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
As more former members of the Partido Popular’s hierarchy are falling from grace (Zaplana, Juan Cotino and Fernández de Moya so far this week, and Pablo Casado under investigation for his fake master’s), the biggest story in the right-wing news remains the house that the Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has bought with his wife (Podemos speaker Irene Montero) and their unborn twins. The house is rather grand (pictures here), with a pool and a garden and is located on the edge of Madrid in an expensive neighbourhood. It’s not so much the price – 600,000€ – that’s galling or even that they have taken out a huge mortgage to pay for it, but the duplicity of a leader of the masses buying a palace rather than living in a garret in a poor part of Madrid.
Unlike the Arts or football, politics (should) be about Image and for a Trot, that means living under a toadstool.
El Mundo has headlined the story every day since it broke with OKDiario on Friday (sold by an agency to the Media), with Tuesdays’ revelation as damaging as ever (well not really) that Podemos use the same bank as underwrote the hipoteca.
It was an incalculably bad move for Iglesias, who has now gone to the recourse of appealing to his militants, who have until the weekend to either ratify or reject his home-buying spree, in which case both Iglesias and Montero will resign from Podemos. (El Mundo assures us that supporters consider the purchase ‘an act of irresponsibility’). The item has even made the foreign press, with The Guardian noting here that ‘Pablo Iglesias and Irene Montero are accused of betraying principles over €600,000 purchase’ and Bloomberg saying that ‘Headlines in Spain have been mainly focused on whether the purchase is inconsistent with Iglesias’s previous comments condemning the wealthy’.
Other political leaders of course own homes, we would hope that they paid for them appropriately, but the cost of these dwellings has never raised much interest. The COPE lists a few here, but frankly, none of them begin to compare in grandeur with the homes of Julio Iglesias (here) or Ronaldo (video here).
The leader of the Izquierda Unida Alberto Garzón has just bought something suitably modest at 200,000€, we read (again) at El Mundo, which certainly feels it has A Story.
Nevertheless, this has done major damage to Pablo Iglesias, and maybe he should even step down for this calamitous misstep. But who could take over?
The left-wing titles are sympathetic ‘The “harassment of the extreme right” reduces internal criticism in Podemos of the purchase of the villa by Iglesias and Montero’ says El Diario, while a fake news story announces that all are invited to the house for a barbeque on June 2nd – so far, 60,000 people say they are coming.
20 Minutos has a questionnaire as to whether Iglesias and Montero should resign. As one can see, the results are not good. Iglesias has done nothing wrong, but he has shot himself in the foot with this ill-conceived purchase
‘A rising number of foreign buyers, led by the British, helped sales in Spain rise to their highest level since 2014 in the first three months of 2018. Sales recorded by the Land Registry increased by 13.4% in the first quarter of this year, the highest quarterly figure since the third quarter of 2008, according to the latest report from Spanish property registrars. The data shows that the number of overseas buyers increased by 13.2%. British buyers accounted for 14% of foreign sales, followed by Germans and French at 8%, Belgians at 7%, Swedes and Italians both at 6%, Chinese buyers at 4% and Russian buyers accounting for 3% of overseas buyers…’. Item found at Property Wire here.
Fraguas is a small abandoned village in the province of Guadalahara. A group of ‘new-age’ people have been rebuilding the stricken village over the past five years. Despite the worry that Spain is losing a large number of villages as they are abandoned by the inhabitants (in search of work, opportunity and the many attractions of city-life), the authorities are sticking their heels in regarding the young members of la Asociación de Repobladores de la Sierra Norte and have now taken them to court for trespass. Between them, they face 26 years of prison for their presumption. The story here.
A story that is (understandably) attracting attention in Spain: a British musician who lives in Madrid. From El País in English: ‘“I have no reason to lie when I tell you that everything is better in Spain”. British concert pianist James Rhodes explains why he calls Madrid and not the UK home.
‘Airbnb collapses in Palma de Mallorca: it loses half of its tourist apartments due to the threat of fines. The new Balearic law means that the online tourist rental giant has gone from a maximum of 3,700 homes a year ago to the 1,800 flats it now sells in the Mallorcan capital’. Headline at El Independiente here. As it becomes harder to rent short-term, thanks to both pressure from the hoteliers and from the media, soured by the rising cost in rents plus the inconvenience for ordinary residents (who don’t, apparently mind the inconvenience of tourists as long as they sleep at a hotel), there is a corollary: the proposal of investing in an apartment with the idea of renting it out during the owner’s absence will begin to lose its appeal.
‘The WTO expects Spain to match the number of tourists this year. The demand for tourist services in Spain shows a more moderate growth than that experienced in previous years’. Item from Agent Travel here. 81,800,000 foreign tourists visited Spain in 2017.
A lawyer looks at ‘Wills and Probate in Spain’ at Property Showrooms here.
‘Youth unemployment: why is a German five times more likely to find work than a Spaniard?’. The question is posed by El Mundo here. The article looks at the German version of apprentice work and job training. We might also add business practices, workers’ rights, protectionism and bureaucracy…
From Sur in English: ‘The submerged economy. Over one million people in Spain work without a contract and pay no tax or Social Security. This type of fraud means that 250 billion euros a year escapes the taxman. “If I declared it, I wouldn’t have enough to live on,” is just one of the reasons given’.
The national budget for 2018 was finally approved in Congress on Wednesday after the PNV (the conservative Basque nationalist party) signalled its support. More here.
There’s nothing like patriotism and flag-waving to get the juices going. So seems to be the new philosophy of Albert Rivera from Ciudadanos. El Español looks at the tactic of jingoism here, as ‘…Rivera wants to channel all this energy towards a political structure -in a classic sense- that surpasses the culture of the discredited parties, and that serves as a catapult for the 2019 election. A loophole for the undecided, a port for repentant voters and a platform to put Cs ‘En Marcha’, as Emmanuel Macron did in France a year before he became president of the Republic…’. Nationalism yes (but not Catalonian or Basque nationalism, of course). ‘No Spaniard will ever apologize again for using his flag or his language’ – another headline from El Español here.
On 2 May, the armed Basque organisation ETA issued a historic statement declaring a definitive end to its armed struggle, after six decades of political conflict…’. The writer of this piece in The Guardian is Arnaldo Otegi, the Basque revolutionary and political leader.
Mercedes Alaya, the judge who was removed from the ERE inquiry in Seville last year, says she is not disappearing quietly. “The PSOE and PP took me away for fear that I would investigate the training courses, where I would find extremely serious examples of wrongdoing.”, she says in an interview with the ABC here. An editorial from ABC here: ‘The “J’acuse” of judge Mercedes Alaya’.
‘On the importance of the independence of justice and journalism. The ex spokesman for Judges for Democracy, Joaquim Bosch, and the director of eldiario.es, Ignacio Escolar, will talk about the presentation this Thursday in Valencia of ‘El secuestro de la justicia’, the book of which they are co-authors’. Item at El Diario here.
From El Diario: ‘The PP fears revenge from Bárcenas if the imminent ruling of the Gürtel sends his wife to prison. “If Luis’ wife enters the prison, the ground opens up under our feet,” says a veteran leader of the conservative party’.
Under the headline ‘Blank credit cards and brothels for the head of the courses for the unemployed of the Junta de Andalucía’, another scandal opens up. An agency called ‘La Fundación Andaluza Fondo de Formación y Empleo’ (Faffe) was created in 2003 to help create jobs. Europrensa explains: ‘…Officially, the Faffe was responsible for organizing courses with the aim of reducing the very high unemployment rate in Andalucía, the highest in the country with around one million unemployed. But from the inside, and especially in the offices at the top of the organization, the almost ten years of life of this foundation were practically a party in which its directors, with Fernando Villén at the helm, enjoyed enviable salaries, official cars, food, travel… and power. Power that gives control of an organisation with 1,700 workers, which managed 300 million euros and which functioned, to all intents and purposes, as an employment agency for relatives, friends and, above all, positions and relatives of the Andalusian PSOE…’.
The ex-minister for employment (and former president of the Valencia Region and one-time mayor of Benidorm) Eduardo Zaplana was arrested by the police in Valencia on Tuesday accused of money laundering says LaSexta here. Zaplana hid 10.5 million euros from ‘commissions’ (bribes) in Luxembourg , says El Mundo here. Or maybe in Uruguay, says El Independiente here.
‘The Secretary of State for Hacienda, Cristobal Montoro’s Nº 2 man, Enrique Fernández de Moya, has been summoned to court on June 5th charged for possible prevarication and embezzlement concerning the time when he was mayor of Jaén’ says El Diario here.
Reacting to a series of major drug arrests in La Linea, Cádiz, the local narcos have told the Minister of the Interior Juan Ignacio Zoido that, unless the police decrease the pressure on the town, the narcos will be obliged to move into other less-policed areas along the coast. ‘One thing we will not be doing’, they say, ‘is ceasing our activities’. El Español reports.
‘Serial expat fraudster Paula Neale who was first exposed by The Olive Press has finally been arrested in Spain. It comes after dozens of stories over the past FOUR years detailed how the British fraudster was cheating holidaymakers out of thousands through fake holiday rentals. Thanks to our tip-offs, authorities began Operation Neale in a bid to track her down…’. The story here.
From El País in English: ‘Madrid maintains direct rule in Catalonia over “provocative” cabinet picks. The new Catalan premier taps four ex-officials facing legal battles, and Madrid refuses to publish their names in the official gazette’. The same paper publishes its editorial: ‘An extremist rises to power’ here.
‘…Protests took place in Barcelona to mark the 7 months (since 16th October) that Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart (the two leaders of Catalan civic organisations, ANC and Omnium) have been held in pre-trial detention without bail near Madrid (in addition to several Catalan politicians). The two Jordis are accused of inciting a ‘rebellion’ last September … although video footage clearly shows that a rebellion did not take place, and nor did they try to incite one…’. From this week’s Tim Parfitt report here.
The PP, dissatisfied with Xavier García Albiol, is preparing for a new leader for their party in Catalonia.
Valencia Plaza interviews judge Joaquim Bosch here: “One third of the terrorism cases the National High Court judges are tweets, re-tweets and bad jokes.”
Valtonyc, the rapper who was sentenced to three and a half years of jail for his verses against the monarchy and in favour of ETA, has escaped from Spanish territory rather than report to jail, says El Nacional here. He’s now in Belgium.
“The tragedy of Brexit is that it affects the lives of thousands of people”. Michael Harris, the president of the Eurocitizens association, discusses the outlook that Britons in Spain are facing ahead of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU’. Interview at El País in English here.
‘How Britain made me a citizen of nowhere’. Found at Politico here.
A letter from David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to the ECREU (Expat Citizens’ Rights in the EU) team is in their monthly newsletter here (Pages 7 and 8 deal in particular with Spain).
From The Mail Online: ‘Home Secretary Sajid Javid writes to EU leader to voice his ‘concern’ about treatment of British expats post Brexit’. A sub-heading claims ‘900,000 UK nationals live in EU and ministers want their future to be assured’.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recently produced estimates of the number of British citizens living in the European Union (EU). The numbers, apparently, have declined from 1.22m prior to 2017, to “around 900,000” (Jan 2017), and more latterly to 784,900 (April 2018). Meanwhile, our research has revealed that most informed commentators (academics, local government officials, consular offices, and others who work with the British abroad) understand numbers to have changed little since 2008, and that the correct, conservative, estimate is closer to 1.8 million…’. This article was written by a fellow from Goldsmiths University of London for The Conversation.
The Housing Sector
The Stock of New Houses
by Andrew Brociner
Ever since the boom ended, there has been much preoccupation about the stock of new houses. There was so much construction going on at the time, that no concern was given for when the boom would end and what would become of all that construction. The pace of construction at the peak of the boom, in fact, left many buildings empty and unsold. This situation has lasted for many years.
We can see in the chart how slowly the stock of new houses has been absorbed over the years:
The stock accumulated very quickly in a few short years during the boom with the result that afterwards, Spain was stuck with a huge amount of unsold property. And scaling this back has been extremely slow over the years as can be seen.
The chart below shows that the absorption rate of the accumulated stock has been very slow and continues. The low percentage points imply that this very slow process has been stretched out over many years.
It is clear that the figures during the boom were very significant and this kept right on going after the boom was over as can be seen that by as late as 2009, the stock was still accumulating. Therefore, it was not before 2010 that the stock actually started to be reduced. And certainly, given the slow pace of absorption, it is no surprise that the situation has drawn out for so long. Ten years later, there is still a considerable number of this stock outstanding.
This stock of new houses is still of interest so many years after the end of the boom since the situation still continues, and as it comprises part of the supply, it impinges on price. The recent increase in sales that we have been seeing has not by and large fed to a significant degree into prices. There is still a constraint on the supply side. Moreover, as we have seen, the increase in sales relates only to used houses, as sales of new property has been on a downward trend for years, with this situation only now stabilising. Therefore, this backlog can conceivably take quite a lot more time to absorb.
El Español lists here the leading Spanish news-sources, by internet visits. These are in ranking (with April figures): El Mundo, El País, La Vanguardia, ABC, El Confidencial,
20 Minutos, El Español, OKDiario, El Periodico, El Diario, El Huff Post and Público.
El País has an article about ‘the business of digital manipulation in Spain’ (it gives us Digital Sevilla as an example) here. We read of ‘How disinformation and propaganda pages make money by taking advantage of Google and other ‘online’ advertising networks’. Another ‘independent’ site, Confidencial Andaluz, looks at the small Seville-based site, run by a 24 year old called Luis Villadiego and reports on the attack by ‘Spain’s most important daily newspaper against the bothersome insect from Seville’. This probably follows from a Digital Sevilla story about how to find a new use for El País (suggesting toilet paper).
‘Spanish nuclear power plants have to stay in use for forty more years says leading energy chief. Nuclear energy produces zero carbon dioxide, would not increase electricity prices and would be a backup until renewable energy methods are fully developed, he argues’. Headline from The Olive Press here.
The Mar Menor: ‘Saving Europe’s biggest salt water lagoon’. An article at Euractiv here.
In Navarra, all drink containers may now be returned to the shops for 10c in cash for each and every item, says Pamplona Actual, following a successful campaign there by Greenpeace and others.
‘The municipality of Aduna, in Gipuzkoa, is home to the first electric bus factory in Europe, ready to supply the cities of the Old Continent’. Headline from BlogThinkBig here.
From Redacción Médica: ‘The UK appoints a Spanish surgeon to alert against ‘balconing’ “I’m the surgeon who heals you and tries to put your bones back together when you break them explains in videos’. Video in English here. Eye on Spain also has the story here.
Telecinco introduces us to a new aid in cancer treatment. A type of helmet that stops hair-loss while under chemotherapy. With video here.
El Mundo tracks down the man who manufacturers fake Viagra in his apartment in Marbella.
El País takes us to La Linea de la Concepción: ‘La Ciudad de la Droga’.
In the Lepe strawberry fields. “Even in Africa we don’t live like this”. El Español travels through the largest settlement of African day labourers in Huelva. About 600 people live in some 200 huts made of plastic, wood and cardboard. “In my wildest dreams, I never imagined living like this,” says Mame, a Senegalese who has recently arrived to the area’. .
Taking a general knowledge test for your nationality papers? The Instituto Cervantes has some of the questions here.
The AVE wall that is dividing Murcia. Video at LaSexta here.
The homeowners association AUAN, based in the Valley of Almanzora, received recognition from the British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, for their outstanding contribution to the local community in Spain on the occasion of the wedding of HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Ms. Meghan Markle. Other deserving organisations also received a similar award. We know of The Olive Press and Costa Women…
Mike Arcus writes about this beautiful country. Here is one (with lots of photographs) called ‘Andalusia, the road less travelled, part 3 – Jaén, massive cathedral and hilltop fort: Windmill-tilting on the Looney Front’.
Molly at Piccavey visits Gijon here.
El Mundo gives us ‘the ten most spectacular places to visit in Spain’ here.
And here is The Local with ‘Ten fascinating museums in Spain you REALLY must visit’.
Polls (BoT 257 editorial) could indeed be a method of psychological manipulation. In uncorrupted environment polls work like an amplifier of popular opinions. Rigged polls could be used by interested parties to promote themselves, but it comes rather tricky and dangerous. There is an easier way. Without rigging of polls they still can be used to shift public opinion, by focusing on some particular polls, doing so only in the moments when the polls got positive dynamics. It creates impression of rising stock. It sends message “join the crowd” to the public. This is exactly the tactic Trump used with his campaign all the time.
Chavacano: The Spanish-based Creole of The Philippines. On YouTube here.