Business over Tapas 1 June 2017 Nº 211

01 Junio 2017  Sección; Especiales 793 votos

Editorial:

Here’s an astonishing story: ‘Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, has ruled that the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, must appear in person in court on July 26 as a witness in the so-called Gürtel trial. The court case centres on a wide-reaching kickbacks-for-contracts scandal that has plagued Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) for years now...’ (El País in English). How has the Partido Popular allowed itself to sink so low, with a considerable number of senior party members either under investigation or in prison, and why won’t Mariano Rajoy give way to some cleaner candidate from the ranks of the party to bring it back to something approaching normalcy?  

An editorial from Pedro J Ramírez in Mientras Dormías says that it’s odd that Sr Rajoy is to be treated as a witness rather than a suspect (imputado), and he puts this down to the politicisation of the Spanish justice system. To keep up the pressure on the PP, a vote of confidence – a moción de censura – has been tabled by the Unidos Podemos and this will be debated on June 13th. As no other party would countenance the Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias as the presumptive Presidente de España, perhaps with some justification, the alternative would be to vote against the motion, or to abstain, either way allowing the motion to fail. What says Pedro Sánchez, who would be supported by Pablo Iglesias if the PSOE were to table a similar motion? 

…... Housing:

‘Data from Spain’s Land Registry has revealed that British buyers accounted for 2,150 home sale transactions in the first three months of 2017 in Spain. This figure represents 15% of all properties bought by foreigners during the first quarter (Q1) of the year, placing Brits once again out in front as the largest nationality group active in Spain’s property market…’. Story at Viva here. The article later accepts that sales to British buyers have fallen slightly against 2016 figures. In what might be a more balanced article written by Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight, we find from the notaries that ‘Foreign demand is up 6% in second half of 2016, British demand down 24%’. The article has maps showing where (and who) the foreigners are buying. Mark Stücklin also has an article titled ‘Leading developers shrug off Brexit’ here. He says in an introduction: ‘...Things may be getting better, but we are still a long way from normal’.

The advertising-driven Euro Weekly News says that ‘With temperatures soaring in Spain while the rain drizzles in the UK, British buyers, and television shows, are turning their attention to the sun and its booming property market...’.

From The Corner, we read that ‘Non-subsidised housing prices grew 0.9% on as quarterly basis and 2.2% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2017, according to the statistics on the tax valuation of houses published by the Public Works Ministry. Minister Iñigo de la Serna flagged that it’s the eight consecutive quarter with price rises, although he ruled that there is an overheating in the sector. De la Serna also mentioned that currently just over 60,000 houses are being built on an annual basis, compared with over 600,000 during the boom years...’. Bankinter’s forecast for ‘...A rise in the average price of housing of 4% in 2017, due to a recovery in demand, low financing costs and a lack of new supply...’.

From The Irish Examiner: ‘A Spanish law firm has won over €2.1m this year for clients taking action to reclaim lost deposits from Spanish banks. CostaLuz Lawyers has won 13 court cases in 2017 with more British and Irish property buyers seeking to reclaim lost deposits. So far this year, six banks have been ordered to make payments to British and Ireland property buyers: SGR, BBVA, Banco de Sabadell, Caixabank, Banco Popular, and Caja Rural...’.

…... Tourism:

An article on ‘naked tourism’ at El Mundo reveals that the practice has still not really ‘taken off’ in Spain, despite the resort at Vera Playa (Almería) and Charco del Palo (Lanzarote) - the ‘first naturist pueblo in the world’.

‘Vacation rentals have taken over the tourism market in Spain. In 2016, for the first time, there were more available beds in so-called “tourist apartments” than in hotels across Spain’s main cities, according to a study by Exceltur, the industry business association. This analysis shows that the number of bed space available through short-term home rentals has nearly doubled from 2015, to reach 362,493 beds in Spain’s 22 biggest cities. This supply is 9.76% higher than what hotels had to offer...’. From El País in English here.

‘Tourists go Home’ – the social reaction to over-touristification of Spain’s major cities – particularly Barcelona, Palma and Madrid. An analysis at El País here. In ‘Eight Places that Hate Tourists the Most’, an article in The Independent, Barcelona comes in sixth place. ‘...“We don’t want the city to become a cheap souvenir shop,” says the mayor Ada Colau, citing Venice as a cautionary tale. Since then she has frozen licences for all new hotels and holiday rental apartments and gone after short-term rental sites, slapping AirBnb with a €30,000 fine...’ (The top place that apparently ‘hates tourists’ is Arlington in Texas).   …... Seniors:

From Sky News: ‘Expats returning for care after Brexit could cost NHS £1,000 million a year, report warns. About 190,000 British pensioners currently benefit from a scheme to get care in EU countries - but Brexit could stop this. ... The figure would be twice the amount currently spent by the UK for them to be treated abroad, says the health charity...’. The issue is also considered by El Mundo here.

…... Finance:

‘Spain's economy minister on Tuesday raised the government's growth forecast for 2017 to "around three percent" from 2.7 percent due to a stronger-than-expected performance at the start of the year. "We started this year at cruising speed, which indicates growth will be around three percent," Luis de Guindos told lawmakers during a debate on this year's budget...’. From The Local here.

So where does all the subvenciones – the grant money go? It might be an easy question, but it’s a tricky answer, says El Independiente here. Grants, aid, concessions and pay-offs are spread so widely that there is no way of understanding their efficiency, or even their logic, says the article. An excerpt: ‘...Health, Social Services and Equality disburses more than 1.1 million euros to a group of associations and NGOs such as the National Association of Gypsies, the Scout Federation of Spain and also the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals. We must add 1.7 million given to the confederation of associations of parents of students, the YMCA Spain and the Federation of Large Families. Youth associations get more than 11.7 million euros in grants. For the leadership of women in decision-making bodies in agri/food societies, there are 60,000 euros available and 3.1 million more are allocated to boost consumer groups. Likewise, the Ministry of Employment awards more than 85 million euros to private agencies of worker placement...’. In a second article on the subject, El Independiente lists further grants and expenses here.

From the El Cano Royal Institute comes a paper on the cost of defence in Spain: strategic, industrial and military objectives. The introduction says: ‘Before deciding how to fulfil the commitment to increase the Defence budget to 2% of GDP, the strategic objectives and military capabilities, as well as the industrial and technological returns associated with such investment should be considered’.

‘...The current share price of Spain’s sixth biggest bank, Banco Popular, at €0.67, is just pennies above its lowest point ever. According to analysts at 20 different investment banks consulted by Bloomberg, the “objective” value of those shares could be anything from €1.50 (Oddo & Cie) to €0.25 (Kepler Cheuvreux). There’s good reason for this uncertainty: Popular’s books are filled with impaired real estate assets that date back to before the collapse of Spain’s gargantuan real estate bubble. They are now in varying stages of decomposition. And the prices at which they’ve been valued on the bank’s books appear to have little relation with today’s reality. It now turns out that not even Popular’s management knows what’s really going on on Popular’s books...’. More gloom from Wolf Street here.

Tourism will account for an extra 550,000 jobs this summer, says Hosteltur here.

From Europa Press: ‘The president of Ciudadanos Albert Rivera is attending the annual meeting of the Bilderberg Club, held this Thursday, June 1, until next Sunday in Chantilly, Virginia (United States). Rivera will accompany the Spanish delegation, formed by the Minister of Economy Luis de Guindos, the president of Banco Santander, Ana Botín, and the president of Grupo Prisa, Juan Luis Cebrián...’. This is Rivera’s first visit to the famous Bilderberg Club (Wiki).

The real estate company of José María Aznar’s son Alonso Aznar is doing well despite only having three clients: Bankia​, Cajamar and the  Sociedad de Gestión de Activos Procedentes de la Reestructuración Bancaria (Sareb), better known to the public as the banco malo. The company, Haya Real Estate, made 31.3 million euros last year says Crónica Global here.

The average wage over at the Sareb, by the way, is 110,674€ per trabajador – about five times an average Spaniard’s wage, says El Independiente here.

…... Politics:

The Catalonian independence issue. ‘Rajoy joins with Rivera and Sánchez in a common front against the Separatists’. El País here.

El Diario says in an editorial that Pedro Sánchez should act with his supporters and deputies, to force a showdown with the government sooner rather than later.

The disgraced judge Elpidio Silva (he put the president of Caja Madrid Miguel Blesa into prison a couple of times in 2014 and was fired for his efforts) is back in the news. Silva says in an investigative commission in Barcelona this week that ‘in Spain there is currently no separation of powers’ (i.e. between the legislative, judicial and executive authorities via Eumed here) and he accuses the Consejo General del Poder Judicial, the maximum judicial authority, of serving political masters. The story is carried by Europa Press here.

…... Corruption:

The erstwhile president of the Madrid Region Ignacio González, currently in prison, claims in a private phone conversation – recorded by the police – that Luis Bárcenas made a deal with the Party that he would not say anything against the President of Spain, Mariano Rajoy. The article is at El Español here.

‘The PP is a right-wing, conservative and Christian Democratic party, very closely linked to the church through its sects such as the Opus Dei (Federico Trillo), the Legionaries of Christ (Ana Botella), or Neocatechumenal Way (the visible head is José Luis Mendoza, president of the UCAM in Murcia). However, it is very different from other similar parties in Europe. In our country, the PP acts as an organized criminal gang; The huge amount of "isolated cases" of corruption have exhausted the dictionary, so it is hard to find words to name the new plots that keep appearing. If that wasn’t enough, corruption cases from the use of public funds to make a personal profit, accumulating millions and millions of euros, and sparing no means of financial engineering to reach their goal, have been added other scams in which robberies have occurred to the public treasury, in order to have more finance to cost the elections - illegal financing to play with an unfair advantage - with even the President of the Government Mariano Rajoy involved...’. (And that’s just the first paragraph!). The editorial comes from Diario 16 here.

Hacienda now believes that the football star Cristiano Ronaldo neglected to pay around fifteen million in taxes between 2011 and 2014, rather than the eight million previously reported says El Mundo here. There is an interesting site called Football Leaks, managed by El Mundo here. 

The chief investigator for narcotics in Segovia has been arrested says Cadena Ser here.

…... Catalonia:

‘The conservative Popular Party (PP) government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is working with the Socialists (PSOE) and the centre-right party Ciudadanos in an attempt to forge a united front against plans on the part of the regional government of Catalonia to stage an independence referendum – a vote Madrid strongly opposes, and which it has attempted to block in the Constitutional Court...’. From El País in English here. The Catalonians are considering a unilateral declaration of independence – a document has already been prepared by a senior Catalonian judge (an article in Información here). An editorial in the Catalonian Vilaweb (in English) is titled: ‘Welcome to the final stage. Whatever Spain says or does from now on does not matter’.

Puigdemont’s question to Rajoy – ‘what will Spain do, will it use force against us?’ has not been answered yet, says the ABC here.

…... Courts:

A video here discusses the differences between cohecho (bribery) and prevaricación (malfeasance). There’s a series of these explanations at Economía Neoliberal Para Pobres here.

Fines are now being handed out to cyclists who don’t follow the rules, says Ruedas Gordas here.  

Anti-corruption prosecutors are dissatisfied with Manuel Moix, the senior prosecutor in corruption issues. Most recently, a report that Moix is a 25% owner of a Panamanian society has caused a ruckus, says La Ser here. The radio reports that it has received information from anonymous sources ‘as they wish to avoid reprisals’. The Minister of Justice Rafael Catalá says he is washing his hands of the affair – let the Attorney General decide, he adds (from the ABC here). Moix is expected to resign today, Thursday, says El Confidencial here.

…... Brexit:

EuroCitizens meet with Jorge Toledo, Secretary of State for the European Union. From the EuroCitizen blog here. They say: ‘...In accordance with the position already established by the European Union, the Secretary of State expressed his support for the preservation of the current rights of Spaniards in the United Kingdom and the British in Spain. He stressed the importance of reciprocity in any agreement and warned that negotiations would be complex. The representatives of EuroCitizens were reassured by the clear and constructive position in defence of Spanish and British citizens by the Spanish government...’.

The Spanish MEP Beatriz Becerra was in London this week, to push her proposal for a final referendum before the Brexit is finalised. El Confidencial went with her on ‘this quixotic mission’. The story here.

 ‘The majority of Britons believe that the ethnic minorities in the UK threaten their culture’, says El Ibérico here. Quoting information from the Aurora Humanitarian Index, the article says that around a quarter of all Britons consider that immigrants are taking their jobs.

‘The European Union will offer to protect the welfare and residence rights of Britons living on the continent after Brexit when it opens talks with London next month, according to a document seen by Reuters on Thursday last week. "The Withdrawal Agreement should protect the rights of EU27 citizens, UK nationals and their family members who, at the date of entry into force of the Withdrawal Agreement, have enjoyed rights relating to free movement under Union law," EU officials wrote in a draft paper on the starting goals for negotiators...’. Report at Reuters here.

An article in Politico from Guy Hedgerow on the subject of the British residents in Spain ends with this: ‘Javier Castrodeza, a senior official in the Spanish health ministry, has said that once the U.K. has formalized its departure, British residents and visitors will be treated “as non-EU citizens, with a different health care status” — that is, without free access to the Spanish system’.

German TV considers the Brits in Spain: From Das Erst, ‘Spain: British jitters before the Brexit’. 

Brexit InFacts – Why Brexit is such a bad idea. A beginner’s guide here.

…... Media:

The owners of El Mundo have fired its director Pedro G. Cuartango and now have a new one called Francisco Rosell. Story here and here.

Sky TV is considering launching its pay channel in Spain, says Media-Tics here. The broadcaster could arrive in Spain after the summer, to compete with Movistar+, Vodafone, Orange, Netflix, HBO and Amazon Prime Video.

An amusing Spanish piece from Jot Down comments on the British Media writing authoritatively – if not always correctly – about Spain. (Maybe we should send them by way of thanks a free subscription of Business over Tapas).

…... Various:

Headline from El País in English: ‘Spain plans to reinforce security measures at sports events and concerts. Minister says national threat level will be kept at second-highest after reviewing Manchester details’.

‘Cyberattacks against Spain’s most sensitive infrastructure, such as power and water treatment plants, airports and hospitals, are growing rapidly. The latest data from the National Cybersecurity Institute, Incibe, shows a sevenfold increase in just two years: from 63 in 2014 to 134 in 2015, and then up to 479 in 2016. In the first quarter of this year there were 247 cyberattacks: if that rate continues, the year will end with more than 700 incidents...’. From El País in English here.

Nothing offends people here more than the dreaded phrase ‘competencia disleal’: unfair competition – which is usually practiced by newcomers against a monopoly or a guild and often supposes new technology. Such a case is the taxi drivers and those who seek to enter into the business, such as Cabify, Uber, BlaBlaCar and Fred, who lives around the corner. Apparently the recent taxi strike across much of Spain has been good news for Uber and Cabify...

Marbella has its own narco-scene, says El Mundo, with drugs controlled by various mafias, including a group from Birmingham. There’s quite a topical tale to be found here.

‘The Junta has once again committed to making Andalucía a green energy powerhouse. Officials want to reduce the region’s energy consumption by 25% and increase the amount of energy created by renewable sources by 25%...’. More at The Olive Press here.

A new rule says that only certified professionals are allowed to install air-conditioning, says Salamanca 24 Horas here.

‘Almería, we read, is the second province, after Alicante, with the highest proportion of foreigners, at 18.7% (official figure from the INE). While, yes, there are lots of Britons, the majority of these foreigners are Moroccans, and Ramadan, the month of fasting during daylight hours, has just begun...’. From Lenox Napier blog here.

Come along and meet Padre Ángel, Spain’s saintly leader of Mensajeros de la Paz.

‘Karen Armstrong, a former nun from Britain who became one of the foremost religious scholars has won the prestigious Princess of Asturias award for social sciences...’. The story is at The Local here.

The CSIC – the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – is a stickler for paperwork, it seems. The world’s leading expert on Velásquez and the Siglo de Oro is Peter Cherry, professor at Trinity College in Dublin, and he was applying to join the CSIC in Spain. It’s no use being listed and documented on the Internet apparently, he simply didn’t bring along enough paperwork... The story at El País.

Perhaps the most famous of all Flamenco events is held each year at Lo Ferro, near the Murcia city of San Javier. The Festival Internacional de Cante Flamenco. This year, it’s the 38th edition of this meeting of Spain’s best artists. The dates: 24th to 30th June.

Gay Flamenco? ¿Porque no? There’s a festival in Madrid in late June. Story at El Mundo.

Spanish names are always slightly peculiar to anglo tradition: the nombre and the two apellidos: father’s first last name and mother’s first last name. Sometimes the child will prefer to use his mother’s name (as for example José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero). From June 30th, the father’s name, the patronymic, will no longer take obliged preference in front of the matronymic.

…... See Spain:

The Córdoba mosque is considered as the leading tourist attraction in Spain and third in importance in the world says El Huff Post. Have you seen it yet?

‘...Columbus sailed from Palos de la Frontera, across the estuary from Huelva city, where three perfect replicas of his famous galleons – the Pinta, the Niña and the Santa María – bob anachronistically at anchor in a pretty palm-fringed bay.  The wooden ships and their picturesque mooring, the Wharf of the Caravels, were created in 1992 to mark the Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of America...’. From The Olive Press.

…... Finally:

Raimon ends as he began, with Al Vent. Here on YouTube. Story at El Confidencial. This song was the anti-Franco anthem of the sixties. Raimon is from Xátiva and sings in Valenciano.

Each year, Business over Tapas gives a small financial contribution to The Guardian, to Wikipedia and to Truthout. These and other sources are useful and they rely on public subscription rather than pay-walls, intrusive advertising and government influence.

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