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Business over tapasEditorial:

Two subjects continue to worry residents in Spain: the broken government and the fallout from a possible ‘Brexit’.  The first continues to limp towards probable fresh elections in late June, as cries of ‘...y tú más’ (Roughly, ‘Oh yeah? Well you guys are even worse than us’) are still heard between competing party spokespeople. Meanwhile, as we wait for another important vote in late June – the UK referendum to stay in or leave the European Union – another catchphrase has become prominent, used by both sides (the leavers and the stayers) as they play on our nerves: ‘you’re scaremongering’

they say.

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Housing:

W ether you’re looking for a new life or just a holiday home, Spain has an undeniable appeal for Britons: sun, sea and sand - coupled with cheap property and a lower cost of living.  For those who are interested in buying a property in Spain, detailed information on local house prices is now available...’. FromThe Telegraph. There’s a map of Spain with a guide to house prices in certain towns with over a hundred sale-prices recorded.

The average asking price reduction of homes sold in 2015 was 14%, according to an annual survey by the Spanish property portal Fotocasa.es. Every year for the last six years Fotocasa has conducted a survey of vendors and owners trying to sell a home in Spain. With buyers firmly in the saddle since the Spanish property bubble burst, vendors have been reducing their price expectations each year, and last year the average reduction accepted by vendors who found a buyer was 14%, the equivalent of €33,000 on average...’. From Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight.

FromSpanish News Today: ‘The upturn in the Spanish residential property market which was consolidated during 2015 is set to continue throughout the current year, according to CBRE España’s latest ‘Real Estate Market Outlook’ report published this month...’.

House hunting in Spain with The New York Times. Here.

Spain was the top European property destination for British buyers in 2015 – but Brexit could throw a spanner in the works. Over the last two years, Spain has maintained its historic reputation as the top Mediterranean destination for Brits buying abroad but that could be about to change if Britain votes to leave the European Union...’. FromThe Local.

House valuations by the tax-people are sometimes a little odd, as we know, and now from Idealista comes the news that the ‘Supreme Court has taken the tax authorities to task by knocking down one of their most common practices: manipulating values in order to try to require taxpayers to pay higher taxes...’. This opens the way to appeals by lawyers on unfair valuations from Hacienda.

Little or large – what size is your home? El Paíssays that an average house is 144 square metres, but in some municipalities, people live in mini-homes (average just 50m), elsewhere in much larger places.  You can check your municipality against the average on their interactive map.

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Tourism:

How can the hotel sector counter the increasing attraction of Airbnb? The cheap alternative to staying in a hotel (‘mi casa es tú casa’) can always undercut the big boys. So, after trying (with some success) to either make these Internet platforms illegal, or by making the renting of a private house or room as complicated and distressing as possible (with government blessing), along came a new proposal from the hotels: Room Mate. This has now been followed by a number of other ‘chains’, like Sidorme, Squarebreak, HomeAway and so on. El Paísexamines the phenomenon.

News from Málaga: ‘The ‘World’s deadliest walkway’ the Caminito del Rey sold to private company. The walkway ... has been sold off to construction firm Hermanos Campano for €1.6 million...’. Story at The Olive Press.

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Finance:

The Government’s star plan to help Spanish jobless falls far short of goals. Only 15% of allocated funds have been spent, and just 25% of potential beneficiaries are collecting checks’. Headline at El País in English.

Hacienda is widening its powers of confiscation of our hard-earned money – not just through an embargo to our bank accounts, but from October this year, through confiscating fixed-interest deposits: the whole operation through the Internet. Diario Sur has the story.

For the first time ever, the GDP of the average Spaniard will be higher than that of his Italian cousin, saysBolsamanía, citing the end of 2016 for this historic notice. The average income, noted in dollars, will be $36,650 against Italy’s $36,430. Spain’s economy, quoting the IMF, is on the move towards levels seen before the crisis began.

César Alierta, for sixteen years the head of Telefónica, is to step down in favour of Jose María Álvarez Pallete. Story at El Español.

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Politics:

In a meeting on Wednesday between Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Iglesias, seeking to break the deadlock and find a common ‘progressive’ government, Iglesias stated that he would waive his insistence on becoming Vice-president. Podemos policies would be more important than his post in a future government, said Iglesias, as reported yesterday in El Huff Post. Could this be enough...? Probably not – as PSOE partners Ciudadanos says they won’t support such a deal.

Many court-cases have been brought against corrupt politicians, not-so-corrupt politicians, and against many other citizens and institutions, by a group called Manos Limpios. An article – describing the organisation as a pseudo-syndicate – says that Manos Limpios are now under investigation themselves for a number of irregularities. The far-right organisation stands accused of apparently running some form of protection, by accepting funds to leave certain companies in peace, or to denounce competitors. Most strange.

A possible leader for the Partido Popular (if Mariano Rajoy only had the sense to leave) might be the unpronounceable president of the Xunta de Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo. However, other people are after his services, including the owner of Inditex – the World’s second wealthiest man – who has offered Núñez Feijóo a job as president of his ‘Fundación Amancio Ortega’ – for a cool million euros a year.

The Andalusian Parliament has a new President (similar to the Speaker in British terms), called Juan Pablo Durán. The PSOE politician, saysLibertad Digital, like Susana Díaz, has never worked in the private sector and has never attended a centre of higher learning.

Parliament has agreed that ‘fracking’ will not be allowed on Spanish soil.

Keep up to date with Business over Tapas on Facebook.

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Corruption:

When the Banco de Madrid was closed down (a single Madrid-based bank owned by the disgraced Banca Privada d'Andorra which was noted for its wealthy patrons), the inspectors of the anti-corruption prosecution was invited to check the contents of the security boxes held by the institution. The answer was never given, and the opportunity was lost. Sometimes, marvelsEl Confidencial, one wonders who is on whose side!

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Courts

Huelva judge rules Junta are responsible for paying back Edu training course funds.

Bogus training schemes for unemployed cost millions’. Headline at The Olive Press.

...

Brexit:

Teachers sent packing in midst of recruitment crisis – because they earn too little. Most non-EU skilled workers will soon need to earn £35k to stay in the UK, and schools fear losing key staff’ (The Telegraphhere). If the UK leaves the EU, then Europeans working in the UK who earned under 35,000 pounds would be deported. WHAT do you suppose that Madrid would do to the lower-paid Brits working in Spain?

A fretful article in The Guardian written by an émigré living in Catalonia: ‘For British expats in Spain, Brexit is a cloud over the sun’.

While the British press has little to say about the possible fallout for ex-pats and the Spanish English-language media appears to be more worried about its advertisers than its readers/listeners, there are two articles of particular interest appearing in Connexion from France here and here:

How might Brexit affect expatriates? Several readers have been asking Connexion about the possible effects of a Brexit on expat Britons in France. Here we recap key areas for the lives of expats that could be affected, and we will update this article in due course if useful new information comes to our attention...’.

Does 1969 Vienna Convention help? Readers have contacted Connexion asking whether the 1969 Vienna Convention would protect expats’ ‘acquired rights’ in the event of a Brexit – experts we consulted say it would not...’.

...

Various:

El País in Englishasks: ‘Why did General Franco hate the freemasons so much? Spain’s Grand Lodge is aiming to recover its reputation after it was almost wiped out by the dictatorship.’

Trolling. It’s a popular phenomenon in the Internet. One use for it is to distort polls. For example: ‘Spanish ministry of defence staff vote thousands of times in Gibraltar poll.

Telegraph Gibraltar poll approaches one million votes – after thousands of votes from Spain’s ministry of defence and social media campaign’. A poll from The Telegraph in 2013 regarding Gibraltar’s supposed support from British readers. Well – they asked for it! Now comes another amusing example, where everyone appears to be ‘in on the game’. The British public was asked to choose ‘...the name for a $300 million polar research ship. The most popular so far is the plainly ridiculous Boaty Mcboatface. However, in second place in number of votes is a Spanish suggestion being supported massively. The ‘HMS Blas de Lezo’ - in honour of a Spanish admiral who, inexplicably forgotten by British historians, managed to sink a large number of British battleships in actions in the Caribbean during the 1740s...’. From Lenox’ The Entertainer Online. Later: well lookie here, the suggestion of Blás de Lezo has been eliminated from the competition!

Spain could lose €3.6 billion a year if it bans bullfighting. Spain could lose an estimated €3.6 billion a year if it banned bullfighting according to data from the National Association of Bullfighting Organizers (ANOET). The figures, quoted by Europa Press, are based on the 6.1 million tickets sold last year as well as the 199,000 jobs and 57,000 positions directly linked to bullfighting...’. Report at The Local.

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The Housing Sector: a Summary

by Andrew Brociner

We have dedicated some time to analysing the housing sector. To sum up, the housing sector is still in a period of consolidation. Housing prices are still very low and far from where they were during the boom. However, it is the case that the rate of decline has been reduced recently and therefore, it seems as if a bottom has been reached and there are even some encouraging signs of growth. The country remains, nevertheless, heterogeneous, with some regions showing growth while others are still in decline. Two of the regions registering the most growth are Cataluña and Madrid, which are also those which saw the most declines. The Baleares too are showing signs of growth, but the region represents a very small part of the national total. It is necessary to wait and see the data for 2016 to confirm if there is a positive trend going on and if so, we would be now only at the initial stages.

We have also seen that the lack of significant price movement is reflected in housing sales, whereby, demand, while showing some signs of an increase, is still within a range where it has been for a few years. And here again, there are regional differences. This year will very much show whether we have started any trend, especially on a national level, as some regions still need to recover.

There are also other factors contributing to the lack of significant price increases and one of those is the stock of new houses. Most of these new houses are scattered all along the coast of Spain and in Madrid. The absorption of this new stock of houses plays a part in the time before any demand is reflected in a rise in prices. The stock of new and empty houses is being absorbed very slowly as many of these new houses still remain. Moreover, there is a new development recently, which is that while the demand for second-hand houses has increased, that for new houses has greatly decreased, adding to the time it takes to absorb the stock of new empty houses. This pattern of significantly decreasing sales can be seen in each province which still leaves them with many new constructions. Demand for these new houses is at a fraction of what it was and there is an increasing divergence between the sales of new and second-hand houses.

Another factor behind the demand for houses is the population, which has been declining in the last few years. The population of Spain, which was fairly constant during the 1990s, increased enormously during the boom years, by about six million people, fuelling the construction sector and also increasing the demand for housing. With the construction boom over and the foreign population which left, the population of Spain started to decrease, and the high unemployment figures prompted the Spanish to leave as well. It is now at 46.4 million, 400,000 less than a few years ago. This decline means that demand for housing in Spain is lower than it would otherwise be. This is also reflected in the number of new households being set up, which has decreased enormously since the boom and with it, clearly the demand for houses.

The road to recovery is long, given how far and for how many years prices declined after the boom. We have a long way to go and the issues of new empty houses, with a dwindling demand for them, and the decline in population, which is a long-term concern, are dampening recovery. We have already been in this situation for eight years and the market is still in consolidation mode. Moreover, growth needs to be sufficiently sustained to reduce the unemployment figure substantially in order for significant signs of a recovery in the housing market to take effect.

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Letters

Taking Spanish nationality: With the exceptions shown in the article (‘Five Reasons for Taking Spanish Nationality’ last week), when one takes Spanish nationality they must renounce their former nationality. OK they can cheat and not do so in the country of birth but do not believe that is legal in Spain.  To swear you have denounced the other nationality when you have not means the equivalent to perjury.  A criminal offence.  If it is discovered by the Spanish authorities you have retained the nationality which you have sworn to renounce, be warned, you could be in real trouble. PS Another disadvantage to taking Spanish nationality is that you must leave your assets as determined by Spanish law.  Non Spaniards can make their Wills according to the laws of the country of their nationality.  As a Brit and Irish national, I can leave all my assets to say my wife.

John.

(Crosstalk): One I’m sure I’ve read that the 720 had been declared illegal by the EU, yet someone in the 153 BoT says you’d better declare by the end of March or else. This confuses my simple brain; you’d think Spain would let it die if it is illegal? Is there a quick explanation?

Two - The 720 hasn't been declared illegal- the Commission in its half baked way has opined that the penalties may be a "tad harsh". Spain was given until Jan 23 to reply to the Commission but probably begged off for at least six months since this country doesn’t have a real government now. That said there are still new decrees being issued. But even with whatever half truth may be in Spain's eventual response, the next steps in the process- the Commission going to the EU Court of Justice notably could take a few years and that's not a sure thing. Bad as this lot in Madrid have been, a worry has to be what a new leftish government with Podemos involved would do with the information already sucked up by this diktat, especially if Spain's economic and financial numbers don't get better and the EU imposes new demands upon Spain to shape up. Watch out for "haircuts" such as happened in Greece and Cyprus. Why would Spain let the 720 exercise die? It's a free lunch.

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Finally:

Here’s Jarabe de Palo with ‘Depende’ on YouTube.

 

Business Over TapasMarch 31 2016  Nº 154

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

with Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner

For subscriptions and other information about this site, go to businessovertapas.com

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