Enviado por José Antonio Sierra
Spain Today/ Actualidad española
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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18 February 2016 Nº 148
The AVE Alta Velocidad Española high speed train was the brain-child of Felipe González. An amazing 21st century train that would unite Madrid with his home-city of Seville: at an unheard of speed and in total luxury. This was the time of the EXPO 92 and the Barcelona Olympics. The time when Spain was seen to have shaken off the dust of its Francoist past. A modern Spain: fit to be a partner in the European Union.
As The Economist said recently: ‘High-speed trains usually depend on public subsidy, yet their tickets are often unaffordable for many potential users, so they may not fill enough seats to avoid losses. The counter-argument is that over distances of 300-800km, fast trains between big population centres are quicker and less polluting than most forms of transport’.
More AVEs were built, uniting Madrid with Barcelona and later many other capitals: but all at crippling expense. Inevitably in Spain, corruption was soon found to be entwined in the AVE business model, with commissions, fraud and waste highlighting the savage costs to the country. At over 3,100 kilometres of track, and another 900 under construction, the AVE is costing Spain dear (better than 50,000 million euros so far), and demand remains low (at just a fifth of neighbouring France’s use). The S&P agency is now saying that Spain should take a long and hard look at its high speed train network, which it sees more as a political than an economic adventure.
‘Annual Spanish home sales rose 11.1% in 2015 to a total of 354,132 – the second year running showing a rise, according to the latest data from the the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE). At the same time the number of new build sales has hit a nine year low, according to figures ... Resale home transactions accounted for 78%, or 276,267 transactions in Spain, a rise of 37.2%. New home sales fell by a similar percentage, 33.7%, to 77,865 – the lowest figure since the statistics began in 2007...’. From OPP Today.
The PSOE in Andalucía is proposing to ‘regularise progressively homes built in illegal urbanisations across the region’, according to El Diario. This would allow these homes to obtain services – water and electricity... The proposal would be added to the new modifications proposed for the ‘Ley de Ordenación Urbanística de Andalucía’.
An Almería court has ruled against compensation ‘for moral damages’ from the Town Hall of Albox to the British owners of three properties demolished in a local urbanisation last year, but has allowed a small compensation towards their lost investment.
Tarifa: ‘Metrovacesa, one of the biggest developers in Spain, now owned by a consortium of banks including BBVA and Banco Popular, and controlled by Santander bank, will invest €70 million in a mixed-use development including hotels, commercial space, and up to 250 “upmarket” homes, walking distance from the beach and Tarifa town centre. The company says the development, called Surf City (Ciudad del Surf), will be positioned internationally to take advantage of “surf tourism, the principal attraction of the area,” in a clear sign that Metrovacesa has international buyers in mind...’. From Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight.
‘A British property company wants to invest €650 million into Torremolinos to create a leisure centre. Intu Properties tabled the bid to Torremolinos town hall, after plans to create the centre were unveiled late last year...’. Story at The Olive Press.
‘The lure of the pueblo blanco is not solely reserved for expats searching for a taste of Spain. The country’s national banks are also turning their attention to Spain’s towns and villages. In a bid to make a quick buck, Spain’s banks are flipping cheaper property in small and medium sized towns and turning their backs on larger cities. In the last 12 months Spain’s lenders have sold 66% of their property portfolio in towns of less than 50,000 inhabitants...’. From The Olive Press.
One town whose plans turned to dust between the beginning of La Crisis and the implementation of stricter planning laws is Pioz in Guadalajara. Each of the town’s population of 3,540 owes around 3,000 euros in the now rotting infrastructure costs. In Pioz, 7,000 houses lie empty and there are over 100 kilometres of empty streets, with just three peones to sweep them clean... The story at Ideal.
More on the new rental rules: From the Irish Times: ‘Owners of rental properties in southern Spain face new regulations obliging them to register their properties as tourist rentals. The Registry of Tourism of Andalusia (RTA), which includes the Costa del Sol where many Irish people bought property during the last economic boom, has moved to establish a register of tourist lettings. Owners will have three months, from May 2016, to register these properties on the RTA website. The move follows the decision in 2013 by the Spanish government to relieve the Ley Arrendamientos Urbano (LAU) of responsibility for holiday rental properties. It passed the task of regulating these properties instead to the country’s 17 regional governments or Juntas...’. A lawyer explains the intricacies of the new rules here. There are some three to four thousand owners of small-scale rentals in Almería, says La Voz de Almería, who will be affected by the new rules.
A study at Hosteltur suggests that a ‘Brexit’ (where the UK leaves the EU) would result in an increase in air fares for British visitors to the European Union. Since Spain’s largest share of tourists comes from the UK, there could be a noticeable decline in numbers. The article even makes mention of ‘the 800,000 Britons who are estimated to own property in Spain and who’s situation would need close study in the event of a ‘Brexit’’. From The Daily Mail comes a similar worry: ‘Brexit would end the era of cheap flights and put passenger safety in jeopardy, claims airline chiefs as 'project fear' kicks into full swing’.
Attempts to defund the alternate energies through legislating against them... for a time.
A conspiracy theory, nothing more. And yet... El Diario reports that foreign multinationals and vulture funds are buying up groups in this sector. Some examples are given.
The Spanish minimum wage is very low, at just 655 euros per month. According to the Noticias de Navarra, and quoting sources from the UGT, a third of all Spanish workers, 5.9 million of them, earn even less than this paltry sum.
A useful guide to your favourite (or perhaps, least favourite) company. Free information from the Registro Mercantil at LibreBorme.
‘Esperanza Aguirre has resigned as president of the Madrid PP because of corruption. In an urgently called press conference in the PP headquarters she announced ‘I assume the political responsibility for all these years’. It follows her appearance on Friday before the investigative commission on corruption in the Madrid assembly when she said ‘Corruption is destroying everyone’...’. Story from Typically Spanish. Perhaps the second-most important person in the Partido Popular. Will Rajoy be the next to resign (and open up the party to a fresh opportunity)? El País in English has an editorial on the subject here.
Headline from The Guardian: ‘ 'Worrying and pathetic': anger in Spain over parties' failure to form government Lack of consensus remains two months after general election, with Podemos and Socialists both refusing to give ground’.
The parliamentary debate to invest Pedro Sánchez as president will begin on March 2nd, with the first vote held on the following day, says the President of the Congress Patxi López. Nueva Tribuna has the story.
‘Spanish parliament gives Socialists until March 3 to present government. Spanish deputies set an early March deadline on Monday for Socialist Party leader Pedro Sánchez to present a government, setting in motion a legislative process that could lead to fresh national elections by mid-year. Following inconclusive elections in December, Sánchez is leading talks to try to set up a viable leftist coalition... From Reuters. Indeed, Pedro Sánchez has the most likely chance of being the next president, but there remain serious problems. Podemos is a tough nut to crack, seeking Catalonian rights to a referendum on independence and large tax increases to pay for social programs. Ciudadanos won’t have anything to do with them, and vice versa. In the end, abstentions in the Cortes may be the only hope for a minority government.
Sánchez has an interesting ally in his attempt to become Presidente. Step forward Queen Letitia, who reportedly loathes the PP and is a keen fan of Sánchez and his possible allies. The story at Hispanidad.
The word propaganda has a slightly broader sense in Spanish than in English, although here, it is reduced to just one thing. Podemos has discovered that the PP is financing some 440 web-pages, blogs, and phoney news-services (and these, just in Madrid and Valencia) dedicated to spreading false stories about the radical and perhaps eccentric left-wing party as well as other rival parties and politicians. Story at El Confidencial.
The EU has finally smelt a rat over in Andalucía and is holding back 795 million euros of ‘FEDER’ money until they are satisfied that the funds will reach their correct destination.
Quote of the week: A Madrid PP politician says to the deputies from Ahora Madrid – ‘I’d rather have a companion who stole money, than one who sets off bombs’.
Jordi Pujol is the man from Catalonia that everyone fears, it seems. The ex-president and current multimillonario has threatened ‘to spill the beans’ on what he knows if he were to be arrested. It would cause the fall of Spanish democracy, he says. The threat – incidentally – seems to be working. The story at Mediterráneo Digital.
‘The Guardia Civil raids Madrid Popular Party HQ for illegal financing proof. Investigators also enter homes of an ex-regional party manager and a businessman’. Headline announcing more scandal at El País in English. The events led to the resignation of Esperanza Aguirre.
So how much money has been recovered from the ERE scandal in Andalucía? According to the ABC, the Junta de Andalucía won’t say. Around 885 million euros are at stake. The two presidents of Andalucía allegedly involved – Chaves and Griñán – are a step closer to standing trial for their part in the fraud. The ABC has more here.
Fernando Mut, the leader of Ciudadanos in the Valencia region has resigned following publication of his arraignment in the Innova Inquiry. El Mundo has the story.
Following from the Funnydent scandal in recent weeks, the UDEF anti-fraud police have now arrested thirteen senior members of another dental franchise – Vitaldent. Four have now gone to prison including the president of the company. The UDEF have also seized a private jet and 36 luxury cars. More here at El País.
The Chinese owned Banco Industrial y Comercial de China (ICBC) was raided in Madrid on Wednesday by a unit of the Guardia Civil under orders from the Anti-corruption Prosecutor following suspicion of money laundering. Five people were later arrested. They will not be happy in Beijing!
Back in 2012, the Minister for Justice Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón introduced a new judicial tax on public trials. So far, it appears, 500 million euros has been raised with this new tax, but – and here’s a funny thing – a spokesperson for the current Ministry answered a Parliamentary question about this with ‘the Ministry has no information on this issue’. Where can it have gone? Infolibre has the story.
‘Bankia to return money to all small investors in wake of top court ruling. Lender to give back stakes to minority shareholders who invested in its 2011 IPO. Bankia is to return the money that small investors spent on shares when the Spanish lender began listing on the stock exchange in 2011. By providing refunds with an annual interest of one percent, the nationalized bank is hoping to avoid an avalanche of lawsuits in the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision...’. El País in English reports.
For once, the British press – here The Telegraph – are talking about the Britons living abroad and the effect on them of a ‘Brexit’. ‘...If, as seems increasingly likely, the UK votes to leave the EU, no one seems to have considered the situation we, as British citizens, will find ourselves in, practically overnight. If the UK denies EU workers the right to work in the UK, why on earth would our adoptive countries maintain our rights to do precisely the same thing?...’. The comments following the article make (as one would expect, perhaps) for dismal reading.
Lenox’ essay on the Brexit at Spanish Shilling here: ‘There will be a referendum in the UK this summer - apparently - and while it will affect those two million Britons who live in Europe, only a very few of us will be voting, or able to vote, to influence the outcome. This is of course the consultation over whether Great Britain should leave the EU, the choices being: staying, which is Good for Business, or leaving, which is Good for Nothing...’.
The Junta de Andalucía, that great employer in Seville, admits that it has 1,118 employees on its books which – er – no one knows what they do. The ABC has its fun here.
...And to give us all a reminder of how the millions of funcionarios keep us all on our toes in Spain, enjoy this headline from El País in English: ‘Supreme Court finds Dutchman innocent of rape after spending 12 years in prison. Despite DNA evidence presented in 2007 linking another suspect, judicial bureaucracy held up his case’. The Dutchman concerned is naturally upset about this and is threatening to sue. His grandchildren will no doubt be grateful one day...
French TV recently showed a documentary about Juan Carlos called Moi, Juan Carlos, Roi d’Espagne. Spanish national TV has declined broadcasting the show, since they are upset to find no mention in the entire show of Mariano Rajoy – despite pressuring the French producer to include him.
It’s one thing honouring heroes with a street name, but in Madrid, they’ve gone rather beyond that, giving a park in the Latino district to a graffiti artist called Muelle. On the bright side, one of his mates will probably deface it sooner or later... Story here.
‘In a vast sea of plastic greenhouses in south-eastern Spain, dubbed "Europe's vegetable garden", discontent is growing among farmers who complain large supermarket chains do not pay enough and farm workers who live in poverty. Since the 1980s, one of the largest concentrations of greenhouses in the world has developed on a coastal plain near the city of Almeria, spanning over 30,000 hectares in a "sea of plastic" seen from space...’. Story found at The Local.
I don’t care about cookies. Now an add-on will remove those annoying cookie warnings which feature on all European web-pages. If you use Firefox – this add-on gets rid of them.
In Spain, animal-mania is growing. A report from La Opinion de Málaga says that, unless there is a specific prohibition, dogs and cats will soon be able to enter bars and restaurants with their owners. There is, after all, nothing more enjoyable than a dog fight at the next table as you eat your lunch...
What to expect when raising kids in Spain. An article from BLL here.
Spanish art fair ARCOmadrid will celebrate its 35th edition when it opens next week. It’s the biggest art fair in Spain. Story at Artsy.
A great site focused on Granada and Córdoba is Piccavey here.
‘My Favourite Veggie places in Spain’, with Ashley: ‘Little by little I’ve gotten to know more of Spain, and along the way I’ve also eaten in all the veggie/vegan/veg-friendly places I’ve found along the way. Slowly vegetarian spots are becoming more popular in Spain and, best of all, they’re come with Spanish twists like vegetarian tapas bars or vegan menú del día!...’From the blog Cómo perderse en España.
More on the Housing Sector
by Andrew Brociner
In the last issues, we started looking at the housing market to see the situation compared to last year. We saw that, according to the INE statistics, prices are still very low, but show some positive signs. Upon further examination, however, we find that three regions in particular, namely, Madrid, Cataluña and the Baleares are sustaining this rise and that the first two had suffered losses greater than the national average.
If we look now at house prices in terms of square metres, according to Tinsa, prices in general decreased by 1,7% in 2015 compared to the year before. So prices still actually fell in Spain last year.
Certainly, looking at this graph, prices do not seem to be moving much at all. We have now gone through eight years of falling prices. In the last months of 2015, prices per square metre were at the same level as in the summer of 2003. It is still the case that we are a long way away from the boom and need a long time to recover the losses.
The reason that this statistic is somewhat different from what we saw from INE and does not show the same positive situation is that it contains more data: whereas INE has data up to the 3rd quarter of last year, here monthly data is provided right up to the end of 2015. So, based on this, we can say that the situation has not really changed much and that we are still consolidating.
We can also see that in terms of prices per square metre, there is not a great deal of difference between the coast and the large cities, as prices seem to have equalised, erasing the large differences made during the boom.
During the boom, the coastal area and the large cities had greater price increases compared to the rest of Spain, but now this difference has been wiped out.
On the other hand, if we look at annual changes, we see that there are great disparities between regions, with some which are starting to grow and others which are still in decline.
As we have seen, Madrid, Cataluña and the Baleares are the fastest growing regions. In the case of Madrid and Cataluña, these regions have also fallen by most. So it is also the case that people have been taking advantage of low prices.
It is quite interesting to see – despite what one tends to hear now and then – the number of regions which are still actually in decline. Only a few regions are positive, yet for some not altogether disinterested reasons, one tends to hear much more about them. Overall, prices for the nation still declined in 2015. It does, on the other hand, remain true that prices seem to have stabilized as the national declines are minimal on a yearly average.
We can say, therefore, that with a few regions registering positive price rises, while others continue to decline and that the result for the country as a whole is still decreasing slightly, we are still very much in a period of consolidation.
From Colin: ‘The British Embassy in Paris has put out a plea urging expats to register to vote in the EU referendum. As the polls narrow, Brits across the Channel are being bribed with goodies if they sign up: “We are also offering a lucky winner and their family the chance to enjoy afternoon tea at the British Ambassador’s stunning 1720s built residence in Paris.” I’m not suggesting the embassy has taken sides, but surely they’d be offering croissants and Châteauneuf-du-Pape if they wanted us to stay in the EU’.
They say, if you can tell jokes in Spanish, then you have arrived... Here are a few from Don Quijote Spanish Courses. Well – this one’s not so bad:
‘Anuncio por palabras: VNDO TCLADO CON UN PQUÑO DFCTO’