Business Over TapasMay 5 2016 Nº 159

05 Mayo 2016 930 votos

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Editorial:

Spanish society is becoming wound up in another battle – this time it’s not about employment, honest politicians, nationalism, sexual equality or vice – but rather for the status of animals. It is centred on the bulls, naturally enough, since Spain is one of only a few countries in the world where you will still find la tauromachía practiced, but also increasingly around the ethical treatment of other creatures.

For example, should feral cats be neutered?  They infest certain barrios and towns, particularly in tourist areas where they are fed by well-meaning residents. The law in Catalonia says that they can’t be poisoned as they are considered ‘companion animals’, so the choices there are a costly neutering program (the one that gets away will have numerous kittens) or simply doing nothing, in the hope that they’ll move away (they won’t). The rest of Spain appears to leave the problem and solution to the local municipality.

Abandoned dogs are not left to live in colonias as the cats are, but are rather taken to shelters where they may meet their end in 72 hours, although some regions have banned euthanasia and the animals are presumably kept there, perhaps forever. There are some 110,000 dogs abandoned each year in Spain, and we have all seen the touching adverts of the forsaken dog on the road saying ‘I would never leave you’.

Other animals seem to be under the protection of Seprona (a unit of the Guardia Civil) and some species will be considered ‘invasive’ (the raccoon for example) and will be trapped and destroyed.

And so, the bulls. There is the traditional corrida loved or hated (or mostly ignored) by Spaniards,  illegal now in a few parts of Spain (probably for political rather than ethical reasons) and then there’s the much less formal bull-baiting, known in Catalonian as ‘correbou’. This is some form of bull-running – usually a local festival of questionable taste. A recent story much in the news this week has two protestors filming an event being violently set upon by some supporters. Were the protestors – known as antitaurinos – guilty by their actions of provoking the supporters or not? – the Reader must decide for him or herself. Another more famousantitaurino, the Dutchman Peter Jannsen, who sometimes jumps into a bullring during a faena, is putting the participants in danger (as if there wasn’t enough already in the bullring). So, are the animal-rights people guilty of sometimes choosing an animal’s life over a human’s? Perhaps so. Another question to consider: Should an ‘anti’ have the right, either moral or indeed legal, to interrupt a lawful activity paid for by a crowd of enthusiasts?

There’s even an animal-rights political party in Spain called PACMA (Wiki), which, if a little light on general policy, is firm on anything to do with animals. It naturally wants bullfighting banned. It pulled 220,000 votes in the General Elections in December.

So, are animals to be eaten, worked, hunted and kept as pets, as seems to be the traditional role for them, or should they be treated as Beings trapped within a ball of fur, but with human feelings and rights?

The last word goes to a bullfighter called José Antonio Morante de la Puebla, who, faced with an antitaurino protest in Ronda last year, said ‘I’m a bullfighter, not a murderer’.

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Housing:

Brits looking to buy property abroad are being firmly advised to make sure they do their research and homework before they part with their money. The warning comes as new figures show that sales to Brits of homes in Spain soared in 2015, rising by nearly 50% to 9700 properties compared with 6700 the year before. The most popular regions were Andalucía and Valencia, both with more than 3000 British buyers, followed by the Canary Islands with more than 1200 Brit purchases. The Balearics and Murcia were also popular...’. Useful advice from HM Govt.

FromThe Olive Press: ‘New property classifications being introduced by the Junta could see hundreds of expats’ homes face demolitions. The Junta de Andalucía is pressuring town councils to classify buildings on non-urbanisable land as either ‘legal’, ‘DAFO’ (accepted without planning permission) or ‘illegal’. Those labelled illegal – those built on protected areas such as river floodplains – will begin a process leading to demolition.

A comment reads: ‘We went to a SOHA meeting the other week and were given a talk on DAFO. Obviously, like absolutely everything else that the Junta de Andalucía comes up with, it’s a load of pants. They have decided that 99% of all independent rural properties built after 1975 will be either DAFO (‘alegal’) or illegal which will lead to eventual demolition – only 1% of properties will actually be legal. So even if you went through all the right procedures, used reputable lawyers and have all the right paperwork now, the Junta de Andalucía will reverse it and make your house virtually worthless. In other words, they have moved the goalposts yet again and retrospectively changed the law. Who says they won’t do it again and next time to coastal properties?...’.

Also from The Olive Press, an interesting piece called ‘Triple threat for supply and demand in Spain’s property market’.

El Mundo has an article called ‘the five most common tricks and lies used to sell a house’. You can waste a lot of time house-searching, when the advertised rooms are smaller in reality, or the ‘excellent situation’ isn’t so fine after all. Often, those ‘community charges’ are a lot higher than the buyer has been led to believe, or the state of the house or apartment is not as good as the seller was claiming...

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Tourism:

All is not well in Palma de Mallorca. Graffiti reading ‘Stop guiris’, ‘El turisme destrueix la ciutat’ and ‘Refugees Welcome, tourist go home’ are appearing on the walls of the city. Perhaps, one can have too much of a good thing? Story at Hosteltur.

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Finance:

Those who are enjoying having money returned from their bank following the change in the mortgage laws about the ‘floor clauses’- some two million people, says El Confidencial, will be shocked to discover that they will have to pay tax on this refund.

Foreclosures – returning to bite the banks, saysWolf Street. The European Commission has launched a formal legal procedure against Spain for failing to protect consumers against the abusive clauses that proliferate in Spanish mortgage contracts. ‘...In Spain, more than in most places, debt stays with you until death do you part; it is never forgiven nor forgotten, and mortgages are “full recourse.” Even when a bank, often with the heavy-handed assistance of the forces of law and order, has repossessed someone’s home, that person could still be left on the hook for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of euros of debt...’.

FromThe New York Times: ‘...Across Europe, economic growth has helped bring the unemployment rate down. But in Spain, the rate is 20 percent, according to European Union surveys, and has been above that level for over five years, even as the country’s economy has been recovering...’.

The Economist has a similar line: ‘As Spanish unemployment ticks up again, many workers are sinking into poverty’. The article notes ‘...The gap between the government-championed economic figures and the reality of many people's lives explains why Mr Rajoy's centre-right Popular Party (PP) has shed half its support since winning an absolute majority at the 2011 general election. The bump in first-quarter unemployment was partly seasonal as temporary Christmas jobs were shed, but the five European regions with the worst unemployment are all in Spain, according to Eurostat figures. Southern Andalucía, Spain's most populous region, leads the list at a whopping 35%. Almost half of the country's unemployed have not worked for more than two years....’. The article is discussed at Públicohere.

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General Elections June 26:

Despite the generalised wish for change, the participation last time round on December 20 was 73.2% of the electorate, four points higher than the general election in 2011, but below the average turnout during democracy. Looking ahead to June 26 and the general tiredness of the electorate and with the polls showing little change the likelihood is abstention will be high...’. An article on the four main parties at Typically Spanish.

The candidates from the four leading parties have agreed (this time) to a televised debate. When and where have yet to be decided.

FromThe Guardian. ‘...On Monday, the deadline for reaching a power-sharing deal passed, and another round of elections must now be held in June, forcing people like Jornet to wait a further three or more months for solutions to their problems. Yet a second, expensive round of campaigning may change very little, with polls predicting similar results to December’s vote...’. The newspaper also has an editorial on Spain’s political problems.

According toEl País in English, ‘New June election will benefit PP, poll confirms. Despite forecast, Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez says no to grand coalition with conservatives’.

Intellectuals support the proposal for a two-round election process, says El Español. The only problem with this is that it would exclude all regional parties from parliament. The news-site asks 18 popular thinkers three pertinent questions: 1) Who is responsible for the lack of an agreement over the governability of Spain. 2) What do you think about having to have fresh elections? 3) What measures could be brought in to stop this happening again?

The results of two new voter surveys released Sunday indicate the conservative Partido Popular (PP) of acting-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy may fare better in upcoming June 26th general elections than in first-round balloting on Dec. 20th, though the polls are at odds over the fate of the leading opposition Socialist party (PSOE) as a result of an anticipated electoral pact between anti-austerity party Podemos and the Izquierda Unida coalition...’. Found at Progressive Spain.

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Politics:

Esperanza Aguirre, the ex-president of the Region of Madrid, says that Mariano Rajoy should resign as leader of the Partido Popular ‘before the elections’.

A small misunderstanding ... The General Director of the Police is on record as saying that Podemos is a threat to our democracy. Ignacio Cosido made the observation on a TV show (video and article here). We are reminded that the law says that the police and security forces must act in complete impartiality and political neutrality at all times. The Podemos answer was not long in coming. ‘Spain deserves a professional general director of the police and not one who spends his time chitty-chattering on the TV’.

Why is it that so many senior members of the PSOE dislike their leader Pedro Sánchez asksEl Diario. The PP, it says, keeps its internal problems close to its chest, whereas the PSOE is exposing its vitals for the world to see. Senior members against Sánchez include Susana Díaz, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Carme Chacón (who has just dropped her candidacy as leader of the socialist in Catalonia, the PSC), Eduardo Madina, and Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. An editorial at El Ventano is harsh in its criticism of recent PSOE strategy.

...By the look of it, the actual data of the Spanish economy is much worse than what they tell us. Zapatero began to falsify GDP figures in his day and Rajoy continued telling the same lies to the point that our real GDP is now between fifteen and twenty percent less than the official score. There are many ways to calculate it, but the simple fact that our GDP is now equal to that of the days when a million more people were working than now, and twice as much building was going on, with more electricity and diesel consumed, makes it clear that something isn’t right about the figures. It is not that we suddenly have become a science-oriented economy. And again, it is not that, if we compare ourselves with other countries similar to ours, that we have suddenly experienced an explosion of efficiency. It is that the data itself is a lie. So, our debt of 100% of GDP is in reality but much higher. We are nearer to 120%...’. From an essay intriguingly titled ‘Why Part of the Right Wing Supports Podemos’ at Fraude Fiscal.

El Diario prints an article saying that three out of every four Spaniards consider that the Nation’s politicians are more interested in their careers than in their service to the country. They are only in politics for personal gain. Who would have guessed?

...

Corruption:

Hidden in the accounts is a Caja B – a second black account. These programs ‘software de doble uso’ are now available and lurk in many an accountant’s computer. Now it seems that Hacienda is wise to this and is concentrating on auditing restaurants, beach-bars, butchers and so on, searching for these programs. El Confidencial has more.

How much does it cost each Spaniard to cover losses to the State for fiscal fraud? An estimate quoted in Nueva Tribuna from Gestha (the technical arm of Hacienda) suggests the cost is somewhere between 800 and 1,000€ each person for the 253,000 million underground economy in Spain.

A small cock-up in Valencia. The junior league of the Partido Popular (called ‘Nuevas Generaciones’) had gleefully denounced the left-wing Valencian Government of wasting money (all of 2,500 euros) on beer, in a campaign called Birragate, which earned them a full page in the ABC. Sadly – it later turned out – the frivolity had been organised by the previous PP Government. Oh, the embarrassment!

......

Deflation and the ECB

by Andrew Brociner

Consumer prices continue to decline. The latest figure for Spain in March was – 1% compared to the same month last year, which was also the figure for February. Prices in Spain have continuously declined for two years now, with the last positive figure going back to May two years ago, and had skirted around zero since October 2013. Inflation in Spain is below the European average and in fact, one of the lowest in Europe.

 

In view of this deflation and weak growth in the eurozone, Draghi lowered interest rates again in March into negative territory. The deposit rate is now – 0.4%. This effectively charges banks on their deposits with the ECB. While these measures will be kept in place for the foreseeable future, he acknowledges that rates cannot continue to decrease continuously and that there is some limit to this as far as monetary policy is concerned. This implies that the policies will take other forms, such as continuing and expanding its asset purchases, rather than just lowering interest rates. The ECB's programme of accommodative monetary policy is expected to run to March 2017 and beyond if necessary.

The recent decline in oil prices has added to the deflationary pressures present in the eurozone. In addition, although the euro had fallen against the dollar from a high of 1.4 to close to parity, it has this year been steadily regaining ground. This recent rise in the euro is also adding to the deflationary pressure. In this way, external factors are contributing to the deflationary trend.

While these policy measures are being taken and Draghi is doing all he can within his mandate to combat these deflationary pressures, one has to wonder if we will not reach the point at which, if this trend continues, monetary policy will become ineffective. Draghi is all too aware that what is important is breaking the expectations of future deflation, whereby people put off purchases, where they can, in anticipation of lower prices to come, and also whereby lower prices lead to lower wages, thus taking the country into a deflationary spiral. In our comparisons with Japan, a country which has been stuck in deflation and weak growth for many years, we underlined the demographic roots to these problems. That some European countries, especially Spain, have similar demographic structures – and not surprisingly have already had two years of continuous deflation – does not bode well for the usual macroeconomic remedies. They are not really addressing these fundamental issues and sooner or later, one will have to come to terms with them if we are not to take the same route.

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Brexit:

The Wall Street Journal (pay-wall) has an interesting and rare article on the ex-pats and the referendum called ‘In ‘Brexit’ Vote, British Expats Represent an Unknown Factor’. They rely on official figures for the following: ‘...Around 1.2 million live in the EU’s 27 other member states, with Spain home to the most, about 300,000 Britons. What would happen if Britain votes to leave the EU is a key unanswered question for these expats, who could face additional bureaucratic hoops and extra expenses on health care or work permits. Their status in their adopted home would depend on terms of whatever deal the U.K. and its former EU partners negotiate...’.

As we have seen, the ‘Brexiters’ base their hostility to the EU on ‘immigration’. So, with new powers and support ‘to stem the tide’, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Spain to react accordingly.

Brexit will leave 2 million Britons in legal limbo abroad, say peers. Parliamentary committee warns of complex negotiations to determine rights of UK citizens living in other member states. An article at The Guardian. An excerpt: ‘...(the leader of a cross-party parliamentary report former Conservative MP Lord Boswell of Aynho) added: “Let us not forget that for every example in the UK there is an example of a UK citizen elsewhere. We would want to tidy that up. My guess is that the inclination of government and parliament would be to be generous as regards those who had already made their lives in the UK, knowing that it would be likely to be reciprocated.”...’. A view that slightly defeats the point of the ‘Brexiters’ to rid the UK of ‘immigrants’.

FromThe Local: ‘The notion that long term British expats don't deserve the vote in the EU referendum, because "they already voted with their feet by leaving the country" is completely skewed. ... Tens of thousands of British expats living in the EU were left furious and frustrated (last) Thursday when news came through that they won’t be able to vote in the EU referendum...’.

*BoT has received an email from a reader to say that The Court of Appeal hearing against this ruling has been listed for 9 May 2016.

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Various:

Population shrinks, as Spaniards move abroad and foreigners leave. Four-year downward trend continues, according to latest figures from National Statistics Institute’. Headline from El País in English.

An amazing 600 kilos of bronze Roman coins, in nineteen amphorae, were discovered in Tomares (Seville) during some agricultural work last week. The III and IV Century AD coins bear the likeness of emperors Maximian or Constantine. Story and video here.

The European Bank is to stop printing 500€ bills from 2018, but the bank-notes will continue to be legal tender ‘indefinitely’.

For the first time since the newspaper started 27 years ago, El Mundo did not appear on the news-stands today due to a 24 strike by employees of the parent company Unidad Editorial, which has a plan for am ERE (lay-offs) of 224 employees. Story at PR Noticias.

Tired of the attacks on the charity practiced by the Catholic Church in Spain, a site called Hispania Infocompiled a list of the Church’s charitable activities back in 2011.

Queen Sofia Library, Instituto Cervantes London, 102 Eaton Square.

HISTORY CONVERSATION CLUB – Friday, 6th May. 17.45 - 19.00h.

The Spanish Civil War is without a doubt the single most dramatic event in the history of Spain. The stance taken by international powers is key to understanding the phases of said conflict and the historical events that followed throughout Europe. The involvement of the United Kingdom must be looked at from diverse angles which lead to numerous lines of thought, from a no-intervention policy to the arrival of brigades to support the Republican army. Our Conversation club this coming Friday 6 May will focus on shedding light on the role of the United Kingdom in the Spanish conflict.

The author of Don Quixote may be Spain’s national treasure but new findings suggest he was less Spanish than previously thought. New documents suggest Miguel de Cervantes was in fact from English heritage – making him the most famous expat of us all.  

Utrera historian Julio Mayo has uncovered documents that reveal Cervantes had Anglo-Saxon family with the surnames of ‘Tintam’ (Titon) and Herbert’ (Herver)...’. The remarkable story comes from The Olive Press.

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See Spain:

A butterfly zoo - El Mariposario de Níjar – is now open in the Almerian town of Nijar. The new centre currently houses some sixteen species of butterfly. Story here. Website here.

From the BBC: Spain’s cursed village of witches. ‘Trasmoz, nested in the foothills of the snow-covered Moncayo mountain range in Aragón. .... How does a tiny Spanish village of just 62 souls come to be excommunicated in its entirety and cursed with a spell so strong that only the Pope can lift it?...’.

The courtyards of Córdoba. See the patios in all their splendour. Until 15th May with the Colours of Córdoba (here). In the list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity of Unesco since December 2012. ‘Due to the hot, dry Cordoban climate, the city's inhabitants, - first the Romans and later the Moslems - adapted the typical design of the popular house to their needs, making the home centre around an inner patio normally with a fountain in the middle and often a well to collect rainwater. The Moslems made further adjustments, giving the house an entrance from the street which passed through a porch, and filling the courtyard with plants to give the sensation of freshness...’.

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Business Over TapasMay 5 2016   Nº 159

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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