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Spain today by Lenox Napier

spain today
(photo : mustseeplaces.eu)

Editorial:

Every day, in every local newspaper, there’s some story or other of an arrest for growing or selling marijuana. Here’s Tuesday’s slightly humdrum tale in La Voz de Almería. It’s all to do with a crime against the public health apparently. The question sooner or later has to be put – what’s the point? Why waste the time on what is evidently a victimless crime? Why not legalise the stuff and make some (no doubt serious) tax money? A supportive site called (inevitably) La Marijuana says that around 9% of Spaniards are regular consumers (Iceland leads at over 18%, followed by the USA at 16%). These numbers may, of course, be a little exaggerated. Nevertheless, these days, not only to the young get stoned, apparently peacefully – or at least without dying in the process – but others, those with severe health issues, are beginning to take up the defence of the drug. Others, still, refer to the many uses that one can make of hemp, including paper, fabric, body care and fuel. Legalisation would evidently free up police work, lower the number of people in prisons, and frustrate the black market. Perhaps it’s not just a leftist viewpoint, here’s the spokesperson for the PP in Cantabria – a cancer patient – saying the same thing: ‘Legalise it, many of my political companions would be in agreement’. Would non-users be convinced to try the drug if it became legal? Would they then advance willy-nilly to heroin use? Do they now?

Housing:

Some good advice from Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight: How many foreigners know of a lawyer who can help them buy safely in Spain when they first start looking? Not many, which is why so many end up using lawyers recommended by the people they buy from. I’ve heard too many stories of people being let down by lawyers recommended by sales people. Whatever you do, always use an independent lawyer when buying or selling property in Spain.

spain housing market 2017
(Photo : DailyMail.co.uk)

‘Last year, 2016, was the third year of the recovery in Spain’s property market, after the prolonged recession between 2007 and the first quarter of 2014. In the last three years, housing prices have increased by 10.8%, with more than 1.2 million homes sold and the number of housing starts, which rose in 2016, will be close to 67,000 this year. However, as the recovery strengthens and prices and rents go up, there is a growing problem of access and a global housing policy is needed. There is a bigger market, but it’s less accessible. The housing prices index elaborated by the National Statistics Institute (INE) rose 4% in the third quarter of 2016 from a year earlier. There has also been an upwards trend in rentals, particularly in the big capital cities…’. Analysis from The Corner. From Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight comes ‘The glut of new homes shrinks in 2016 but still a problem in some areas’. He writes: ‘The glut of never-sold new-homes has been a millstone hanging around the housing market’s neck for the best part of a decade. The glut – largely owned by the banks – holds back new development and depresses prices at the bottom end of the market, which influences price expectations up the ladder. Many new homes were built on the coast during the boom years, so the glut is relevant to foreign buyers and vendors, who tend to focus on the coast…’.

A useful article from The Olive Press: ‘How to find your perfect property on the Costa del Sol. Wherever you’re thinking of looking for your next home, purchasing a less than perfect property in the best possible location always makes more sense than buying an ideal home in the wrong place…’.

There are 8,125 municipalities in Spain. Of these, 4.955 have less than 1,000 inhabitants. The headline from El País is ‘Half of Spain’s municipalities are at risk of extinction’. There’s a map to go with the story.

The end of the Galician hórreo? (It’s a granary raised on pillars, says Wiki). These peculiar and largely unused structures are to be charged with IBI, which may spell the end of them, says El Confidencial here.

Publicity from ATV Today: ‘…it is business as usual for two British families who have set up shop in Spain selling property to Brits seeking fun in the sun. Channel 4 take a look at the goings on in docu-soap property series, ‘Sun, Sea & Selling Houses’, which will follow them as they sail their business through unpredictable waters, and also track their personal trials and tribulations away from the office…’.

 

Tourism:

‘As it turns out, you can have too much of a good thing’. Skift discusses the megatrend in modern tourism here.

‘Spain is targeting gay tourists in a bid to lure the lucrative demographic to its shores all year round. Gay travellers are responsible for 15% of international tourism spending and they are also tend to travel more in the off-season…’. From The Olive Press.

pain-tourists-2015-beach-01-super
(Photo : CNN.com)

Seniors:

‘The precarious financial situation of the Seguridad Social combined with the current system of updating pensions annually will cause the loss of about seven purchasing points between the years 2013 and 2022. This combination, according to the current system, will only allow a minimum pension increase of 0.25% up to the year 2022 as obliged by law…’. More at El País here.

‘In their haste to move to the sun, many expats ignore the facts relating to getting old and the possibility of becoming infirm. There are now several generations of expats, who found themselves in a good financial position following the rapid rise in UK houses prices a decade or so ago, and others who managed to retire early on good pensions. Added to this were the advantages of exchange rates, which worked heavily in favour of British expats, meaning that those fortunate enough to be receiving an early pension, or in receipt of a private income, could maintain a much better standard of living in Spain and France than in the UK…’. The preamble above comes from an article called ‘Care for Elderly Expats in Spain and the Canary Islands’ from Expat Survival here.

 

Finance:

More bad news for the Banco Popular, with losses for last year reported at 3,485,360,000 euros. Much of this is connected to toxic property loans. More here.

The Tax-authority says it that expects to have a bumper tax-collection in 2017. The taxes collected, claims the Minister of Hacienda Cristóbal Montoro, to be estimated at 202,593 million euros. This will include the new tax on sugared soft drinks and another extra on petrol.  El País reports here. Hacienda is also looking at fresh taxes on car registration, especially the low-emission ones which until now have been free of the impuesto de matriculación. Bolsamanía explains here.

One way to increase control over our wallets is to make sure that more of our spending is traceable, and so the use of hard cash is increasingly discouraged.  Now, for example, one cannot legally pay more than 1,000€ in cash. An article at Fraude Fiscal says that this is both ridiculous and untenable.

The official unemployment rate in Spain is very inaccurate, says El Diario here, as many unemployed folk are not registered for one reason or another, and in reality the true tasa de paro is another nine points higher. They present an interesting case.

 

Politics:

‘During a conversation with Donald Trump on Tuesday evening, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy offered to act as “interlocutor in Europe, Latin America, and also in North Africa and the Middle East.” Rajoy also told the US president that despite the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, known as Brexit, that “in the coming months the process of European integration will be strengthened,” a goal that the Spanish government will be working toward…’. From El País in English here. Reactions include radio journalist Iñaki Gabilondo calling Sr. Rajoy by the only word the Spanish leader knows in English: ‘the Yes-man’.

Tump and Spanish prime minister Mariano rajoy
(Photo : Yahoo.com)

The two million Spaniards living and working abroad are interested in setting up their own political representatives, both deputies and senators, says El País here. The expatriate Spaniards have it hard enough to vote in Spanish elections for those ordinary politicians whose concerns are strictly national, and even the paperwork for this has grown to such an extent that from 2008 to 2016, suffrage fell from 32% down to just 6.3%. Currently, only France and Italy have given a voice to their expatriates. At least, Spanish émigrés have an agency to stand up for them in most countries, linked to the consulate; this is ‘el consejo de españoles en el extranjero’ (here)

Podemos seem to have passed their peak, laments the leftist Nueva Tribuna here. The party got an amazing 69 deputies in the December 2015 elections, but their time appears to have passed, says the opinion piece, noting the severe infighting and the lack of mature political will. We shall see how they progress…

A number of provincial fascist groups have been giving food and shelter to ‘Spaniards only’ for some time. Now, members of the Centro Social y Nacional de Salamanca, la Asociación Cultural Alfonso I de Cantabria, the Iberia Crúor de Jaén, Málaga 1487, Acción Social Cádiz and la asociación Lo Nuestro de Murcia have sat down together to discuss the idea of creating a populist political party together. While Europe quietly shudders with the likes of Marine la Pen, Nigel Farage and the Dutchman Geert Wilders, Spain it seems is lagging behind…. El Confidencial has the story here.

‘These Spanish Politicians Say Spain Won’t Stop Scotland Joining The EU. Spain has repeatedly been presented as a barrier to an independent Scotland joining the EU, because of its own insurgent independence movements’. The report is at Buzzfeed here.

 

Corruption:

Thirteen Andalusian health officials have been arrested following a fraud valued at around 250,000€. The investigations concentrate on hospitals in Cádiz. Story here.

An interview with the retired second-in-command of the Spanish police Eugenio Pino over at El Mundo throws up interesting facts about the Pujol investigation and how Pino tried on several occasions to arrest members of the Pujol clan for ‘political corruption’ but was always stymied by the judiciary and the Rule of Law.

The Murcian prosecutor Juan Pablo Lozano has had his home burgled for the second time in recent months as unknowns apparently searched for some documents – possibly to do with his investigations into various cases of corruption against local politicians. In an earlier incursion, his laptop was stolen. Story here.

 

Catalonia:

From The BBC: ‘Thousands of supporters filled the streets outside a court in Barcelona on Monday as the former Catalan president Artur Mas went on trial. Accused of serious civil disobedience over Catalonia’s unofficial 2014 independence vote, Mr Mas said he took full responsibility for the “political initiative”…’. The story also appears at El País in English: ‘The former premier of Catalonia and two top aides went on trial on Monday over an informal independence vote for the region held on November 9, 2014. Artur Mas faces a 10-year ban from public service for disobedience and for deliberately making unlawful decisions while holding office. His ex-deputy premier Joana Ortega and ex-education chief Irene Rigau could each receive nine-year bans…’. While the Catalonian government plans a fresh referendum in early summer, the Spanish Vice-president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said in the Senate on Tuesday that ‘the law would be observed and there will be no referendum in Catalonia’. Story at El Mundo here.

 

Courts:

The ‘Audiencia Nacional’, Spain’s central court, has started hearing its first-ever case of presumed timeshare fraud. Normally it is a provincial-level court that hears this type of case. However the Supreme Court decided that in this instance, as those affected cover several provinces and as some banks are also in the dock for allegedly funding the scheme, that the national courthouse in Madrid should try the case. The two accused in this long-running case are Antonio González and Paul Van Zill, heads of the Mundo Mágico travel agency, based in Málaga, which closed in 2003…’. Story at Sur in English here. Around 650 victims are seeking compensation.

‘BlaBlaCar is not guilty of “unfair competition” as alleged by Spanish bus companies, a court ruled, in a first legal victory for the ride-sharing firm which has run into problems in the country. The Spanish Confederation for Bus Transport (Confebus) had brought the case against the French-founded company, which expanded to Spain in 2010 at the height of the economic crisis and has become hugely popular…’. From The Local.

 

Brexit:

From The Olive Press: ‘A British expat coalition group has published an alternative Brexit white paper. The 53-point charter has been drawn up by expat groups from across Europe, including Bremain in Spain and EuroCitizens. The paper, ‘UK Citizens in Europe – Towards an Alternative White Paper’ (here) calls on the government to protect expats’ rights once Britain leaves the EU. White paper author Jane Morgan said: “Our paper shows that the complex position of individuals who have moved to another EU country. “It is clear that unless all rights are preserved, many people will have no choice but to give up their homes and their lives and return to their country of origin.”…’.

‘Spain’s president Mariano Rajoy has asked his British counterpart, Theresa May to ensure the Brexit process is swift and painless and does not make life difficult for Spaniards in the UK or Brits in Spain. He says he hopes the UK and Spain can continue to enjoy their existing close relationship. Rajoy and Mrs May spoke for 20 minutes at the Grand Master Palace in Valletta, Malta where they attended an extraordinary summit of European Union leaders, but at which no reporters or photographers were allowed in at the express request of the British government…’. From ThinkSpain here. Another report on this story, from Politics Home, adds a sobering rider: ‘…Mrs May has so far refused to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK until she gets a reciprocal agreement from the 27 remaining member states, some of which are apparently playing hardball…’. A fresh look at the issue comes from Open Democracy UK with the title ‘Just as cruel as Trump’s ban: where is the resistance to May’s policy on European residents?’.  Then, on Wednesday came a bombshell from Westminster: ‘Attempts to force the government to give all EU citizens in the UK permanent residency after Britain leaves the bloc have been defeated. The government successfully blocked the bid to add the protections in amendments to the Brexit bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday by 332 votes to 290…’. (The Guardian here). Finally, a positive article on the subject from El País titled: “We are not going to expel people from the United Kingdom”, assures the minister of the ‘Brexit’. May’s Government presents its priorities for EU exit in Parliament and launches a reassuring message to Europeans living on British soil’. So, that would mean that British residents and expats will be allowed to stay in Spain (of course we will), but – with the same privileges? No one wants to answer that particular question.

‘The British ambassador urges calm among business owners in Spain. Simon Manley spoke to members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Marbella’. From the Sur in English.

 

Economics:

 

 The Housing Sector: Sales

 by Andrew Brociner

 

We have begun examining the housing sector and so far have found that, while there seems to be a slight pick up in prices, the picture is still patchy with some areas still in decline. This week, we take a look at sales to continue examining the situation.

            If we look at the total number of houses sold nationally, we see that there is some increase in sales:

Houses Market in Spain

 

It seems as though we have gone from a monthly average of 30,000 units sold to 33,000. Clearly, we are far off the peak of 2007, during which twice that many were sold on average, but it seems to have incremented slightly this past year. After remaining at very much the same level for some years, 2015 saw some increment, which has been sustained in 2016 with another increment of the same order. We need to see if this continues next year as well before establishing a trend.

 

If we look now at the provinces, and in particular the ones which had the biggest increase in prices, we find that both Madrid and Barcelona have increasing sales, along with  Málaga and Valencia, but Almería less so. Certainly, as far as this past year is concerned, it is only Madrid and Barcelona which are showing a sustained increase in sales. This is as one would expect given that they are also the ones with the greatest increase in prices this past year.

Houses in Spain Provinces

If we look too at the provinces with the largest decrease in prices, we find that none of them has increased sales much over the last year, and this is as one would expect as well.

Houses sold in Spain

We see, in particular, that the Baleares, which last year had an initial surge, has not continued this start, with sales not significantly increasing in the past year.

 

It is somewhat logical that Madrid and Barcelona are the ones with higher sales, as they have higher populations, there is greater demand, and additionally, some speculation takes hold, as they are also the ones with higher rents. The speculation is also based on these two provinces having had the greatest decrease in prices after the boom, and taking advantage of this, given their potential. It remains to be seen whether this trend can be sustained. As far as the other provinces are concerned, even in those provinces showing price increases, such as Málaga or Almería, for example, this last year has not shown much, if any, increase in sales, and as for the other provinces, sales remain where they have been for the last few years, so the picture as a whole is mixed. Looking at the national figure for sales, just as with prices, masks regional differences – while some have started to show an increase, others have not even bottomed out yet. We can therefore say that as we have seen with prices, the data from sales is telling us too that we are still in a period of consolidation.

 

Media:

The Cedro, the agency created to give succour to the Spanish daily newspapers (the group known as AEDE), wants to charge all aggregators of the news (well, those based in Spain, obviously) the improbable sum of 0.05044854€ per daily reader of these links (which link the readers, if interested, to the original news-item, as occurs with Business over Tapas). Since Google News upped sticks the day this remarkable piece of regressive legislation was announced, back in 2014, the only large aggregators left are Meneame (here) and our old friend the American-based Facebook. Just how would they figure out how many Facebook readers read links on a daily basis? (Regardless of links to whom, even foreign-based sites – all the revenue, less costs and taxes, would go to the AEDE). A report at El Confidencial here. The whole thing is a storm in a teacup, says El Diario (which as many news-services do, posts and sends links to its own stories) here, pointing out that this silly rule will never be implemented.

And yet… ‘Axel Springer are to launch their news aggregator in twelve other European countries. ‘Upday‘ (here), Axel Springer’s news aggregator steps on the accelerator. The German company, which already offers this app in Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and France, has announced that it will soon bring this service to twelve more European countries. It has so far given no clue as to which countries they will be, but they will open editorial offices in Madrid, Milan, Amsterdam and Stockholm, so it can be assumed that Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden will be among them…’. From Media-Tics here. The service only works, apparently, on Samsung mobile phones.

 

Various:

‘Spain’s Population Is Shrinking At 72 People Per Day’. An article from Rigged Game. ‘Since the economic crisis of 2008, Spain has seen a steady trend of increasingly fewer births. In the first half of 2016, 12,998 more people died than were born in Spain and the number of newborns fell by 4.6%. Put simply, as El Pais reports, Spain’s population is shrinking at a rate of 72 people per day, essentially due to a historically low birth-rate, according to a study released by the National Institute of Statistics (INE)…’. The article fails to note the influence on the population of foreign-born inhabitants, as well as Spanish emigrants.

Following on from a rather more than silly report in The Sun regarding Spanish lettuces, the Spanish press, from El Español to El Diario, explain the facts here and here.

‘The regional government of the Balearic Islands says Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium that kills fruit-bearing plants such as olive trees, is now threatening its agricultural sector. In a bid to control its spread, authorities have destroyed some 2,000 fruit trees so far. At the same time, a ban has been imposed on the export of fruit or cuttings from susceptible species such as olives, cherries, grapes and almonds, as well as ornamental fruits…’. A report is at El País in English here (and if it makes it to Jaén?).

A British expat has successfully enlisted the help of the UN to probe a farming scandal that is ‘killing the last desert’ in Europe. Thanks to green campaigner David Dene, the UN Office of Human Rights is investigating the alleged destruction of the ‘Rio de Aguas’ area of Almeria due to intensive olive tree production. Environmentalists claim the trees are rapidly depleting a precious underground aquifer, which is rapidly running dry…’. Story at The Olive Press here.

Photo : Ejolt.org)
(Photo : Ejolt.org)

The overuse of pesticides is the reason given (story and video) here for the death of many millions of bees in Murcia.

While we all shudder at the high wages ex-politicians apparently manage to secure, either for public speaking, or juicy board-room jobs, we should not forget that some footballers do even better. Take Ronaldo, for example, who, with the blithe good-will of all and sundry, took home to mum 81,700,000 euros last year.

‘The sons and daughters of miners in the deserted coalfields of northern Spain face two choices: leave to find work, or innovate to be able to stay. Now, they have developed an online barter economy, which they say is helping them return to their rural roots. But can it really work?…’. From The BBC here.

Following on from last week’s editorial: ‘Of all the political catastrophes that have rained down on the planet in recent months, it’s possible that Brexit will be the one with the most repercussions on the Costa del Sol – not necessarily on the tourism industry, but on the thousands of fellow citizens and neighbours of British origin we live and work with every day. If you look at it from a global perspective, Brexit will be a mere drop compared with the ocean of consequences the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House could have on the world – but perhaps we shouldn’t analyse them separately. Both phenomena originated the same way: the failure of traditional politics which paved the way for the penetration of populist discourse, the criminalisation of immigrants and minorities, the nostalgia for a prosperity enjoyed in unrepeatable circumstances…’ From the Sur in English. An editorial – here at El País in English – also covers similar ground.

‘Why do movie titles in Spain end up with such strange translations? Changing the names of films such as ‘La La Land’ is sometimes necessary’. Amusing story at El País in English.

Help a Dane. Please. Por favor. A quite astonishing video about sunburn and skin cancer from the Danish Cancer Society here.

 

See Spain:

After Japan, Spain is the country with the longest life expectancy according to the OECD. 17,000 people are 100 years old or older. The photographer Andrea Comas has portrayed Spanish centenarians for a year around the country’. Photos at El País here.

‘Of all the ways to get to know a country’s cultural heritage, cinema is perhaps one of the most accessible (and enjoyable!). Generations of filmmakers from across the world have put their view on Spanish culture into works of cinematic art…’. Ten films: story and video trailers at The Culture Trip here.

‘Welcome to our guide about The Balearic Islands which also briefly touches on the smaller islands and islets. The four main Balearic Islands are located off the eastern coast of mainland Spain and include Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera…’. Some pointers to the Balearics, with pictures, from Costaonline. From the same source, we move to Tenerife: ‘The skyline of Tenerife is dominated by the awesome Mount Teide volcano, the third biggest in the world when measured from it’s base. Teide is the highest point in the whole of Spain standing at an impressive 3,718 metres above sea level…’.

‘Barcelona: city of Gaudi, beaches and tapas. Charming but perhaps a little predictable. So Casa Bonay, a hotel, opened in Dreta de l’Eixample last March, that is also a restaurant, coffee shop, art gallery and social hub, is a breath of fresh air. A collaboration between 15 like-minded creative types in this neighbourhood just outside the old town, it will “fill some of the city’s gaps”, according to co-founder Inés Miro-Sans…’. Found at The Guardian.

 

Letters

Hi Lenox

I think I will unsubscribe from BOT as I voted to Leave based on my conviction that the EU is finished in its current form.

Having lived and worked in 5 European countries, speaking the languages of 4 of them I thought for the future of my country and not for my personal welfare. Even should it mean a period of hardship, the future for my grandchildren is of more importance.

I respect your decision and in no way ridicule you nor your stance, however I find that not to be the case where I and my decision is concerned.

I am neither unintelligent nor racist rather I prefer to believe that I am a realist.

Please understand that I believe you are doing what you believe to be right.

I wish you well.

Best Wishes, Jacqueline

 

Hi Jacqueline,

Sorry to see you go.

I write about Spain, so the editorials and articles about Brexit must be painted with that colour – is it good, or bad, for Spain and/or for the ex-pats living here? I am not interested in what Brexit can do for the British living in the UK (I leave that to Leapy Lee and the Daily Mail). Here, at the very least, post Brexit, we British ex-pats can expect to lose some of our privileges. Which is a bad thing.

Un saludo, Lenox

 

Hi Lenox,

We just read that over 400 EU citizens left Jávea during the last year and our padrón shows a pop. fall of over 4000.  We have even read that over 200,000 EU citizens have left Spain in the last 3-4 years driven out by the Hacienda, no doubt – and to a lesser degree (in Jávea’s case) perhaps by the result of our last local election; our council is 81% socialist and consequently not a brilliantly well educated lot to say the least – and it’s beginning to show!

The Hacienda has undoubtedly caused thousands of beds to be withdrawn from the holiday rental market (and those foreign holiday clients, being no longer properly serviced, have surely gone to other countries?).  It’s not the lack of bookings so much as a catastrophic fall in the number of web-based enquiries (which normally lead to bookings).

Everyone you talk to here confirms that tourism is in bad shape (for myself the last 2 years have been the worst in over 15 years).  Even my specialist palm-tree “doctor” recognises this.

Traffic is down, parking is much easier, and the AP7 motorway is nearly empty 24/7.

One can accept that very many residents of Valencia bought apartments here at the bottom of the market as they pour into the area at weekends but mostly doing their own cooking which is not real tourism.

And we are warned that some provincial governments, along with the hotel trade, have more ill thought-out plans further to reduce tourism for the rest of us (and Jávea has few hotels!!).

Family groups who cannot find adequate & suitable villa accommodation do not go to hotels.

They go to another country.  I suggest there are a lot of selfish and not very clever people involved in this business area.  Having full hotels is not the only thing that matters.

But first might one ask – when is all this bull about the booming tourist market gonna be exposed and the truth told?  Or is the big boom all at the bottom end of the market (I’m not mentioning any towns!).  Is Jávea is now too posh for the prosperous middle classes?

John

Hi Lenox,

Thank you for the Peret song last week – he’s a great favourite of mine.

Un saludo, Ángel.

Finally:

Documentary from El Festival del Cante de las Minas, 2016 (Wiki), held annually in La Unión, Murcia. See the amazing Alba Heredia, dancer.

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.  Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

For subscriptions and other information about this site, go to businessovertapas.com

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