Business Over Tapas April 7 2016 Nº 155

07 Abril 2016  Sección; Especiales 1226 votos

Editorial:

It would seem that the secretive offshore accounts that have so plagued the tax collectors are now beginning to come to an end (at least, as we know it). Those tax-free accounts in the Caymans, Andorra, Panama, Gibraltar and twenty other small countries, railed against but never plugged by the tax authorities and benignly ignored by the world’s most powerful (many of whom, of course, have a very good reason to change the subject) are now beginning to be brought to light by leaks, whistleblowers, hackers, investigative journalism and the Internet. This week as is now known, 11.5 million (most private) documents were made public in various media in what is known as The Panama Papers (here in English at the Süddeutsche Zeitung). The leak comes from the computers of Mossack Fonseca, who is the world’s fourth biggest provider of offshore services, having acted for more than 300,000 companies. But, of course, they are but one (one! ) of the lawyers who sets up those anonymous offshore accounts. An apologetic letter to their clients, begins: ‘Certain media have been taking information out of context and making false assumptions about the nature of our services...’. Lawyers, hey? Other private offshore financial house information will – sooner or later – no doubt follow into the public domain. Meanwhile, Hacienda has already started cross-checking the information released with declarations of foreign holdings by Spaniards are foreign residents. Who, they are asking, have filled out their Model 720 forms, and what assets have they listed?

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Housing:

Relative property values in Spain. Why do bank valuations differ from the buying price?’ The Olive Press reports. ‘With the Bank of Spain’s proposed modification to Circular4/2004, Spanish registered banks may now be required, at least once a year, to assess the accuracy of all property valuations and reappraise if there is a significant depreciation. This is long overdue and will give many banks a clearer – and possibly scarier – picture of their current investment standings...’.

The picture of a two-speed housing market is clear from the latest data published by Tinsa, Spain’s leading appraisal company. Average Spanish house prices rose by 1.4% in the first quarter (Q1 average price compared to Q1 2015), but the average disguises big regional variations. House prices rose the most in Catalonia, around Madrid, the Balearics, the Canaries, and Málaga province...’. Found at Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight.

What on earth went wrong? ‘The 2010 Marbella Town Plan is null and void: return to the 1986 Town Plan’. An explanation at Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight.

Banks hold some 23,500 million euros in overvalued mortgages, apparently.

British owners of Spanish holiday homes have been refunded at least €3.3 million (£2.6m) in punitive taxes they should never have been charged. The Spanish authorities are being forced to repay millions of euros to Britons who were overcharged for inheritance tax. There is another €7 million’s worth of claims in the pipeline being handled by Barcelona-based law firm Spanish Legal Reclaims...’. Story at The Telegraph.

On demolitions. The President of the High Court of Cantabria advocates for the rights of third parties who have done nothing wrong to be protected. Story at SOHA.

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Tourism:

The ex-mayoress of Madrid (and wife of José María Aznar), Ana Botella, best remembered for her ‘relaxing cup of café con leche in the Plaza Mayor’ (here on YouTube), has now got another unusual but no doubt well-deserved job, this time as a special assessor for the World Tourist Organisation. Story here.

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Finance:

FromEl País in English: ‘Public deficit for 2015 comes in at 5.2%, exceeding gloomiest forecasts. Finance minister will take corrective action in a bid to contain regional spending’.

Unemployment was down in March, saysEl País, suggesting that an early Easter may have helped the figures.

There are far too many branch offices for the various banks and cajas in Spain – it’s not hard to find two from the same outfit facing each other across a square. The Banco Santander appears to be guilty of this and it has just announced that it will close down 450 branch offices across the country (and ‘let go’ around 1,200 employees). Vozpópuli reports here. The Santander is not strapped for cash, mind, with profits in 2015 of around 6,520 million euros (here). Later, El Mundo says that the BBVA, Spain’s second largest bank, also intends to close down an alarming number of its branches in the long term – with the reported number being 2,800 leaving them with just a thousand branches across the country.

Some famous names connected with the ‘Panama Papers’, as provided by El Mundo.

From Costaluz Lawyers: ‘A Free Guide to Taxes courtesy of your lawyers and tax advisors in Spain’. Download the pdf here.

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Politics:

The negotiating teams of the PSOE, Ciudadanos and Podemos are due to meet this Thursday afternoon to discuss any possible way forward to make a government. It won’t be easy. Several newspapers – here the ABC – helpfully published a story on Tuesday quoting Partido Popular sources as saying that Hugo Chavez, the late president of Venezuela, gave Podemos seven million euros between 2003 and 2010. One senior PP politician says that Chavez gave the seven million to the leaders of Podemos just in 2008. Ouch. Of course, the party was only formed, as Públicopoints out, in 2014 (showing great perspicacity on the part of Chavez). In a related story, the acting Minister for Justice Rafael Catalá told LaSexta that Podemos is more than friendly with any number of terrorists. (Video and text here). The respected news-site El Españolsays that the acting Minister of the Interior Jorge Fernández Díaz and his department have a number of anti-Podemos stories which they leak ‘for political advantage’, at appropriate times, to those newspapers who would welcome such material. It gives several notorious examples...

Jordi Évole interviewed the acting prime minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, on Sunday night on LaSexta. Rajoy did fairly well defending himself (sometimes from the indefensible, but that’s part of a politician’s job). Asked if he would consider stepping aside to allow another candidate for the Partido Popular in the probable elections on June 23rd, Rajoy said that ‘he was no Artur Mas (ex-President of Catalonia) and certainly he would be the candidate’. El Huff Post has the story here. A less kind version of the event comes from Jordi Évole himself, writing in El Ventano, who says in an interesting article that Rajoy was hesitant each time the subject of corruption came up in the hour-long interview.

Alberto Nuñez Feijóo is staying in politics, it seems. El Paíssays: ‘Feijóo relents and agrees to stay in Galicia for a tough election battle. The president of the Xunta says he has chosen the most complicated option and confirms that he will not advance the regional elections which are scheduled for the autumn’.

Parliament is still active, even without a proper Government. This week, they have annulled two star pieces of Partido Popular legislation – the ‘Ley Mordaza’ (Citizens Safety Law) and the last education law known as the LOMCE. From Yo Me Tiro Al Montehere and here.

Compromís "prevents" an investment of one billion euros and 20,000 jobs in Valencia’. The headline from Valencia Oberta. The story continues: ‘...ARC Resorts in a statement has withdrawn the investment of 1,000 million euros planned for the city of Valencia. The Singaporean investors intended to make an investment of over 1,000 million euros for the construction of a mega six star hotel and a casino, together with other investments in the Valencia region. This project would have generated more than 20,000 jobs and tourism growth estimated at 3 million new visitors annually...’. ARC said in a statement that they had found the Valencia Town Hall ‘unwilling to be serious’. (Thanks to John)

The ‘querella argentina’, a case against ‘crimes committed by and during the Franco régime’, has been adopted by the mayors of four of Spain’s biggest cities – Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Cádiz as ‘crimes against humanity committed in those cities during the Civil War and the Dictatorship’. Evidently only those crimes that came from the Nationalist side will be considered. Other smaller towns and cities under the control of Podemos or similar populist parties appear to be expressing interest in following the same line. El Diarioreports.

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Corruption:

Valencia has been in shock for some time now following the collapse of the local Partido Popular there, both in votes and in reputation. Now an important local businessman called Enrique Ortiz has admitted his guilt in his part in illegally financing the PP in 2007 and 2008. Ortiz and other businessmen are accused (in part of the Gürtel Inquiry) of  paying monies against false invoices to a shell company called Orange Market which was used to finance the party. The Cadena Ser has more. Sr Ortiz comes in for some heavy criticism from El Diario, which says ‘Ortiz, the insatiable king of Valencia corruption’. He apparently quintupled his fortune through his political shenanigans, notes the news-site.

The Valencia PP will oust nine councillors under investigation if Madrid doesn’t do so. The regional party is prepared to remain with a single councillor in an attempt to contain the ever increasing corrupt revelations ‘There are unheard recording which are scandalous’ The ousting would be carried out if the national PP Committee for Rights and Guarantees fails to take action against all of them, including the former mayor Rita Barberá...’. Piece from Typically Spanish.

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Catalonia:

Carles Puigdemont the secessionist leader of Spain's Catalonia has ruled out any declaration of independence for the wealthy north-eastern region during his mandate, in comments likely to see Madrid breathe a sigh of relief...’. Story at The Local.

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Brexit:

What would happen to the 200,000 Spaniards living, studying and working in the UK in the event of a Brexit? El Mundo searches for answers in a useful article here.

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The Media:

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, saysEl Diario, as it examines the link between ‘institutional advertising’ and the media. ‘With this euphemism’, says journalist Rosa María Ártal, ‘an opaque monster, out of control, has been created which acts as a subsidy for different media – money from On High which can be freely given... and as easily taken away’. Does this mean that the Media in Spain can be compromised? Here’s Vozpópuli: ‘Europe warns Spain: the plurality of the media is seriously threatened. A report by the European University Institute and co-funded by the EU, denounces the various risks that exist in the Spanish panorama of the media, which, in some respects, is at the level of countries such as Romania, Poland, Latvia or Lithuania. It is concerned by the lack of plurality, of the lack of transparency that exists in the distribution of institutional advertising and the disturbing concentration of companies’. (This is true – Lenox experienced this first-hand while director of a weekly newspaper for fifteen years)

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Various:

No more naps: Spain's prime minister wants to end the siesta’. The story appears at a site called Mashable. It continues ‘Break time is over, folks. Spain's prime minister is proposing to end the Spanish siesta, the approximately three-hour break in the middle of the workday, in an effort to send workers home at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m...’.

Spain’s best and worst universities (as decided by U-Ranking) are listed in order here.

El Pluralshudders to hear ‘This isn’t Spain – the Church doesn’t control the Government here in the USA’. A bucket of cold water back in Spain as this remark is made during an interview with Donald Trump on MSNBC.

The new ‘Register of Sexual Delinquents’ reveals that 40,000 people in Spain are barred from working with children. Now of course, you will need a paper from the Ministry of Justice to say that you aren’t on the register... El Diario has the story.

ThePatient Factor – a Canadian medical site lists the World Health Organisation’s ratings for national health in countries around the Globe. France has the best health service, Spain is in a very respectable seventh place, Norway is 11th, Holland is 17th, the UK is 18th, Ireland 19th, Sweden 23rd and Germany 25th. Canada is 30th and the USA? Thirty seventh.

At Business over Tapas, we are not sure if this is a joke. The Councillor for Education for the Junta de Andalucía, Adelaida de la Calle, wants to wipe out sexist vocabulary (and values) with her ‘II Plan de Igualdad de Género en Educación’: the second plan for gender equality in education. The plot is to eradicate gender violence and sexist attitudes and to oblige the use of inclusive and non-sexist language in the centres of education. Even the Real Academia Española is shuddering at some of the neologisms, such as (of course) instead of los alumnos, one must now say ‘los alumnos y las alumnas’. Los funcionarios must now be called ‘el funcionariado’ and even our friends los andaluces should now be referred to as ‘la población andaluza’. And so on. There’s more madness at Idealhere.

In Almería, hopes for a high speed train to connect the city inland to Granada and outbound to Murcia are taking their time. Indeed, a marvellously expensive tunnel – well, twin tunnels – was built a couple of years ago in the middle of the Almerian nowhere (a 7.5km tunnel to keep the ecologists happy, needless to say) which cost 500 million euros, and on completion was solemnly bricked shut (the shepherds had been using them). The next step – apparently – is to remove some tortoises in the Vera area. More here and here. One impatient PP politician has wittily suggested putting up the tortoises in the local Parador Hotel.

  

Air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe. It shortens people’s lifespan and contributes to serious illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer. We live in such a beautiful part of the world, yet the factories in Carboneras and Villaricos (Northern Almería) are polluting our air with chemicals and other materials which are dangerous to our health, to the environment and impact climate change...’. A petition. (Thanks Phillipa)

A song is upsetting the Ibiza tourist board. It’s had about 62 million hits on YouTube so far.

George Orwell in Spain, Where He First Fully Found His Voice. An article by Adam Hochschild discusses ‘Homage to Catalonia’ in Signature.

While many cities and towns have done all they can to remove Francisco Franco and his Nationalists from the memory books (while often doing exemplary work to remind us daily of the losers in the great struggle for Spain in the thirties), a village called Llanos del Caudillo in the province of Ciudad Real is truculent about any name-change. ‘They can come and we shall send them away again’, says the mayor for the 750 inhabitants. Story at El Confidencial.

Seven signs of Spanish springtime’. Blogger Carol M. Byrnewrites from the Alpujarras.

Where do old Russian passenger jets go to die? The Teruel airport of course...

What do they know about you from your computer? Ask here.

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Population

by Andrew Brociner

We have seen some of the consequences of the declining population in Spain on the housing sector by reducing the demand for housing. But the effects are far-reaching and have other consequences as well.

A large number of people left Spain after the boom, up to half a million a year. In those years, there was no other country in the EU which had an exodus of people on the same scale.

 

The numbers of this outflow are very significant. By 2023, Spain's population is forecast to fall by 2.5 million.

We are now in a phase which is a reversal of what we experienced during the boom. During that time, the population, which had been growing at about 100,000 a year during the 1990s, leaped to 500,000 and by as much as 800,000 a year. With the boom over, population growth began to decelerate in 2008, and from 2012, even began to decline.

 

Among the ones who left, there were the Spanish.

 

The unemployment situation led many people to leave and amongst them are the youngest and most productive, who could well set up roots elsewhere, leaving Spain on a lower long-term growth potential and instead, contributing to the host country's growth.

But what is of more concern is that within that decline, the largest group is among the 20-49 year olds, representing a very large loss of the working-age population.

This brain-drain poses consequences for long term potential economic growth. Potential output is a function of capital, labour and productivity. A decreasing working-age labour force lessens potential output. By contrast, as we have seen, during the boom years, growth in Spain was fuelled by massive immigration. During those years, the population in Spain rose by about 7 million, mostly all due to immigration. But since the end of the boom, with high unemployment, the inflow declined and since 2009, more people have left Spain than have arrived, leading to negative net migration and falling population trends that continue.

The other variable, productivity, has been in constant decline for decades, as is the case in developed countries in general. It is clear, therefore, that for Spain to have higher long term growth, the exodus of young people cannot continue. Any recent growth optimism will be hindered by this fall in population, putting whatever growth there may be on a new lower long term path.

The one thing which could halt this exodus and falling population is job creation. But, the unemployment rate continues to be stubbornly high and therefore is not something which is likely to happen in the immediate future.

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Letters

If you own a country property or a villa in Spain, please pay attention if you receive a certified letter from the ‘Ministerio de Hacienda y Administraciones públicas’ and notify your lawyer or gestor immediately. Through aerial photos the cadastre is ‘re-measuring’ and re-valuing property. In our case these ‘re-measurements’ were completely incorrect, they doubled the size of our property and therefore doubled the amount of IBI (local tax) I would have to pay! Beware and take action on these very improper actions from the Spanish government...’. More here.

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Finally:

We were sad to hear of the passing of Manolo Tena this week. Years ago, the Napier household was inordinately fond of his song ‘Sangre Española’. Here on YouTube. More songs from him can be found here.

 

Business Over TapasApril 7 2016   Nº 155

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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