Business Over Tapas 3 March 2016 Nº 150

03 Marzo 2016  Sección; Especiales 1185 votos

Editorial:

Back in 1994, Felipe Gonzalez decreed that some of the foreigners in Spain – the EU residents plus the Norwegians – would be able to vote in both local and European elections. His Minister for the Presidency was the appalling Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba (he of the doomed European Residence Cards), who evidently worried that we Europeans would vote in a conservative way in the local elections. Thus, we were allowed in 1995 to vote only in the European elections, which of course had no impact. It wasn’t until 1999 that we were first able to vote in the elecciones municipales.

Where, of course, and no doubt much to Rubalcaba’s surprise, most of us didn’t bother.

In that local election in 1999, following a small change to the Spanish Constitution, we Europeans were even able to run for office. Few of us put down our names for this honour.

Sixteen years later, there are still very few extranjeros in local government, even with a handful of extra countries with bi-lateral voters agreements with Spain – perhaps for lack of will on the part of the immigrants themselves and perhaps, too, because the local Spanish would find it problematic to give us their vote. Still, there are a few in various town halls across Spain, which must be a healthy development.

An interesting part of the recent plan by the PSOE/Ciudadanos coalition is to give all foreign residents the right to vote (and stand for office) in local elections, and better still, we would all be automatically inscribed on the election roster. The coalition probably won’t make it into Government, but the idea is now on the table. A further notice to gather in the foreigners comes from a European study called Pathways to Power which bills itself as ‘The Political Representation of Citizens of Immigrant Origin in Seven European Democracies’. It seems that, in Spain, we have even less foreign immigrants in our governing bodies than is found in other European countries. El País in English carries the story and says that Spain comes out bottom of the list for integration in the analysis of European parliaments. Again, the subject is now in the open. Why is this important? Without representation, a citizen has no voice. Without full integration, a city is divided.

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Housing:

The Spanish economy is currently displaying stronger growth than most of its peers in Western Europe. The country has left the doldrums of its post-2008 economic misery, and its property sector has kept pace with the more general recovery. International core investors are once again turning their attention to Iberia...’. Found at Business Wire.

Demand for Spanish properties is growing significantly, with recovery in both the residential and commercial markets making Spain increasingly popular with domestic and international buyers. However, so far prices remain relatively low, and are failing to rise as fast as the growth in demand might lead you to expect...’. This one fromNuWire.

The Finca Parcs in Hellín, Murcia, a failed urbanisation, gave birth in 2008 to an action group formed of investors who had lost deposits. BoT has been sent a lengthy press release which begins ‘Finca Parcs Action Group vs Caja de Ahorros del Mediterráneo (CAM bank) & Spanish property developer, Cleyton Ges sl. Finca Parcs Action Group – Lawsuit 2 Victory for the Finca Parcs Action Group with lawsuit 2 in the first instance court in Hellín. The sentence condemns Banco CAM (now Sabadell) & developer, Cleyton Ges sl, to return the off-plan deposits paid by the group members together with interest & legal costs...’. Anyone interested in reading the whole notice, contact BoT or Finca Parcs Action Group.

I wanted to do something on the economic crisis in Spain so I went to Murcia, in the south east, because it was one of the parts worst affected – especially by the property bubble. The idea was that construction would bring jobs, people, and money through tourism. Everyone was crazy about the building industry. Money was easily lent, land was cheap...’. An article from The Guardian finds out what went wrong for so many people.

A useful guide at El País shows all of the municipalities of Spain with their population densities. A town in Barcelona called La Florida has the highest density at 43,000 per sq kilometre.

Britain’s referendum on EU membership will take place on 23rd June 2016. Kyero has looked at what this could mean for the Spanish property market.

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Tourism:

From The Daily Mail, we read that, with the increase in demand for Spanish holidays, following uncertainly in other resorts (Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia), ‘Families are being warned that summer holidays to Spain are more expensive than last year with experts urging people to book trips soon or face disappointment. The price rises come as interest in some destinations has crumbled with families looking to head to 'safer' Spain rather than countries in areas of the world caught close to conflict. ... Meanwhile holidays across Europe are likely to be more costly due to the falling value of the pound against the euro. At the beginning of July last year, one pound would have bought around 1.41 euros. Today it would only buy 1.27 euros, thus holiday cash would not stretch as far...’. (Thanks John)

Tourism numbers continue to break records, with 3.5 million foreign visitors to Spain in January (up 11.2% over January 2015). An alarming 706,275 Britons visited Spain in January, up by 16.2% over the same period in 2015. Agent Travel enthuses here.

Who is going to pay for demolishing Spain’s most infamous hotel? The Junta de Andalucía or the State? More importantly, when and how much? Ideal says that it now appears that the builder of the Hotel Algarrobico will receive indemnity ‘but not the seventy million they are asking’, according to the Councillor for Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio from the Junta de Andalucía, José Fiscal (the same politician who wanted to build a bar and nick nack shop on the Playa Mónsul in the Cabo de Gata). It will be at least another year before demolition of the stricken hotel begins, says El Diariohere.

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Finance:

The Spanish financial system received between 2009 and 2015 a ransom of more than 61,495 million euros in aid through the FROB (53,553,000€) and the Fondo de Garantía de Depósitos (7,942,000€) to avoid bankruptcy, according to the Banco de España. This cost to the taxpayer to bail out the banking sector could have been reduced to zero if there had been already in effect the resolution system that is now in use, and which aims to objectively determine which creditors would bear losses so that the rescue of these entities would be internal: a ‘bail in’ rather than a ‘bail out’...’. The story comes from Vozpópuli.

Investors took €70.2 billion out of Spain in 2015, according to new balance of payment figures published on Monday by the Bank of Spain. The amount lies in stark contrast to the €5.6 billion investors put into the country in 2014 – in December 2015 alone, the month in which the general election was held, €19 billion was taken out...’. FromEl País in English.

News from the Banco Santander, by El Confidencial: ‘Ana Botín has much work outside of Spain. Firstly, there’s the concern about the possible departure of the United Kingdom, where the Banco Santander gets a large part of its income from the European Union; coupled to serious problems for the bank in the United States. The US subsidiary of the Spanish financial group did not present its 2015 accounts this past Monday – an unusual event that could lead to unpredictable consequences, because the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has its balance currently under investigation...’. There’s a hole of 1800 million dollars apparently.

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Politics:

...Should no other party succeed in forming a coalition, as most political analysts expect, another election will be held this year. While the PP is still expected to win the most votes, opinion polls suggest it will again fail to gain a majority. According to a poll last week in right-wing newspaper El Mundo, the center-right party would actually lose votes and parliamentary seats, with many of those surveyed blaming corruption and Rajoy's inability to cobble together a coalition...’. From a Reutersarticle on the corruption issues in the PP.

This week, there are debates in Parliament to form a government with PSOE leader Pedro Sánchez as president, with the support of Ciudadanos. The other leading parties have voted against this opportunity (130 against 219) and they will probably fail to abstain in a further vote to be held on Friday leaving things back where they were. Typically Spanish is following the events.

Released from prison after six and a half years, Arnaldo Otegi says he wants to be the ‘pre-candidate’ for Bildu in the next Basque regional elections – this is if he can break a sentence banning him from public office until 2021. El Paísreports. Otegi’s release from jail (on Tuesday) is reported by El País in Englishhere.

A terrorist to some, an independence leader to others, Arnaldo Otegi has been in and out of Spanish courts and prisons for three decades for his links to ETA, the separatist group that has led a violent campaign for an independent Basque homeland...’. Otegi was released from prison on Tuesday. Story at The New York Times.

Susana Díaz was presenting medals in Seville during the Día de Andalucía (Sunday), while outside the venue, she was being booed by thousands of demonstrators, reports a left-wing unionist site called Tercera Información, saying that ‘mass unemployment, corruption, insecurity, evictions, repression, civil war memories ... all this was reflected in the doors of the Teatro Maestranza while inside the medals were granted. The union organizers (SAT, CGT, CNT and USTEA) reminded Susana Diaz of ‘the failures of her painful management’ in the words of the national spokesman for the SAT, Oscar Reina...’.

If experience is worth anything, then the Irish election results – where, like Spain in December, nobody won, nobody lost – is going to lead to many months of wrangling as un-natural coalitions are mooted and discarded. The Irish Times searches for answers here.

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Corruption:

The Guardianis disapproving of the Partido Popular, with an article headlined as Adiós, Rajoy: Spaniards can’t stomach the stench of corruption in ruling party. As a poll shows 90% believe graft is endemic in the People’s party, voters are searching for someone to break the political deadlock’.

Much of the media in Spain leans towards one philosophy or the other, sometimes in a negative way. Here’s La Gaceta with ‘The PP publishes the list of corruption within the PSOE. 320 ex- and current public figures under investigation (of which, 162 in Andalucía) and 76 found guilty’. Another thousand with links to the PSOE are also under investigation.

In short ‘...y tú más...’ (‘Oh yeah? And waddabout you guys?’) is still a viable political defence against accusations of corruption in politics.

The ABC keeps up the pressure in Andalucía with another report on the ERE inquiry. ‘The judicial siege of the Junta de Andalucía involves almost 600 suspects and 4,316 million euros. Thirty Andalucian courts are investigating cases of irregular and uncontrolled management of public funds’.

In Palma de Mallorca, the entire local police appear to be under a cloud, with twelve of their members now in prison for ‘an orgy of corruption’ (Vozpópulidixit). The police appear to have teamed up with the Hells Angels and other worthies in a bacchanalia of ‘protection, threats, and extortion worthy of Chicago in the Twenties’. Another fifty local cops are under investigation... Worth a read!

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Courts

The Convent of Santa Lucia in Zaragoza was robbed back in late February 2011. The money taken, all in 500 euro notes, added up to one million two hundred thousand, and now, thanks to the rules, the as-yet-unidentified robber is home free: his crime prescribed by law.

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Brexit:

The BoT is unashamedly in favour of the UK staying in the EU (if only because of personal and residential reasons).Here is ‘Five ways the EU benefits Brits in Spain’ from Viva.

From The Diplomat (en castellano) comes ‘The British Embassy encourages British residents in Spain to Register to Vote in the Referendum’. (Thanks Jake) and from Lenox’ The Entertainer Online comes a scary story of how 'British people will not be able to live in Spain if the UK exits the EU, a minister has claimed...'. Hmmmn. Not very likely!

Another story sent by a reader, this time from Mica: The Guardian: ‘What would Brexit mean for everyday life in the UK? Much of the early debate in the EU referendum campaign has revolved around economics. And while no one can know precisely the impact of leaving the EU, it would be likely to have huge repercussions on many other aspects of UK life...’. And an article from the same source, dated August 2015: 'I don't want to be in no man's land': the 'Brexit Brits' seeking second passports. Across Europe British expats fear that if the UK leaves the European Union the lives they have built up abroad could be destroyed’.

Anyhow, according to this from The Brexit Door in an article calledEx-pat Rights – Ignore the scare stories’, we have nothing to worry about.

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Various:

Have you ever had trouble with the Spanish customs while trying to receive a package from abroad? Here is El País in English: ‘Why bringing your non-EU goods into Spain can be a major headache. People buying from foreign websites are increasingly coming up against pricey tariffs’. Many people ‘...are finding out that that online bargain can turn into a nightmare of delays, red tape and extra costs that eventually leads some people to simply cut their losses and abandon their dream purchase in a customs depot...’.

FromTercera Información: ‘Podemos says that the PSOE/Ciudadanos pact seeks to strengthen the ‘Ley Sinde’ (copyright laws) where they would dismiss the law’. Podemos says that ‘the law would allow the Ministry of Culture to close down offending web-pages’.

The wealthiest and poorest towns per capita in Spain at El Paíshere. Pozuelo de Alarcón (Madrid) is the richest, at 70,300€ annual income per family; against the poorest, Torrevieja (Alicante), at 13,977€. All good stuff, though this information comes from INE figures which are suspect. The other ‘poorest’ towns in Spain are Fuengirola, Marbella, Torremolinos (all towns with a large non-registered migrant population) together with some seriously poor burgs like La Línea de la Concepción and Sanlúcar de Barrameda (both in Cádiz). When it comes to unemployment, La Línea (the frontier town to Gibraltar) returns with 40% and Sanlúcar with 42.3% unemployment.

The New York Timeswrites of the ‘crackdown on free speech in Europe’. Regarding Spain, it says: ‘...“This is the latest very serious attack on freedom of expression,” said Joaquím Bosch, a spokesman for Judges for Democracy, an association of about 600 judges that focuses on human rights. ... Even at the height of ETA’s violent campaign, Mr. Bosch noted, the law forbidding the glorification of terrorism was used “about two or three times a year.” Last year, however, judges from Spain’s national court ruled on 25 such cases, absolving the defendants in only six of them. “The politicization of terrorism has been used as a smoke screen to deviate attention from social and corruption problems,” Mr. Bosch said...’.

The price of new AVE trains is always going up, says Renfe, who now buys them at 93 million euros each. In 2004, you could get one for 40 million, although the new ones have wifi... The company possesses 229 AVE trains. Story at El Diariohere.

In Spanish Shilling, there’s a reprint of an article from The Olive Press on the saga of the Hotel Algarrobico, written by Lenox. See it here.

Navarra has become the first region in Spain to legalise cannabis consumption, putting the land-locked northern region on a par with the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. 'Cannabis clubs', where members can consume the drug without penalty of any description – provided those members were already regular users before joining – are now fully-regulated by the Navarran regional government...’. FromEye on Spain.

A Spanish Olympian has thrown this summer’s Rio Olympics into doubt. Windsurfing gold medalist Marina Alabau believes she contracted Zika while training in Brazil in December.

After coming down with a fever, Alabau who claimed gold at the London 2012 games, was diagnosed with Zika back in Spain...’. FromThe Olive Press.

Half a year after Barcelona launched a municipal plan to welcome refugees fleeing wars in places like Syria and Iraq, Spain's second largest city is still waiting for them to arrive. "This fills us with rage," Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, a former activist born out of the anti-austerity Indignados protest movement, told AFP...’. FromThe Local. So far (incredibly), just 18 refugees have managed to move to Spain.

A new plague has been found – attacking and killing pine trees in Spain. Not the processionary moth (which leaves the trees alive), but the tomicus destruens or pine shoot beetle. An alert here and information in Wikihere.

A feminist Madrid cinema – well, really, it’s just a bar in Lavapies run by expat Amanda Hawthorne – is unique in Spain in only showing films that pass the Bechdel Film Test. This tests a film to ensure that it has 1. At least two [named] women in it, 2. Who talk to each other, 3. About something besides a man. The story at El Diario.

A brief (and a trifle dry) history of rice in Spain, in English, here.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ was shot in Spain many years ago. The final shoot-out between the three protagonists is at Sad Hill, a Confederate cemetery. It was filmed in a forgotten place in southern Burgos. Now fans are repairing the site and hoping that Clint Eastwood, Ennio Morricone and others will come to visit when it is ready. In July, the film will be fifty years old. Story at Idealhere. The duel scene on video here.

The Spanish Cultural Institute is the youngest institute of the four in Dublin; it was opened in February, 1974. That we have one at all is largely due to the efforts of one man, José Antonio Sierra...’, an account here of how Dublin came to know José Antonio (who regularly provides useful information to the Editors of BoT).

For more Spanish news, plus cartoons and other material, see Business over Tapas on Facebookhere.

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See Spain:

Escapada Ruraltakes us on a visit to twenty five medieval towns in Spain.

28 Beautiful Colour Snapshots of Everyday Life in Spain in the middle 1950s. Paris-based photographer Jean Paul Margnac, during the school holidays of 1955, had decided to reach Dakar (Africa) by hitchhiking, and took these beautiful photos during his trip across Spain with a Zeiss Contax IIIa...’. FromVintage Everyday.

An amusing blog from the Alpujarras. Here is Carol M. Byrne on ‘The 10 commandments for expats in Spain’

The 200 kms of the Almeria Coastline made a great route for a summer road trip. Driving from Adra right up to San Juan de los Terreros we saw some great scenery along the way. Stretching between the provinces of Granada and Murcia, this corner of Spain has plentiful sunshine most of the year. There are lots of beaches and quaint villages along the Costa de Almería...’. A new post from Piccavey, about an Almería coastal road trip last summer.

Spanish lavatories: ‘...Verdad verdadera: if you drink liquids, you have to pee. If you drink beer, you have to pee twice as much. And if you drink beer in Spain, you have to pee in a filthy, poorly lit bathroom that likely doesn’t have toilet paper (and if it does, you’d better steal what’s left of the roll and stash that contraband in your purse)...’. A comical article from Sunshine and Siestashere. We’ve all been there.

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The Housing Sector: the Stock of New Houses

by Andrew Brociner

In the last issues, we have been looking at the housing sector and have seen that prices are still low and are not really picking up yet on a national level, although there are differences across regions. We have also seen that while there is some buying activity going on – again, in some areas – we are still inside a range where we have been for some years. The lack of decisive price movement is reflected in the sales activity. There are other factors too impinging on the price of housing. One of these is the stock of outstanding houses, which we shall now look at.

Spain has a large stock of new and unsold houses and at last count, according to INE, there were still 535,734 of these. This stock refers only to those dwellings which are new, empty and completed. Otherwise, the figure is much higher. For instance, first, it depends on which year you choose as a base to define “new”; second, only empty dwellings are taken into account, whereas many of the houses were built with a view to sell, but are now being rented; and third, we have all seen, sadly, how many uncompleted buildings there are in Spain. We can see in the chart below that the frenzied pace of new constructions during the boom is being rolled back ever so slowly.

 

We do not yet have the number for 2015, as the figures refer to the last day of the year, but we can see that the rate of absorption is very slow:

 

Whereas the accumulation in certain years was enormous, the rate of absorption is very small. By way of comparison, the increase in new houses in those years was about 50% a year and in 2005, a whopping 90%, whereas in the last few years, the absorption has been a mere 3,75% on average and in 2014, it was still 5%. Clearly, at this rate, it is no wonder we are still saddled with a large stock of new houses eight years after the boom ended.

We can also see the distribution of this stock by province:

 

Here we show the provinces with more than 20,000 of these new empty houses. Most of them are scattered along the coast of Spain, with the notable exception of Madrid. Half of them are concentrated in only three regions. The region of Valencia (consisting of the provinces of Valencia, Alicante and Castellón) alone accounts for almost 100,000 of the stock, with in particular, Alicante having an amount on par with that of Madrid and Barcelona, but obviously with a much lower population. This region represents 18% of the total stock. But Andalusia and Cataluña also have more than 80,000 units, representing about 16% each of the national total.

The oversupply together with the lack of demand for these new houses left a great number of them still lying empty many years after the boom ended. Whatever demand might be starting, there is still a great stock to absorb which could last for some time to come. We shall continue to explore this topic in the next issue.

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Letters

THE MODELO 720 SUPPLEMENT

Free advice for anyone subjected to this outrageous law of 2012: Never close an overseas bank account, even to transfer all the funds to another of your accounts. I'm advised that, if you do, you're obliged to make a declaration to the Hacienda to tell them of this, even if your assets haven't increased by €20k in the relevant year. Of course, if you make the slightest innocent mistake, the fine is a minimum of €1,500. So it pays them to maximise the number of things you have to report. Pretty scandalous really. Even without recalling the humungous frauds reported daily of politicians and businessmen who seem to be immune from punishment. Talk about low-hanging-fruit! So, don't close an account: leave a few quid in it.

Colin (Taken from Colin’s blogThoughts from Galicia, Spain)

Hi Lenox.

Comments on us residents of Spain, voting YES to stay in the EU.

It’s the old Brit, disease. Moan and groan and do nothing! I have friends who go on and on about it, but have not applied to vote. I went on-line to register. Dead easy.

All I have to do now is to send the forms off to my local council. Only question is - will I get the voting forms in time?

The one topic of worry is the NHS.

As regarding your other topics about Spain. Have you not learned that they have absolutely no logic? Ted

Dear Lenox

I hope that we can together defeat the Brexit. Even if we do not get the vote ourselves, we have a lot of kindred in the UK, and a plenty of friends there. We must write to all those who might support our view. I shall write to about 100 people nearer the time.

And what a bunch are the Brexiters! Here we have Boris Johnson who thinks that he is Churchill. Of course, if we had a war, Boris could be a great leader, but we do not need a war. Boris has written a number of jokeish books about Churchill, but when you look at the real literature on Churchill, Boris is nothing. And, remember that Churchill was by no means as good a politician in peacetime. This is clear that Boris is trying to steal Cameron´s Prime Ministership – and of course that is what politicians do, no matter what damage he does against UK.

Most of the others Tories MPs are a sorry set. Gove – need one mention. I saw also Chris Grayling MP of Epsom, (who was named as having fiddled his house-expenses), and when he says on the TV that “We can make up our exports in other countries”. Are we currently prevented from making exports in other countries? Of course not! And if we lose some of the income from Europe, how could this be made up by the “other countries”? We are one of the big countries of the EU, and if it is even possible that our population might reach that of Germany. Why can we not be a leader of the EU, and not chicken off!

And even more is our greatest danger, I am sure that the possible Brexit must delight Putin. Cameron has said how we will be more secured, but he has not wanted to say “Russia”, but this what the danger is exactly that. Russia is run by criminals, who have killed people in Britain. Have we not understood that we cannot let Europe fall to tyranny?

Bill

From a new reader of BoT: Just a brief reaction, I can expand on later. I haven't quite finished reading it all but I need to get on with ticking today's to do list.

It's really very very good.

A concise current collage of what people who live in Spain need to know. It's a crying shame that only a few people get the opportunity to read this. The way you big-picture Spain-issues with this collection of multiple-aspects really tell a very interesting story. Your humour comes across very well, calmly devoid of opinion (thankfully) yet so nuanced by selectivity.

You really do need some "gateways." to get your content read more. I am not quite sure how Guardian-linked- Blogs work, but you'd be doing the newspaper a credit to link this to them. And I think they need this kind of balanced full-picture edited summary writing rather than all the tiresome columnist-opinion writing they churn out.

I would suggest that the presentation of your writing would be enhanced by some cartoons and info-images aka www.informationisbeautiful.com. (I may be able to help you out with that later in the year when I am a bit more settled) I also think that your copy in BoT should be published in Spanish and somehow made accessible to Spanish readers.

Got to get on,

Andy

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Finally:

How about the latest in retro-looking electric luxury sedans? A small Spanish manufacturer based in Linares, Velántur Cars, is launching a fantastic looking machine next year with a reported autonomy of 400 kilometres and an acceleration of 0-100Kph in around 8 seconds. The video and story here and here

Business Over Tapas

A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:

with Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner

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