useful source comes: ‘Owners who rent out their Andalucian homes to tourists will have three months to register with the local authorities or face stiff fines, reports the local press. The regional Government of Andalucía, known as the Junta, has just passed a decree regulating tourist rentals in the region, following in the footsteps of other regions like Catalonia, the Balearics, and the Canaries...’.
The French Institute of Geopolitics says that the Region of Murcia is the leader in Spain in urban corruption. It adds that ‘over fifty per cent of all Murcian municipalities have town hall urban corruption issues’. Story here.
The Spain Buying Guide, brought to us by Kyero, can provide you with vital information, tools and tips to help make your property purchase a safe and successful one. The Spain Buying Guide is free, here. (Comments, anyone?)
‘Finding Aldea: Engineers and artists buying abandoned village to start Utopian society, and you can join them. A group of young professionals in London are trying to buy an abandoned village in southern Spain so they can create a whole new community, and they are seeking 150 people from all walks of life who would be keen to give up on urban life and join them...’. From The International Business Times.
Great news for the Spanish economy – foreign tourism was worth 67,385 million euros last year. The story at Nexotur. In other good news for the sector, British agents are reporting that bookings for Spain for 2016 are up by 27% over last year at the same time.
‘Health tourism is growing in Spain at a rate of 20% per year, in both revenue and patient volume. It is estimated that the sector has brought more than 500 million euros into the country in 2015. Globally, the health tourism industry generates more than 75,000 million euros every year. Iñigo Valcaneras, the director of Spaincares, the organization that released the data, commented that while the growth has been maintained, Spain, at the moment, is getting only a small share of the potential market. “We were looking at 500 million euros, while I believe we should be among the 3 or 4 countries capturing most of the business," said Valcaneras. “Spain has all the potential to be one of the leading countries in health tourism globally."...’. Story found at Tourism Review.
Spain, says El Mundo, quoting a study by Bloomberg, ‘...is one of the World’s ten most miserable countries’. Indeed they give it sixth! The study is based on unemployment and inflation in sixty three countries and shows the most depressed economies in a ‘Misery Index’. The worst? Venezuela.
It’s not just the paucity of jobs in Spain, but the quality of them as well. The OCDE says that Spain has one of the worst ‘quality of jobs’ rates of its 32 member states. El Huff Post has the story here.
‘Nearly six million wage earners are paid less than the minimum wage. UGT union notes since the start of the labour reform the minimum wage has only increased by 7.2 €’. Business news from Typically Spanish here.
Spanish banks took 19,300 million euros just in commissions last year, according to Expansión here. That’s an increase of 5% over 2014.
‘If a fresh general election were to be held tomorrow, the conservative Popular Party (PP) would win again, a new poll by the Centre for Sociological Research (CIS) shows. The survey has acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy down as the winner with 28.7% of the vote, practically identical to what he obtained at the inconclusive December 20 election... Story at El País in English. (‘...would win again...’ they mean, ‘would get the most seats’)
An opinion piece from El Diario says that the only possibility of avoiding fresh elections (maybe) in June must lie with a PSOE-led government with both Podemos and Ciudadanos on board. Nevertheless, Alberto Garzón (with just two deputies) wants Izquierda Unida to be part of the project too. Story from Nueva Tribuna here.
When Pedro Suarez talks of his party’s rejection of ‘revolving doors’ – senior politicians who end up on the board of the electric company, or with the gas people – he didn’t mean Trinidad Jiménez, an ex-minister of Zapatero, who has just joined Telefónica in a senior position. An unhelpful Tweet from Pablo Iglesias didn’t help: ‘Now Trinidad goes to Telfónica. This is what we mean when we say we trust actions, not pretty words’.
To make things a little bit worse, another ex-minister, this time Elena Salgado, has just accepted a chair on the board of Nueva Pescanova, the bank-rescued fish people. This is not Elena’s first board position, as she had been with Endesa in Chile since 2012, shortly after leaving the government as Vice-President. Story at El Ventano.
The PSOE appears to have 'forgotten' that is campaigned against the Ley Mordaza - the sweetly named 'Citizens Protection Law'. Story here.
Headline of the week: ‘Jorge Fernández Díaz (the acting Interior Minister and author of the infamous Ley Mordaza) believes that ETA is praying for a government of PSOE and Podemos’. The very thought of such an alliance, with the support of the PNV (Basque independent conservatives), would be ‘lethal for Spain’, says the politician. Story here. The PSOE is so angry about this peculiar claim that they have asked for ‘an urgent appearance in the Congreso by Fernández Díaz to explain his remarks’. Report at Europa Press.
One worry over a new government must be for those who had a job thanks to the old one – in this case – 4,000 public positions could be changed: councils, confidential advisers, administrators... some could even end up unemployed, says El Mundo here.
In an interview with Canal Sur TV, as reported in Ideal, Spain’s ex-president Felipe Gonzalez, who prefers that the PSOE should make a pact with Ciudadanos, and not with Podemos, says that if it all ends in tears, there could be fresh elections sometime in September. He also recommends that Susana Díaz should back off from any attempt to wrestle control of the party from Pedro Sánchez.
There can be no doubt – what Andalucía needs in another political party. And so it was: the ‘Somos Andaluces’ nationalist party is announced...
It seems that the embarrassment for the PP that is Senator Rita Barberá could now be coming to a head. While she has been protected through a manoeuvre to keep her immunity despite any fresh elections, the anticorruption prosecutor from Valencia is preparing a case through the Supreme Court to try her for what may become a number of offences following information received from employees of the Valencia town Hall. More at El Mundo here.
The Vice-councillor for Equality at the Junta de Andalucía has resigned following an announcement of his part in the investigation into the ERE ‘so as to defend his innocence’. He is one of fifteen new ‘accused’ – this time, in relation with the Andalucian Agency of Water and the Environment.
Teresa Rodriguez, the colourful leader of Podemos in Andalucía, says that as far as corruption goes, ‘Andalucía is becoming the Valencia of the South’. Report at Ideal.
A new conservative judge is now in charge of the inquiry into the ERE scandal in Andalucía. El Diario says that we can now expect things to move forward rapidly.
El Mundo reports of a cartel of aerial fire-fighters (‘El Cartel del Fuego’) who paid out bribes in exchange for contracts in various parts of Spain for many years, notably in Valencia and Catalonia.
The Superior Court of Justice for Catalonia considers that Artur Mas committed crimes worthy of a prison sentence of up to two years with his anti-constitutional elections of 9 November last year.
The Vice-president of Catalonia and councillor for the Economy, Oriol Junqueras, is setting up a Catalonian tax-collecting agency. Story at Invertia.
In political news – the Corrent Roig party is leaving its companions from the CUP (the anarchist Candidatura de Unidad Popular). Not radical enough? The website of the Corriente Roja International Workers League Fourth Internationale explains here.
Coverage over at El País in English: ‘Infanta Cristina returns to court for restart of Nóos corruption trial. Spanish royal will be the last to take the stand at graft trial in Palma de Mallorca...’.
One story attracting attention – since it is only peripherally political – is the man who worked in the Town Hall of Cádiz between 2004 and 2011 when he retired, being paid his fourteen months a year salary – 37,000€ per annum, without ever actually setting foot in the building. He has now been condemned to pay back 26,900€ (the maximum allowable by law) to the ayuntamiento. Story at Público. More at El Mundo here.
‘What would Britain leaving the EU – better known as a ‘Brexit’ – really mean? And what would an independent UK mean to expats in Spain? It all depends on who you listen to and – more importantly – who you believe. Eurosceptics talk about a brave new world with the UK cut adrift from the EU, while Europhiles (EU supporters) warn of a dark and isolated existence should Britain cut ties with Europe...’. article from The Olive Press.
Andalucía has a rule that forces residents to pay a high premium in taxes for inheritance (currently, anything over 170,000€ will be taxed). What’s to do? Well, one can always change their domicile to another part of Spain (where you pay a far lower tax).According to El Confidencial, around 40,000 Andalucians join the padrón in Madrid every year for this very reason (...and pay just 1%).
POLL: Have you decided to spend less time in Spain because of the new tax declaration of overseas assets (Modelo 720)? See back issue and comments from Eye on Spain here. The site also shows that 34% of Britons living in Spain now do so for 4-6 months per year.
For once, the Junta de Andalucía has listened to reason. The plan to build a cafetería and nick-nack shop on the unspoiled beach at Mónsul, in the Cabo de Gata, has now been annulled by the people at the Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio in Seville following the huge outcry from the public.
Adblock or similar ‘add on’ use is on the rise, says Malavida noting that it is now used by 14% of all Spanish surfers. Adblock is a useful tool which removes extraneous advertising from web-pages, including YouTube and Facebook.
El País has a great photograph of Albert Rivera holding out his hand in friendship to Pablo Iglesias, who doesn’t respond. Sad to say though, the photograph has been manipulated.
Print newspapers are in a terminal decline, as figures in this graphic show.
What do foreign journalists think about Spain, asks Vanity Fair. Six journalists from Berliner Zeitung, the Wall Street Journal, La Nación, Die Welt, The Times and El Universal answer this question (article in Spanish).
Plundering Endesa: ‘Imagine a business, maybe an Italian business, buys the Royal Palace in Madrid. All the paintings, the furniture and other treasures are taken to a museum in Rome as the business invests just enough to keep the building in shape enough to continue charging admission to tourists who make the obligatory visit to the monument. All this before the silence of the government, the main opposition party and the mainstream media...’. A little bit exaggerated, but that’s what’s happening. Story at La Marea.
From The Telegraph: ‘Zika outbreak 'could infect hundreds of thousands of people in Spain'. Scientists are concerned that the tiger mosquito, which is rife in Spain, could infect hundreds of thousands of people with the Zika virus...’. A little overwrought? Maybe. From Público (Monday): ‘the Centre for Coordination in Health Emergencies says that there are nine cases of Zika in Spain but that ‘it is only dangerous for pregnant women’.
‘Spanish water rights fight raises fears for Ebro delta. Environmentalists say one of Europe's most important wetland areas is under threat as Spain and Catalonia argue about the future of the Ebro river’. Headline from the BBC.
‘As Valentine's Day fast approaches, The Local takes a look at the top tips for dating Spanish men. Dating can always be a bit of a minefield, but in a foreign country it can be even more problematic, and Spain has its fair share of cultural quirks when it comes to looking for love. From making sure you befriend your potential mother-in-law to never making plans too far in advance, here are some important tips to keep in mind when dating Spanish men...’. Here.
The Telegraph has some fun: ‘Spain opts for English-language song for Eurovision 2016. Spain’s dire Eurovision results seem to have convinced fans of the competition that it is time for a change...’.
Biting your nails is not a good idea while driving. A driver got fined 80€. A few other good ones include ‘speeding while in the back of a tow-truck; driving with your hand outside the window; while not wearing a shirt; parking on the beach in the wrong bit of sand; having the music too loud... and others. El Mundo reports the weirdest ways the police can lighten the motorist’s wallet.
Five red tape essentials for new arrivals in Spain. A useful guide from The Local.
Spain’s five poisonous spiders – include the Black Widow! Here they are.
Ten things you didn’t know about Barcelona from Advance Moves.
WikiTravel ‘the free travel guide’ has its useful write-up of Spain here.
The Housing Sector, Continued
by Andrew Brociner
Last time, we started looking at the housing sector to see how it has been since last year. The first data we used from INE shows that prices are still low, with a small increase possibly beginning. We now continue to examine this finding.
If we look at the price index change by region, we can see that while Andalucía is at the national average, three regions in particular – namely, the Baleares, Madrid and Cataluña – in that order – are above the national average. The Baleares are, in fact, at twice the national average.
We can look at the housing price index by region to see what is behind the movement in the change of prices.
Looking at the index by region, we can see that both Cataluña and Madrid suffered much larger losses than other regions, 46% and 43% respectively. The national average was a decrease of 37%. If they are now increasing at a faster pace than the national average, it is because their troughs are far lower. Andalucía fared better than the national average, with a decrease of 30% and its change in price is at the moment in line with the national average, which shows how well it retains its value.
Given that there have been two quarters showing some incremental increase in prices and that only a few regions seem to be propping this up, the results are still too tenuous to conclude that we are in some kind of trend, especially for the nation as a whole, so we will wait and see more data to confirm if this is sustained. We will continue to look at this next week.
A couple of readers with Apple Mac computers are having problems opening links. A message from one recommends: '...to open up the BoT in Preview and not in Word'.
Las Meninas by Diego Velazquez. Is this the best painting ever? Video talk here.