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Editorial:

The attraction of Podemos was always about resolving the high level of corruption in Spain. Not just the institutional corruption, the greed and avarice of the wealthiest, the tax-avoidance of the multinationals, the grimy influence of our politicians, the rapacity of our banks and monolithic power companies and so on, but also the smaller daily cheating which is so endemic in Spain, where the pringaos, the chanchulleros, the rufianes and the pícaros all go hand in hand, bending the rules, supporting those who tip them well, exchanging votes for jobs and positions. It’s hard to break down such a system, which after all is said and done, works – more or less...

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Housing:

‘How to Find Cheap Spanish Properties in 2016. For some buyers price is everything and the motivation can be to simply find the cheapest available property. As with so many things, you do get what you pay for so with Sterling strong against the Euro in 2015 it could be better to plan a budget and then see what level of quality that affords you with pounds in your pocket. So we have put together a guide to finding the best property bargains that Spain has to offer...’. From A Place in the Sun (Commercial site).

‘A judge has sent a man to prison for denying demolishing an illegal house in Castalla, Alicante. The accused was not released until the building of 144m2 on protected land was demolished and with all the consequent rubble removed. The prosecutor denied suspending a sentence on those who did not re-establish the urban legality...’. From Typically Spanish.

El Mundo publishes an article called ‘La recuperación inmobiliaria patas arriba’, about the current political instability which is causing problems in the real estate sector. ‘Political instability threatens the national recovery and it causes costly problems in Madrid with the iconic Edificio España as a possible first victim. "If the current situation continues, potential investors will be disoriented and, when in doubt, will run"...’.

‘A recent article by Kate Palmer in the UK’s Daily Telegraph reveals that Spanish property is some of the most undervalued in the developed world, and could benefit from renewed British interest when stamp duty goes up on second homes in the UK...’. The story is reported by Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight here.

‘Spanish Property Trap - Is the Door about to Close for British Investors Trying to Reclaim Lost Deposits from Failed Developments?’ Article prepared by Spanish property law experts Alonso & Haro Solicitors in Manchester, published by PRweb.

2016 Southern Spain real estate market report by The Property Finders Guest Contributor at Spanish Property Insight – ‘Barbara Wood from The Property Finders in Southern Spain has several decades of experience in the real estate market in Andalusia, primarily as a buying agent helping clients acquire homes in the region. Here she shares her thoughts on the property market in Southern Spain, looking back at what happened in 2015, and forward at what to expect in 2016...’.

Under the sinister headline ‘A tourist decree makes thousands of smallholders in the Canary Islands fodder for speculators’. El Diario says ‘A tourist decree approved ten days before the regional elections in May has turned thousands of smallholders holiday apartments in the Canary Islands hostage to speculators to monopolize their exploitation in exchange for ridiculous rents or to acquire their properties at bargain prices...’. the ‘Plataforma de Afectados por la Ley Turística’ (webpage here) has been formed to help protect local home-owners who are unable by law to reside in their own homes if these are situated in ‘tourist areas’. A foreign contingent presented petitions to various consulates regarding the affair.

...

Tourism:

Fitur this week, through Sunday.

‘Sun, sea and sangria is still a bestseller, with tourism pouring €124 billion into the Spanish economy last year. And the largest contributor to Spain’s GDP also creates the most employment, representing one in seven jobs last year – a total of 73,343 posts – 5.5% up on the previous year...’. From The Olive Press.

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Finance:

How to create more employment – by introducing more funcionarios, civil servants, whose jobs are generally thought to be to make other people’s jobs harder. Since la crisis began in 2007, Spain has created an extra 30,000 funcionarios – and now can boast 2,542,787 of them. More at El Mundo here.

‘IMF raises growth forecast for Spain despite political uncertainty. In the new scenario, the Spanish economy will grow 2.7% in 2016 and 2.3% in 2017...’. El País in English reports that ‘...The IMF follows in the footsteps of the Bank of Spain, which raised its 2016 growth forecast to 2.8% two days after the general election...’.

If Abengoa were to close down, the Andalucian giant would cost 15,000 jobs and some 2% of the GDP from the region. Already 500 jobs have gone as the multinational attempts to keep solvent. The company specialises in renewable energies and bio-combustibles.

According to El Confidencial, businessman José María Aznar Botella (son of the erstwhile PP president) has been actively discouraging foreign investment funds from investing in Spain, following ‘the short-term uncertainty and a dearth of good opportunities’.

‘Iran and Spain are discussing the construction of an Iranian-owned oil refinery at the Gibraltar strait, the Spanish foreign minister said on Monday, a day after sanctions against the economically isolated Islamic republic were lifted...’. Found at Reuters here.

Wolf Street sums up the fall in Spain’s business confidence: ‘...As political tensions escalate, the chances of establishing even a weak interim government grow slimmer by the day. All indications point to new elections some time in the spring, meaning that the country will remain ungovernable for at least three or four months to come. In normal conditions this might not be much of a problem, but with the global economy edging closer and closer toward yet another fateful date with reality, Spain could well be on the cusp of a perfect storm’.

From El País in English: ‘Spain – A great place to live, a terrible place to work? Spaniards tend to be less productive and more stressed than their European neighbours’. We read: ‘...this is still a country where everybody hopes to get rich quick, where people scheme and plot, where personal or family contacts are everything, and where junk television influences the way people think they should earn a living.”...’. Heh!

The last cigarette factory held by Altadis, in Logroño, where brands such as Fortuna were made, has been closed by the company with the loss of 471 jobs. Since 1999, the company, now owned by Imperial Tobacco, has closed down all twelve of its factories, with a loss of 6,000 jobs. Story at El País.

Spain’s richest 20 people have the same amount of wealth as the country’s poorest 30%, according to El País. That’s to say, a sum of 115,100 million euros. Ridiculous of course, since The Wealthy are never going to tell you how much they've got squirreled away in the Cayman Islands. We also learn that, while everyone else's patrimonio shrunk in 2015, the wealthiest saw a decent fifteen percent growth, making Spain one of the countries where the inequality of wealth has grown the most in the past decade. Indeed, Credit Suisse says the top 1% in Spain have more money than the whole of the lower 80%. Another piece in a similar vein, from Público, says that Spanish capital fled to fiscal paradises (‘off-shore tax-havens’, as the Anglos say) grew by 2000% in 2014 over 2013. Spain’s 21 wealthiest Spaniards – here (via Forbes) at La Vanguardia.

Petrol is (reasonably) cheap at the pump these days, indeed, Think Spain says that ‘Spain could save up to €17 billion in 2016 if crude oil remains at US$30 a barrel as it is currently priced, increasing the country's GNP by 0.5%...’.

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Politics:

 

A German site, Deutsche Welle, begins this section with a story about the new Parliament: ‘Spain diverted from deadlock by dreadlocks. As the left and the right vie for a mandate to govern, there's no shortage of talking points in Spanish politics. That said, controversy over dreadlocks - and a baby - in parliament, provide an interesting distraction...’.

El Espía en el Congreso reports that the foreign media is in agreement that Mariano Rajoy will not be the next president of Spain. Examples from the US, British and German press.

 

An alarming inquiry into the business affairs of Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, by the UDEF police turn out to have been nothing more than a political attempt to prejudice the politician with a ponytail. Público explains. Another hatchet job, from Antena 3, even has the news staff from that TV station indignant at the smear.

Podemos, Ciudadanos and now some senior PSOE politicians are renouncing their use of official cars and other parliamentary perks. El Mundo has the story.

Could the PSOE and Podemos come to an agreement to form, with some smaller parties, a functional government? Ex-president Felipe Gonzalez certainly hopes not and is doing what he can to stop such a move. Story at La Información. What kind of government might we end up with? Per Svensson discusses the alternatives in the ‘Essay’ section below.

The smaller parties are looking for power. The Izquierda Unida, whose number of deputies has fallen to just two, had joined into an alliance with ERC (Catalonian Independence far left group) and EH Bildu (Basque Independence hard left group). But then, the arrangement was refused by the rules of the parliamentary court. Oh well.

Podemos is not all a bed of roses – as the General Secretary of the Málaga branch would admit. José Antonio Vargas has had too many disagreements with his superiors, and has announced his departure, with five companions, from the party. Story at Diario Sur.

We need ‘an independent and respected figure’ as our new president to lead a coalition if neither Rajoy nor Sánchez are suitable – and who better than our current acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo! El Español reports.

A fuss has started following Mariano Rajoy’s ‘Tweet’ about political prisoners. ‘I want the same for Venezuela as I do for Spain’, he wrote, ‘and political prisoners should be home with their families’. The answer came back from Arnaldo Otegi (jailed leader of the Basque Batasuna party), who Tweeted ‘Gorantziak Logroño espetxetik, a ‘saludo’ from the Logroño prison’. All good clean fun...

A survey of what might happen following a fresh election, with (perhaps) a lower turnout, would give more support to the PP, according to El Diario. The big loser would be Ciudadanos.

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Corruption:

 

More than twenty million euros of European public funds have been diverted in the latest epic scandal, the publicly-owned Aguas de las Cuencas Mediterráneas, or ‘Acuamed’ which runs a number of desalination plants. The director and twelve other officials have now been arrested as the Public Prosecutor prepares a case against 35 company officials. Acuamed is in charge of building and operating ‘hydraulic infrastructure in the Mediterranean basin’ and is run under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture. Story at El Diario here. El País puts the fraud at a sum nearer 25 million here. A later report from El Diario adds that one of those detained is the president of a construction company called ‘FCC Construcción’.

 

So, is there a hard copy of the alleged bribes and cash payouts between the ex-treasurer of the Partido Popular and senior party members? Luis Bárcenas might have something stashed away, and so might his wife! The mythical ‘Papeles de Rosalía’ could still appear and, as Rosalía Iglesias herself says, ‘they are all shi**ing themselves...’. Story at El Español. The National Audience has meanwhile ordered a fresh inquiry into the alleged destruction by persons unknown of Bárcenas’ computer held in the PP offices in Madrid.

‘Three euros an hour and get to it’ is the title of an exposé on Cadena Ser (radio and print here). In the construction business, sometimes the workers sign blank receipts and consider themselves lucky to be paid a pittance. ‘It is what it is, if you want it, well fine; because if you don’t, there’s always another to do it instead’, says a worker.

There’s a massive scandal brewing in the world of professional tennis, where players are now thought to have sometimes ‘thrown’ games. El Mundo says that several Spaniards are involved in this developing story.

An El País investigation: ‘Spaniards mistrust the Establishment, but is Spain a corrupt place?’. It begins: ‘A thousand politicians with lawsuits pending. The courts overwhelmed. 95% of citizens believe that the system favours impunity. A portrait of one of the worst scourges of the country’. The story here.

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Catalonia:

 

From El País in English: ‘New Catalan premier admits he lacks backing to declare independence. Carles Puigdemont says Catalonia will not make unilateral break from Spain’. The report notes that ‘...After addressing the issue that has been uppermost on many people’s minds in recent days, Puigdemont said in a TV interview: “We will not make a unilateral declaration of independence. It is not on the program.”...’ The Economist features an article on the new Catalonian President called ‘Rebel, Rebel’, here.

...

Essay:

PODEMOS AT THE GATES OF THE MONCLOA

By Per Svensson

 

The parliamentary elections on the 20th of December were a historic defeat for the two parties that since the Franco-dictatorship have shared power and commissions on the local, regional and national level. The governing Partido Popular (conservatives) lost 63 seats in parliament (Congreso) and the socialists another 20. PP has now 123 deputies and PSOE only 90. Two new parties, both promising to end the corrupt power-sharing of the established ones made a great entry: the left-leaning Podemos occupied 69 seats and the liberal Ciudadanos 40. The leftist coalition IU got 2 seats and 4 nationalist parties in Catalonia and the Basque countries share the remaining 25.

However, the Spanish parliament has a total of 350 deputies, and 176 deputies are thus needed to form a government (by one party or a coalition). The options are: 1. A grand coalition by the losers, headed by present prime minister Rajoy, continuing the politics of the last four years. Such a coalition would tear the PSOE apart and make them lose even more votes in the next election. 2. A coalition by the same losers, with Ciudadanos as a thin fig leaf. The result for the PSOE would be the same as in option 1. A third option could be a coalition of PSOE, Podemos and Ciudadanos, supported by IU and some moderate nationalists.

The divided Sánchez

 

The new and young general secretary of the PSOE, Pedro Sánchez, is biting his nails. The power-hungry president of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, is throwing sticks into his wobbling wheels all the time with the aim to replace him in the party and get herself out of the regional politics before the corruption trials of two previous leaders of the region and the Andalucian socialist party heats up.

Sánchez has categorically refused support from the socialists for another Rajoy government, but seems to lack the courage for open negotiations with Podemos. He has made a deal with the PP, giving that party the majority in the leadership of the congreso in exchange for the socialist leader Patxi López becoming president of the parliament. Podemos suspects that a secret understanding between the old parties exist to share the power, and has attacked Sánchez forcefully. The socialist leader has hit back.

Podemos has presented its conditions for collaboration with the PSOE. One of the most important is that the three territorial alliances that led to the spectacular elections result of Podemos, should also be accepted as independent groups within Parliament. They are En Comú Podem in Catalonia, that harvested 24.74% of all votes in the region and 12 deputies in the national parliament; Compromis-Podemos-Ès in the Valencia region, with 25.09% of the vote and 9 deputies, and Mareas y Anova in Galicia, with 25.04 of the votes and 6 deputies. This question is closely connected with the demand by the nationalist groups in Catalonia for complete separation from Spain. Many observers overlook the fact that the nationalists are in disarray due to poor results in the December elections, and that a national party (Podemos) became the most voted in the region.

Podemos is not promoting independence for Catalonia, but supports a referendum on the question. The party may well become the glue that binds Spain together.

Podemos has also introduced a «law on social emergency» to improve the situation for millions of Spanish still without work and unemployment support, that in many cases have lost their dwellings due to iniquitous mortgage contracts by the banks. How can a socialist party avoid supporting such an initiative?

Legal technicalities

 

This article is written in the middle of January. At any time, the King can be expected to invite Mariano Rajoy, as leader of the party with the most votes, the task to form a new government that may win approval in the congreso. Rajoy is hoping to get the tacit support of the PSOE and Ciudadanos. The chances of success appear to be very slim.

The challenge could then pass to Sánchez of PSOE. But without a deal with Podemos, also this alternative is not viable.

What is then the next step? New elections!

 

It will take a couple of months before such new elections can take place, and Spain may in the best of scenarios not have a new government until the summer. In the meantime Spain is in a state of paralysis.

 

Which party will win in new elections? Difficult to say. Maybe it is easier to pick the losers:

PP under the leadership of Rajoy, hit by new corruption cases every week.

PSOE, plagued by internal leadership struggles and lack of political courage.

Ciudadanos, that Sánchez rightfully labeled ‘Nuevos Generaciones del Partido Popular’ (PP youth generation).

If no solutions are found in the coming weeks, 2016 may become another lost year for Spain.

 

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Various:

From PaleoramaEnRed, we read of the wanton destruction of a Neolithic site in Huelva. It seems that the site – discovered in 2006 – has been filled in as part of the planned AVE station in the city. Things aren’t much better in Las Vegas de San Antonio, in the province of Toledo, where a Roman mausoleum from the IV Century AD is being used as a local tip. Story and pictures at En Castillalamancha.

Spanish saffron is the best... and it has now become clear, following chemical analysis by Spanish and Czech researchers that not all saffron labelled as Spanish is the real thing, indeed, over 50% of the spice is mislabelled. An article at Sinc says, that in Castilla-La Mancha, the annual production of saffron is around 2,800 kilos, yet Spain exported almost 36,000 kilos of saffron labelled as coming from this region last year. Morocco, Iran and India produce lower quality saffron, which is evidently sometimes re-labelled as Spanish.

‘Moving to Spain with Children. It is more than natural to have worries and doubts before the big step. But you can be absolutely sure: Spain is one of the most kids friendly countries in the world and Spaniards love children, their own and everyone else’s alike. Depending on your kid’s age the transition can go differently, and the younger the child the easier it will be...’. Found at BLL.

‘HBO plans to start a stand-alone Web service in Spain, opening a new front against Netflix Inc. in an increasingly global competition for cord-cutters. By the end of this year, residents in Spain will have access to an HBO streaming service for the first time, making the Time Warner Inc.-owned network’s programming available without a pay-TV subscription...’. The report comes from Bloomberg.

The ‘monarchist, conservative and Catholic’ daily newspaper the ABC, which has been around since 1903, is on the market by the owners, Vocento.

The mobile app Alertcops allows, in a simple and intuitive way, to send an alert with geographic location to the Spanish police. Video here (Spanish with English subtitles)

The writer of the blog Leftbanker lives in ValenciaCity. He hasn’t driven a car in nine years. He’s a bicycle fan. ‘...Here in Valencia almost all of my transportation is by bike or on foot. When I travel away from the city it’s by train. I have the option to use a very fine mass transit system in Valencia of busses and underground metro but it’s just easier and faster for me to travel by bicycle...’.

The population projection for Spain 1960-2060: graphic here.

Satire:

......

 

‘95 % of Brit Expats Sent Back to UK for Failing Language Test. The biggest movement of migrants since the Second World War began today, as countries across the world demanded UK expats had to speak the language of their chosen country, or they had to leave…and most failed. Foreign officials have said the test wasn’t even that rigorous. You only had to know how to say “Two Beers”, “Please”, “No”, “Yes” and “Do you have real brown sauce?” but almost one hundred per cent flunked it. A Foreign Office Spokesman said: “We don’t know how to cope with the influx, even some Brits in Australia failed the test, as they didn’t add “mate” to the end of the brown sauce question.”...’. The joke article comes from The London Economic.

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Letters

Hello Lenox

I am getting the impression that a large percentage of Brits living in Spain are going into panic mode re Brexit. This is balanced by others who would like to see an exit. I find most of the latter are really considering what is best for the UK not for themselves.

This I feel is beginning to show in BoT for example in issue 142 it as stated that 46% of economists thought exit would be a "Disaster" for the UK. Does this not leave a majority of 54% who think not! Therefore should it have not read that 54% of economists think that (at the least) there will be no problem if the UK leaves the EU?

I think it would be a pity if BoT became partisan as I have always thought it to be very well balanced.

As I have mentioned before Lenox I lived in Spain under Franco and before the EU and found it not a fate worse than death. In fact in some ways it had its advantages.

I have forwarded a relative news item.

Best regards

John

‘Nothing to fear from EU exit but fear itself, says Lawson: Tory grandee insists Britain would retain control of its destiny and trade would prosper. He said the country would retain control of its destiny and stop having to send a net £10billion to Brussels every year’. Headline in The Daily Mail.

Hi John - I haven't found much in the media on the subject of Brexit angled towards what it would mean for the expats... I think that this is because, nobody knows (or, or course, cares).

I was here under Franco too, but in those days, we foreigners were liked because of our full pockets. When he died, we all went to the misa in the village church, much to the priest's surprise. We were there, of course, to show our respect. When we got out, the villagers were waiting for us, and they weren't happy. The mayor suddenly spoke up and broke the tension: Antonio, go and open the bar, the foreigners are thirsty!

Un abrazo, Lenox

 

 

From Jake, another admirer of the INE statistics people:

Esto es un tío de estos que hacen el censo que va a Lepe a rellenar encuestas y llama a una puerta:

- Ding gong

- Bueno día

- Buenos días, vera, soy del Instituto Nacional de Estadística y vengo de Madrid para saber cuánta gente vive en España.

- Po lo siento musho po'l camino que s'ha recorrio en vano pa vem-me,

pero yo no tengo n'idea...

...

Finally:

A jolly song from the Colombian star Juanes – La Camisa Negra. Cor! Youtube here.

...

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