Business Over Tapas 17 December 2015 Nº 139

17 Diciembre 2015 1363 votos

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Editorial:

Many people will be voting on Sunday 20th December in these final elections of 2015. And, of course, many more won’t. There are the Spaniards living abroad, where the ‘Censo Electoral de Residentes Ausentes’ lists a total of 1,880,026 voters in foreign countries, all solemnly registered in their consulates (and automatically losing their Spanish health coverage) – with just 115,055 (as of the 23rd of November) having their vote guaranteed (here). That’s just over 6%. Of course, they are, generally speaking, indignant with the Government. ‘They are making it as difficult as they can, because they know we want to see a change’, a quote from El Huff Post here. Then there are the better than four million foreigners who live here, who pay their taxes and whose lives are affected by the Government (short of six months in the now extinct military service, what’s the difference?). Then, oddly, there are those who choose not to vote for political reasons, or who vote with a blank piece of paper, or who vote (Bless them) for a party that doesn’t have a chance: the IU for example. Finally, there are those who are simply ‘not at home’ during the Christmas season – perhaps through family obligations. So, out of the entire possible vote, from all those with a stake in Spain’s prosperity, we can expect that the eventual winner will have the support of a relatively small number of citizens and residents. We also know through experience that this Government won’t be doing much in the future for ‘the silent majority’ – after all, as we say in Spain, ‘the dog who doesn’t bark doesn’t get fed’.

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Housing:

Spanish property sales to British buyers rose 26% in last year, according to OPP Today. Perhaps the British are not worried by a possible ‘Brexit’ next year, or the issue of the Modelo 720 (the declaration of world-wide holdings over 50,000€). Italian buyers show the second biggest increase while the Russians show the largest drop (at 45%).

‘Investment into Spanish real estate reaches record figures. While it may be hard to believe, taking into consideration that Spain endured a crippling recession for six years and has only really begun to expand economically again since last year, investment into Spanish real estate has reached record figures. The amount of money poured into all types of property construction this year will register in excess of 13 billion euro by the end of the month...’. Found at Expatica.

According to Tinsa, and quoted in El País, there are currently 389,000 new unsold dwellings in Spain. Since 2008, a respectable 1,560,000 homes have been built.  

Tourist apartment rentals in Barcelona: ‘There are people in Spain's prime city-break destination who want visitors out of the apartments they source on home rental websites, and back into the city's hotels, because local people cannot keep up with rising rents. The campaign to keep rents affordable is one strand in the strategy pursued by the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages (PAH), a grassroots group which has branches across Spain but began in Barcelona six years ago...’. From the BBC.

The vulture-fund Blackstone quietly doubles its stake in Madrid’s council-home-rentals according to El Diario here.

‘There are some people who have spent ten years or more living in a house without water or electricity’. The quote comes from Gerardo Vásquez, the British-born lawyer for the AUAN, while speaking in the Andalucian Government recently. From La Voz de Almería.

‘The High Court allows British homebuyers to sue foreign lawyers. British buyers of European properties may be able to claim compensation in English courts if they have been let down by overseas lawyers, the High Court has confirmed. The case was brought by Mr and Mrs Adams, a British couple who had bought a property on a development in Alicante, Spain...’. An interesting development reported by Solicitors Journal.

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Tourism:

None of the AVE lines in Spain pay their way, says Expansión here. The best route in Spain, Madrid to Barcelona, has a return of under 50% on its investment. Indeed, none of the lines should have been built, says the ‘Fundación de Estudios de Economía Aplicada’.

If the AENA and the Balearic Government were to drop costs to a minimum, Ryanair would bring another 1.5 million passengers to the Islands, they say. Story at Preferente. The Balear hotels are not, apparently, in favour of the proposal.

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Finance:

Hacienda has published a Q&A on the Declaration of Possessions Abroad (the Modelo 720), here in Pdf. Brussels meanwhile is investigating the legality of this process. ‘Does Modelo 720 infringe European law?’ asks Blevins Franks here. Blogger Colin Davies says: ‘If you're a foreigner resident in Spain with total assets outside Spain of more than €50,000 - say a house! - you really should know about the 2012 law which brought an obligation to tell the Hacienda that you do. If you haven't submitted details for the years 2012-14, you already owe them at least €4,500 (3 x 1.500). Or, if they find out you haven't obeyed the law, at least €30,000. And, if you miss the March 31 deadline for 2015, you'll owe another €1,500/€10,000. Plus possibly humungous fines way above the value of the assets in question. Leaving you with a considerable negative net worth. This law - designed, under a phoney 'amnesty', to flush out details of the overseas assets of Spaniards who aren't politicians - is so outrageous that Brussels is considering whether it's legal under EU law. This might take some time. Meanwhile, it applies in all its horrendous detail. If you pay a tax adviser and you don't know about this law, sue them for negligence. Or at least get your fees back. And think hard about making a belated submission or four. Being 'voluntary', the treatment accorded by the Hacienda will then be (laughably) 'light'. I did in June and I've already had my first €1,500 fine (for 2012) and now await 2 more. BTW . . In the UK, such fines are c. €135 per year’.

‘Another month, another fall in Eurozone base rates, reducing borrowing costs in Spain. The 12-month Euribor – the rate used to calculate most mortgage repayments in Spain – fell to yet another historic low of 0.079 in November, a percentage decline of 38% in a month, and 76% in a year, reducing monthly mortgage repayments for many borrowers in Spain. A typical borrower with an annually resetting 20-year mortgage of €120,000 will see mortgage payments fall by €13.45 per month, adding up to a saving of €161 per year...’. From Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Investment.

From Reuters: ‘Low interest rates and weak business volumes are squeezing the profit margins of Spanish banks, the head of the country's central bank said on Thursday (December 10th), adding that they might be improved by investing in new technology and further mergers. Spanish banks' earnings have recovered following a 2008 property crash that forced some into state bailouts, but many are still struggling to jumpstart lending, while low interest rates across the euro zone are weighing on margins...’.

El Confidencial forecasts bank fusions, offices closed and layoffs in what will be a weak and troubling year for the banks and cajas.

Am approaching bankruptcy as Abengoa, the Seville-based energy giant, ‘...has plants in 16 countries and a commercial presence in more than 80 nations. In 2014, it had over 600 subsidiaries. Lenders will now consider the best option in each case, from divestment to liquidation, capitalization or write-offs. This could help the company avoid what would amount to Spain’s largest corporate bankruptcy. Abengoa is currently sitting on €8.9 billion of gross financial debt and desperately needs to renegotiate with creditors or find a “white knight” investor to pull it out of the danger zone...’. From El País in English. There’s more at The Guardian: ‘...Only weeks before the solar and wind power company, which employs 27,000 people worldwide, admitted to €9bn (£6.5bn) in debts, the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s upgraded its long-term rating on the company, saying it expected it to “execute various actions to reduce debt over 2015”...’ A later story, at El Confidencial, says that hundreds of Spanish employees based in foreign countries, have been fired – without as much as a return ticket home. The story is also covered at Wolf Street: ‘...Spain’s biggest corporate insolvency ever...’ and again here.

El Mundo discusses ‘the end of solar energy in Spain’ in a hard-hitting article here. The article begins: ‘Spain continues to decline in the international solar entire league. The country of the sun has been overtaken this year by the country of the clouds (UK) and competes today in the relegation zone, with Bulgaria and the Czech Republic in the category of "unreliable countries for solar investors ", according to the latest report from SolarPower Europe. At the World Climate Summit in Paris, Spain had the chance for redemption, but has once again missed the opportunity for our country to be among the 120 members of the International Solar Alliance sponsored by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi...’. For more on the 120 country association to promote solar power, see here.

‘Home consumption Spanish –style: the most restrictive rules in the world’. Still some way to go, then. Story and comparative world map at La Marea.

The Chinese businessman who recently bought 20% of Osborne seems to have disappeared. He was last seen being led away in tears by police at the airport in Shanghai. Story at ABC.

‘Have you been offered occasional work in Spain and you’re not sure what to do regarding tax and social security? Have you been offered regular work with a Spanish firm outside of your regular job? If you have, then you might have asked yourself if you need to register as self-employed, or autónomo, as it is called in Spain. And you might also have wondered whether, if you have to pay tax and social security on what you earn, it’s really worth taking it...’. A useful article at El País in English.

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Politics:

 

A barbed attack on the baleful influence on Spanish life by PricewaterhouseCoopers – or as Pablo Iglesias recently dubbed the company: "House Water Watch Cooper", by El Diagonal here. The IBM-owned company has enormous influence on employment and banking practices. Indeed, as La Nueva Tribuna says, ‘PWC marks the strategic lines in health, innovation, education, taxation, employment, defence, energy, cyber-security and even the NGOs through the Loyalty Foundation but controlled by PWC, the Ibex 35 and the ESADE business school’ adding, ‘the health co-payment or labour market reforms are some of the objectives of PWC in its seizure of Spanish society’. A parody site for PWC here.

The Minister of the Interior is very (very!) religious. The latest on this follows an interview with Jorge Fernández Díaz in La Vanguardia, picked up here by El Ventano. It seems that Jorge has an angel called Marcelo that helps find him a parking space...

El Español is running a series on Rosalía Iglesias, the wife of Luis Bárcenas, who appears to have written down all of the bribes and scams her husband and his political friends were engaged in.

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General Elections 20D:

On Wednesday afternoon, while walking around his home city of Pontevedra, Mariano Rajoy received a punch in the face by some local 17 year old. Bruised, Rajoy was able to continue with his agenda. Story and video at El Huff Post here.

The has been a few televised debates – one between three of the four main candidates (Rajoy wouldn’t participate), one between the three contenders plus, in representation of the PP, the Vice-president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría (Even El Mundo said that Pablo Iglesias won this debate on La Sexta and A3 although the far-right La Razón gave the debate victory to Soraya – an hour before the event started!). A rather overpopulated debate between nine parties on RTVE last Wednesday 9th December here and finally, a TV meeting between Mariano Rajoy and the Leader of the Opposition Pedro Sánchez on Monday where the famous ‘y tú más’ phrase (Oh yeah? And what about your party’s behaviour?) returned to prominence. 20 Minutos has a good report (with a few jokes thrown in) here.

So, how are the surveys going? It may be hard to answer this, following a note from workers at one of Spain’s most important empresas de sondeo, who say that the results were later manipulated by the client. From The Wall Street Journal: ‘...Spain’s ruling Popular Party is likely to win the country’s general election on Sunday but could lose its absolute majority amid the rise of new parties, the latest round of opinion polls in the country show.

A series of polls released Monday, the last day in which they can be published ahead of the election under Spanish law, shows that the centre-right PP stands to lose its current absolute majority in the country’s 350-member parliament. The election is a test of whether the austerity prescription put in place by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is politically viable. Voters have been dissatisfied with the lingering effects of a deep economic crisis and a series of corruption probes involving Mr. Rajoy and other PP politicians. Mr. Rajoy has denied any wrongdoing, and hasn’t been charged with any crime...’. Finally, re-publishing – even in a Tweet – the results of any survey between 15th and 19th of December is a felony!

The programs for the four main parties are presented in brief by Scottsdale Overseas here.

What do the NGO’s think? According to Cuarto Poder, the values given by the various parties in their programs to climate change, international conflict, progress, education, taxation, infancy, participation, social protection, salaries and health... as given by 500 NGO’s controlled by Polética (here), varies from Podemos with a score of 6.2 down to the PP with just 1.5.

‘The Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos has told CNBC he believes the Spanish electorate is "mature" and will not take the country back to 2010 or 2011 when it heads to the polls   ... "I do not believe that the Spanish population wants to take Spain back to the position we were in in 2010 or 2011, I am totally sure they would not repeat that mistake," De Guindos told CNBC Tuesday. "I think that the Spanish population is mature, they are wise. They know perfectly where we are stood only four years ago and where we stand today. And I think that this contrast is a clear indication of the efforts that we have implemented."...’ With video. CNBC here.

Wolf Street comments on the economy: ‘...the European Commission has just pointed out, albeit as quietly as possible, that despite all the untold billions spent over the last four years trying to save Spain’s rickety financial system, the risk exposure of Spanish banks remains inordinately high. Many banks have been caught engaging in “abusive” mortgage lending practices and could end up having to pay back customers billions of euros. But not until after the elections!’.

The Partido Popular now refers to the other three main parties as ‘el tripartito’. Alfonso Alonso, for example, says ‘the tripartite PSOE-Podemos-Ciudadanos has no future: only the PP has a viable project’.

In a departure from traditional socialism, the PSOE wants to reduce Public Debt by selling off some State-owned companies to the private sector (!).

Here’s the full name for the Izquierda Unida this time around (just so you wonder from which bit of the coalition your Parliamentarian candidate comes from): ‘Unidad Popular: Izquierda Unida, Unidad Popular en Común, Chunta Aragonesista, Izquierda Asturiana, Batzarre-Asamblea de Izquierdas, Construyendo la Izquierda-Alternativa Socialista, Entre Tod@s Sí Se Puede Córdoba, Segoviemos, Izquierda Castellana'. Source Wikipedia. The IU itself is an umbrella for (amongst others) the Partido Comunista de España (PCE), Unión de Juventudes Comunistas de España, Izquierda Abierta, Izquierda Republicana, Colectivo de Unidad de los Trabajadores, Ecosocialistas de la Región de Murcia, Izquierda Socialista Andaluza and the Iniciativa por el Hierro…

A nihilist party: Escaños en Blanco. This one has just one point in its program – if we take a seat in Parliament, we’ll leave it empty. ‘He who doesn’t like any of the candidates now has a place for his vote’. They got almost 100,000 votes in 2011! Story at Público here.

The Guardian meets Pablo Iglesias in the Podemos offices in Madrid here.

Running as Nº 1 for Alicante with Podemos, Rita Bosaho, a Spanish woman born in Guinea, is expected to become Spain’s first black deputy in the next Parliament. ‘...“It was about time, wasn’t it?” she says with a chuckle during a break from campaigning...’. Excerpt from El País in English in an article about the lack of foreign-born candidates in Spain...

Running as Nº 2 for the Senate in Madrid with IU, is Spain’s first female Arab candidate, called Jaldía Abubakra. She was born in Palestine but has Spanish nationality and works (usually) in Madrid. She is currently retained in the Gaza Strip following a family visit. Story at Abdo Tounsi.

From my Spanish Shilling blog comes three major and potentially important stories for the British Residents in Spain (and our future). The upcoming General Elections on December 20th (whoever had an election during the Festive Season before?), with four main contenders; the volatile situation in Catalonia with its potential for a break-up of Spain (or a 'regional dispute' at the very least) and the threat to the British émigrés of a 'Brexit'. It won't be pretty if the Faragistas win...

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Corruption (or in this case, let´s say ‘clever accounting’):

How to get State
funding for a Spanish movie... just show your film a certain number of times in a cinema (even when the doors are, um, closed). El Español fulminates about the recently-exposed practice. At least 42 films are under investigation. Goodness, it even made The Telegraph.

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Catalonia:

‘Catalonia's government will continue its drive for independence, its acting head said on Thursday December 3rd, a day after Spain's Constitutional Court annulled a Catalan assembly resolution calling for a republic to be established within 18 months...’. Found at Reuters.

Oddly (perhaps), nothing has changed in the Catalonian situation as yet. The CUP (the small anarchist party that is needed by Artur Mas to form a government) now wants to increase taxes in general, including the tourist tax. Story here.

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Courts:

 

The massive ERE fraud in Andalucía was long being investigated by a svelte-looking judge called Mercedes Alaya: the one who was always being photographed looking serious with her trolley full of paperwork. She was eventually ‘let go’ by the Courts, with another judge, María Núñez Bolaños, taking over. This judge has now passed on several lines of inquiry to yet another judge – including the complaints against Andalucía’s two previous presidents, Chaves and Griñán. Oddly, the same Núñez Bolaños was instrumental in getting Alaya removed from the case this past October, according to El Mundo here.

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Various:

El Almaneser is the only newspaper in the world in Ladino. ‘Kuando muncho escurese es para amaneser’ is the motto of The Amaneser, the world's only newspaper published – monthly – entirely in Ladino or Judeo-Spanish, the language of the Sephardim, preserved until today in Istanbul. Story here, and a contact with the paper here.

‘Getting Spanish nationality and residency now easier than ever for foreign investors. Over the course of 2015, Spain has introduced new laws and revised existing legislation to streamline processes, extend residency provisions, and grant rights to certain groups of potential new citizens...’. From The Olive Press. With the threat of Brexit, nationalisation may be the answer for many British residents.

Franco died 40 years ago last November 20th. Here from El País in English is an interview with ‘John Elliott: “Franco still casts a shadow over dialogue in Spain”. The British Hispanist discusses modern politics and the Catalan separatist challenge’.

With the Paris talks on Contamination and Global Warming much in the air, it emerges that Spain’s CO2 emissions are up – 8% increase in carbon burning in 2014 – 3.5 million tons more CO2 in the atmosphere over Spain.

‘The European Commission has sharply criticized Spain’s transport infrastructure policies, particularly its AVE high-speed rail network and toll road franchises. “There is a risk that the new high-speed lines will not generate sufficient revenue,” it says in a report on the country to be published this week, accusing the government of continuing to build roads “in areas with little traffic.”...’. From El País in English.

El Español calls Briton Robert Dawes, arrested in Benalmádena last Friday, ‘head of the largest drug network in Europe, with an active presence in thirteen countries’. Agents found a ton and a half of cocaine and half a ton of hash, arresting some fifty people in various countries in coordinated raids...

‘The incipient economic growth finally being seen in Spain’s economy is not yet enough to stem the flow of Spaniards leaving the country to seek work abroad. In the first half of 2015, 50,844 Spanish citizens left the country, representing a 30% rise from the same period in 2014, according to figures released on Friday by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE)...’. Story at El País in English.

A European-wide Google Tax? Let’s hope not. Here’s a letter (Pdf, in English) to the European Commission from a number of European newspapers.

‘Want to know the secret to living a happy expat life in Spain? A survey of British expatriates living in Spain has revealed that the key to happiness lies in integrating into the Spanish way of life...’. From The Local.

Our favourite site in English for daily news about Spain: Typically Spanish.

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See Spain

 

‘Discover the Costa Tropical. All along its 100 kilometres of coast, Granada has plenty to be proud of. In this strip of welcoming beaches and pristine coves, a warm and bountiful climate reigns, one of long, sunny days, long evenings and starlit nights...’. Found at Eye on Spain here.

El Prado museum has a new webpage featuring over 10,000 works of art. Find it here.

Benidorm this summer (pictures).

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Finally:

‘Join Danny MacAskill on an insane journey across the rooftops of Gran Canaria. Mixing vertigo-inducing lines and killer POV-footage, “Cascadia” delivers some incredible riding’. Video at YouTube here.

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