Business Over Tapas 24 March 2016 Nº 153

24 Marzo 2016  Sección; Especiales 932 votos

Editorial:

Easter is the most traditional week in Spain, with the penitents in their pointy hats visible in the cities through innumerable processions. The Pascuas are the keystone of Catholicism, and are honoured and revered across this country. At the same time, not as many people these days are practicing Catholics as might have been expected, with more of a friendly nod going towards the tradition than the religion. The Semana Santa is the first extended vacation since the New Year, and people are more concerned about finding beach-space than a spot in the church. While fervour and innumerable Easter celebrations are part of Spain’s culture, some of the odder politicians that now hold power are doing all they can to remove religion from Easter entirely (even suggesting changing the name to the rather more anodyne ‘Semana de Festividades’, since the holiday, naturally, would have to stay). Still, it was nice to see that Parliament, usually unable to come to any useful agreements, for once was entirely in accord, all voting in favour of a twenty one day Easter break for themselves.

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Housing:

El Paístells us of the most expensive places to rent an apartment in Spain (100m place in Barcelona can cost 2,958€ per month) and the cheapest, which appears to be Elche. So, higher prices in Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Pamplona, San Sebastián, La Coruña, Cádiz, Marbella and Zaragoza; lower prices in Huelva, Alicante, Castellón, Elche, Torrent, Granada, Málaga, Jerez de la Frontera, Almería and Jaén. Of course, these statistics are more useful for Spanish working families, since foreigners in general will probably be renting in beach resorts rather than cities...

On the subject of rents, Property Wiresays ‘It is clear that the Spanish property market is recovering in terms of sales and even prices but the rental market is not doing as well. The average rent fell by 0.3% in February compared to the same month of 2015, according to the latest data from the National Statistics Institute. Rents have now fallen in Spain for 35 months in a row but the outlook is not too negative as rents are down less than the consumer price index which fell by 0.8% and month on month have been fairly stable lately...’.

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Tourism:

Employment in the tourist sector grew in 2015 by over 7% to 937,000 jobs (or, with related jobs, one can speak of 2,900,000 jobs) and tourism itself is now responsible for 16% of Spain’s GDP. Other good news in the sector at El Paíshere.

The Spanish government believes that the Islamic State (ISIS) may be behind the Tuesday blasts in Brussels and is maintaining its own alert level at four, the second highest there is’.

Andalucía wants to use tourism to stimulate the inland economy and the creation of rural employment. The new sustainable strategic plan has a budget of 231 million € for the next four years and will benefit the 700 municipalities with a population below 100,000. To obtain a complete destination open year round, and at the same time bring growth and more employment inland. This is the objective of the new inland tourism strategy which was approved yesterday by the Governing Council of the Junta de Andalucía and will run for four years... FromTypically Spanish.

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Finance:

From Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight comes this frightening item: ‘Expats: Time to declare your worldwide assets if you haven’t already’. The article begins: ‘You have until the end of the month to file your worldwide asset declaration with the Spanish taxman or face swingeing fines that could make you wish you’d never heard of Spain. Just a heads-up for expats living in Spain that the end of March is fast approaching, and with it the deadline for filing Spain’s infamous Modelo 720 ‘Information return on assets and rights held abroad’, also known as the worldwide asset declaration form...’.

From the same source comes: ‘Reasons to be positive but not naive about the Spanish economy’.

The second biggest foreign investor in Spain may come as a surprise: it’s Spain. This is explained by large Spanish companies having branch companies based in countries with more favourable tax-systems (Holland and Luxembourg are popular, along with Ireland), who then invest in Spain. In fact, Holland and Luxembourg-based companies (whether Spanish or not) make up around 60% of all foreign investment in Spain. Sabemos Digitalexplains.

The average spend on Semana Santa, according to Yo Me Tiro al Monte, is 874€ per person, and 8% of Spaniards – 2.3 million people – will be borrowing money for their holidays, at an average interest charge of 18% APR.

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Politics:

The acting Secretary of State for Energy, Alberto Nadal, was firm in his opposition to renewable energy, especially against its use. In his opinion, the consumers are ‘predators that threaten ‘normal’ energy users. Nadal was speaking at the presentation of the ‘Balance of Energy for 2015’, after warning that as he is office only until a new government is formed, he felt able to speak his mind openly. Reacting to these comments, the president of the Association of Renewable Energies (APPA), José Miguel Villarig, accused the acting Secretary of State for ‘playing with the facts’ and he showed his distaste for the actions of this government towards clean energy sources. Story at El Ventanohere.

Spain’s answer to John Oliver or Steven Colbert (qv) is the oddly named El Gran Wyoming, who has a popular TV show called ‘El Intermedio’ on La Sexta. Like other powerful commentators on current events, ‘Guayo’ uses a mixture of hard facts and humour. You can say what you like (more or less) as long as you do it with a smile. In a recent interview with Público, he says that here, the manipulation and appeasement seen in the news media ‘is brutal’. This happens, of course, because the main print media is owned by the banks and is responsible to its advertisers and its accountants.  Meanwhile, La Nueva Tribunashows with some relish that a study from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism shows that, of eight European countries analysed, Spain’s media is the least trusted. For more useful information on the Spanish media, the Reuters Institute study starts on Page 30.

If Parliament is finally dissolved in the face of fresh elections for June 26th, the deputies will have worked for just two months and collected seven in wages, saysEl Español in wonder. ¡Que país!

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Corruption:

More on the European closure of aid to Andalucía here as Es Diario(sic): ‘...A senior official of the Government of Andalucía has uncovered a scandal that Susana Diaz has hidden the Andalusian public for two years, with regional elections in the middle: the regional government has gone since 2014 without receiving a single euro from the European Social Fund because the European Commission no longer believes that the funds will end up in the appropriate places, given the history of the ERE retirement plans and training courses frauds...’. And what of those responsible? Increasing numbers of participants have found their crimes ‘prescribed’ (a reader suggests ‘time-barred’ as a better translation) – so far twelve businessmen friendly with the PSOE have escaped justice.

Judge Mercedes Alaya, the fierce yet handsome looking judge who was investigating the ERE fraud in Seville, (until she wasn’t), said last week to a group of law students at the University of Seville that ‘political corruption has been accepted here for a very long time, and famously consented to by people in public places of power’. Story at Libertad Digital. She added ‘"The blame for such criminal ways cannot be placed on the police, nor the Guardia Civil, nor on the judges," she said, after criticizing that legal rules put judges under the "sword of Damocles" regarding the amount of time that they may investigate cases "with so many millions and millions and millions of euros defrauded"...’.

The General Secretary of the Galician socialists, the PSdeG, José Ramón Gómez Besteiro, has resigned from his post following the publicity around investigations into his activities, so as to spend more time with his family. El Huff Postreports.

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Catalonia:

Catalonia Nears Default, Threatens Spain’s Debt. ‘When Catalonia’s regional government announced a road map to independence from Spain in November last year, Madrid’s response was to threaten to cut off the financial supply lines to the region. It was the equivalent of a declaration of economic war, riddled with risks, especially with an acutely cash-strapped Catalonia facing over €4.6 billion of bond redemptions in 2016...’. So begins Wolf Street who gloomily adds that ‘... Catalonia’s liquidity problems could very quickly become Spain’s...’.

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Brexit:

What will be the potential impact of Brexit on the millions of British expats living in other EU member states?’, asksExpatica.

...and this one from The Telegraph! ‘Spanish expats divided over Brexit. Down on the Spanish costas many expats say they are prepared to risk their pensions and healthcare to follow their hearts over Brexit’ (the article includes comments from a BoT reader).

Perhaps of more interest, a major Spanish article from El Confidencial on the effects of a referendum on the British living in Spain, based on interviews from San Fulgencio in Alicante (where ‘seventy percent of the 10,000 residents are foreigners’) including this remark:  ‘...although figures vary (many choose not to register to avoid paying taxes) it is estimated that there are over half a million Britons (there is even talk of 800,000) permanently residing in Spain. They are one of the three most numerous foreign communities, with the Romanians and the Moroccans. If we see less of them it is because most are concentrated in places like La Marina: leisure developments full of restaurants, real estate offices, pharmacies and 'charity shops' for dogs and cats, where one rarely hears Spanish spoken and where everything revolves around their needs and desires...’. The title gives away the concerns of the elderly ex-pats: ‘Who is going to pay my doctor’s bill if we leave the EU?’. The article makes a point for those who criticise the expats using the Spanish health system, noting that the UK pays over 300 million euros a year to Spain to cover their citizens’ health bills.

Lenox says: The problem with us 'expats' is that we don't have any representation - either in the UK or in Brussels. The larger picture is that, with all those European émigrés living in different parts of Europe, maybe 20 million of us (four times the population of the Republic of Ireland), we are treated as second-class Europeans. We have no champions, no voice.

The other point - generally not raised - is not so much what the UK would (no doubt inadvertently) do to us in the event of a 'Brexit', but what it would do to the foreign EU people living or working or studying in the UK. Clearly, the European governments would react in a similar way following any British actions against their nationals. Throw out the Bulgarians? Sofia would throw out the Brits. Seek work-permits for the Germans? Berlin would do the same to the Brits.

A happy solution for us Brits living in the EU, at least those who have little respect or interest in the UK, would be a European passport (because, wasn't that the dream?)  - maybe Brussels could become engaged in this?

El Confidencial writes something about the Brits living in Spain and their concern about a 'Brexit', but generally, the local English-language free press is more concerned about offending real-estate advertisers than on sharing any useful conjecture, a rare enough practice known here by the Brits themselves as 'fear-mongering'.

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Various:

Is Spain prepared for a terrorist attack? El Mundoexplains the level of preparedness and what might happen. Spain is currently at ‘Level 4’.

For one reason or another, a lot more Spaniards are now living abroad. El Paíssays that there are currently 2.3 million of them – many studying, many others working. According to the INE, there are just over 100,000 in the UK. Many of these Spaniards are in fact foreigners (often Argentineans) with naturalised Spanish papers. 

FromA Place in the Sun: ‘Spain has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but how does it work? Here we examine how the Spanish health system works for British expats and holiday home owners in Spain. Along with pensions and tax, healthcare is the most common subject that property-hunters ask about at every one of our Spanish buying–advice seminars at our exhibitions. But it’s clearly one of the many reasons that so many people nearing retirement decide to head to Spain, rather than countries where the medical facilities are less highly evolved...’.

5 Reasons for taking Spanish nationality (and 5 reasons not to)’, from Joanna Styleshere.

The revolving doors practice of leaving government for positions in the private sector have been tuned to a nicety by one Isabel Tocino, once a PP Minister for the Environment and now on the board of four major companies - Ence, Santander, Enagás and Naturhouse, worth to Isabel an annual income of 794,000€ per annum. El Diario has the story.

Lawyers against Corruption is an interesting (commercial) site to visit. They say: ‘All services designed for this professional firm and included in this website, have as a unique aim the protection of the legitimate rights of victims of the judicial authorities (Judges and Prosecutor), the police (National Police, Civil Guard, Mossos D´Esquadra, Ertzaintza etc)  and Political Institutions (Parliament and government). Abogados Contra La Corrupcion.

After the Algarrobico, the fight to protect Spain’s wild spaces wages on. The Supreme Court ruling over the Algarrobico was a great victory for environmentalists, but the fight to preserve Spain’s wild spaces goes on. Rob Horgan and Tom Powell examine fierce ecological battles which remain unresolved across the country. FromThe Olive Press.

Another example of the struggle between ecology and tourism: during the (successful) plenary vote in the Balaeric Parliament on the ‘ecotax for tourists’, the local leader of Podemos railed against the hotel sector for ‘thinking more about their pockets than about the environmental deterioration of the islands’. The local leader of the Partido Popular replied with ‘who do you think pays for your wages and mine – the fresh air?’. Story at Preferente.

A Spaniard has spent three years walking around the world to document climate change. After three years, four continents, 31 countries and 33,000 kilometres Nacho Dean told reporters on Sunday ‘It was a dream that I had, to walk around the world’, as he arrived at Spain’s kilometre zero from where he started his adventure on March 20 2013 – and was welcomed with hugs from family and friends who were waiting for him...’. Story found at Typically Spanish.

Barcelona has declared itself to be a ‘veg friendly’ city – to support vegan and vegetarian habits, saysEl Diario. The idea comes from the CUP together with the Asociación Animalista Libera! and the Fundación Franz Weber. Here’s the BCN Veg Friendly Fb page.

The ten commandments for expats living in Spain’. A funny article at The Local.

For Irish readers: Commemoration - 1916 Easter Rising, Málaga. An event to commemorate The Easter Rising 1916. Ireland summons her children to her flag. Easter Sunday 27th March at 14:30. Commemoration at the Plaza de San Pedro Alcántara, Málaga City. Facebook page here.

The Spanish Civil War is remembered in an article in Truthout about Torkild Rieber, the CEO of Texaco in 1935: ‘...Not one of the hundreds of foreign correspondents who chronicled the bombing of Madrid looked up at the ominous V-shaped formations of Hitler's bombers and wondered: Whose fuel is powering those aircraft? The oilman who supplied that fuel would, in fact, prove to be the best American friend a Fascist dictator could have. He would provide the Nationalists not only with oil, but with an astonishing hidden subsidy of money, a generous and elastic line of credit, and a stream of strategic intelligence...’.

The future of the Spanish language, from the Los Angeles Times. ‘More than 150 academics, novelists, poets, scientists and other experts of language have descended on San Juan, Puerto Rico, this week to debate the future of Spanish — and whether words such as "selfie" will be admitted into the prestigiousDiccionario de la Real Academia (Dictionary of the Royal Academy — like the Oxford English Dictionary for the Spanish language)...’.

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The Housing Sector: Population

By Andrew Brociner

Population is an important factor in the demand for housing for the obvious reason of necessity. In this issue, we look at the topic of population as it affects the housing market.

We have seen how during the boom, the population of Spain increased very rapidly and the process fed onto itself: the construction sector attracted workers and those workers needed houses which in turn drove demand. Of course, everything came to a stop after the boom ended, with many people who had come to work in the construction sector leaving and taking with them the demand for housing. The graph below shows net migration and, as can be seen, the process which began after the boom and turned negative was particularly large in 2013, with over 250,000 more people leaving than entering in a single year.

 

 

While we do not have the 2015 data yet, it seems that the numbers have tapered off a bit, but still, there is an accumulative effect of the many people who have left, with over 500,000 in five years. This refers to net migration and the number of people who left the country is much higher – which has other consequences – but here we look at the net statistic as it relates to the population.

This emigration has led to a declining population in Spain and this trend is continuing.

The population of Spain, which throughout the 1990s was fairly constant at around 39 million, shot up from 40 million in 2000 to almost 45 million by 2007 and then peaked at over 46.8 million. Whereas the population had been growing at about 100,000 a year during the 1990s, it began to grow at an unprecedented rate of between 500,000 and 800,000 a year for much of the next decade. From 2008, the growth rate started decelerating and since 2012, the population has been declining with the construction boom over and the foreign population which left, but also because of the very large unemployment figures which led to the Spanish leaving as well. It is now at 46.4 million, 400,000 less than a few years ago.

 

Eurostat's data is at 1st January of a given year, but the data from INE shows that Spain's population decreased by a further 26,500 during the first six months of 2015, so according to the latest available data, the decline is continuing. This decline in population directly affects the demand for housing.

Another statistic which is linked to this and which highlights the lack of demand for housing is the number of new households set up in Spain. Whereas during the boom, a whopping 474,000 new households were set up in 2007, the latest statistic for 2014 has only 85,800 new households set up. That this trend is supposed to continue can be seen from the INE forecast, which from 2014 to 2029 predicts 950,000 new households. This implies that we would now have to wait fifteen years to have the same cumulative demand as was possible in two during the boom. The 2015 number will be out shortly, but the recent decrease in this statistic has been significant.

It is clear that the phenomenon which occurred during the boom, with its large immigration and sharp increase in the population, is no longer with us and in its place, has left much the opposite: emigration, a continually declining population and a steep decline in the number of new households being set up. Clearly, in this context, the demand for housing has much decreased from where it was and as the population decline has structural and long term components, its effects will be with us for a long time to come.

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Letters

The Spanish Economy: My best thanks to Andrew Brociner for his honest and correct analyses of the property situation in Spain!

Per Svensson

Palm Trees: I was interested to watch, by chance this morning, a segment of the Health Check program on BBC TV World. It deals with the palm weevil in a different way. Here in Spain the attempt is to eliminate the things before they kill off all the palm trees, especially in the Med. coastal areas. But in Cameroon (the town Obout, being one of three locations) the local authorities are trying to collect and breed them to provide their grubs as a food source, especially for under nourished children. This seems to be a successful experiment with applicability elsewhere in central Africa.

According to the report, the grubs are high in “good” cholesterol (HDL) and other useful food substances. They are eaten raw or simmered (a nice white burgundy might go well). The grubs are in sufficient demand that they sell, live, in the public markets at about $4.00 per cup, or 50 cents an ounce. At that price they are the most expensive “meat” on offer.

It seems that unlike here, the weevils have some natural enemies in Cameroon, other than hungry kids. The trick may be to find out what those controls are, and if suitable try them in Spain. Or, figure out some way of collecting the bugs at the grub stage and ship them off to Cameroun, before all the palms here, like a number of ours, perish. Seems a good fit. On the other hand if the intention in Cameroon is to cause these insects to multiply, they might also find their way here in larger numbers, just as they have from Egypt and the palm trees here will be in greater peril.

Maybe the EU or FAO have relevant funds for such a scheme. Perhaps the scientists working to control the plague of weevils before they destroy the historic palms in places like Elche would be interested in talking with the folks in Cameroon. Does anyone have the contacts with the Spanish “experts”?

Charles.

There’s a new ‘weevil on the block’ – the ‘picudo negro’ has been found in Almería, it attacks and kills agave plants (the century plant).

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Finally:

Santana with ‘Corazón Espinado’ on YouTube. Great song! (Did we do this one before?)

 

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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