As the cold snap continues across Spain (some people prefer, rather than using the current expression ‘gota fría’, to refer to the phenomenon as ‘winter’), there is much criticism of the power companies and their ever-increasing charges. Spain swerved away, in some measure, from supporting research and investment into alternative energies when the ‘crisis’ began in 2008. This now leads to regular news items that say that countries with much less sun have much more solar energy than Spain. There is, in reality, heavy investment – much of it foreign – in Spain’s wind and solar energy as we read here. The official explanation for the high electric bills received by consumers is that, with not much solar or wind, the power companies are currently relying on gas, coal-fired and nuclear production. Antena3 has an alternate explanation for these high electric charges (video): the daily price, apparently, is based on the presence in the mix of the most expensive of the different energy-sources used. The three main companies who produce the different sources of energy are, of course, quoted on the stock exchange... Consumer associations are warning that homeowners must brace themselves for a 20 percent rise in their electricity bill for January (found here). One of the issues has been the high price of importing electricity from France, where their nuclear reactors are offline. Apparently for a long while to come. This is giving the Spanish Government a headache as the high prices here are set to continue for anything up to a year. Things are, in reality, somewhat worse than mentioned above, since Spaniards owe the electric companies an accumulated debt of 23,000 million euros (about 500€ each), being the déficit de tarifa which was introduced by Aznar to keep the electric bills artificially low as Spain entered the euro-zone in 2002. David Jackson explains how the bill we receive each month is broken down into various charges here, noting that ‘Spain has the third highest electricity prices in the EU, higher than in the UK, after overtaking Eire and Italy late last year. With an ageing infrastructure, closure of plants and the future increase of fossil fuel prices, it isn’t going to get better’. Meanwhile, a comic video from Basque TV EITB recalls the remarkable future on the boards of power companies that often awaits retiring ministers looking to do something useful and rewarding. (Thanks to Andy for certain items).
Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight quotes sources as saying that ‘...new home inventories on the Spanish coast and in the big cities of Barcelona and Madrid shows there was a total of 5,594 new or never previously occupied homes for sale on the Spanish coast at the end of 2016, not including the Balearic and Canary Islands...’. A property expert says ‘...although the market recovery is consolidating, and prices are expected to rise 3% on average this year, the market is still “far from cruising speed for a country of 45 million people with GDP growing at 3%.”...’.
Thanks in part to scarcity, ‘...rental prices are increasing in the vast majority of Spain’s cities, fuelled in part by a shortage of rental homes on the market...’, says a report at Property Investor Today.
Sometimes, in searching for a good rental deal, the customer can be ripped off, says an article in the consumer-orientated Recomendaciones y Tendencias. There are fake rental pages out there, made to look like Idealista or Airbnb (even with an alarmingly similar web address), and with really great-looking offers... and if later on you don’t like the place, then of course we return the money...
Then, there are those that build their own dwellings. Lean-tos and straw shelters, plastic tents, converted vehicles and the like. Well, it saves money on taxes. A photographic essay called ‘Makeshift architecture in the mountains of southeast Spain’ by Ben Murphy can be found at De Zeen here.
‘Spanish hotel boss warns sector is feeling first effects of Brexit. The President of leading Meliá chain talks of slowdown in number of Brits booking holidays in Spain’. Headline from El País in English here.
The Government has agreed to lower – by 2.2% per year over the next five years – the current rate of AENA-controlled airport taxes. More here.
The Imserso (more properly the ‘Instituto de Mayores y Servicios Sociales’) is the Government-funded seniors’ club which organises trips and other services. Their webpage is here (their page in English is frankly underwhelming). Mundo Senior explains the tourist and health-tourist offers and availability to seniors here.
An undated article from Expat Focus on ‘elderly care’ begins: ‘Retirement homes are only just becoming popular in Spain. It has been the tradition until recent years for each family to take care of their own elderly, but this is now beginning to change as more and more women are choosing to work full-time, particularly in urban areas. It has often been the case that elderly expats have chosen to return to their home country if they felt that they needed care. With this in mind, some developers have spotted the gap in the market and are now planning many retirement complexes and care homes which will be aimed at the expat market. In addition to this there are some state-run care homes but the concept of the hospice is still relatively new, and care for the terminally ill is provided usually in the home or at a hospital. A hospice has traditionally been seen as a place for the poor. However, there are some hospice facilities being established in some areas...’.
There is evidently an opportunity for the Spanish authorities to green-light residences and retirement homes for Northern Europeans. Such places (most importantly) to be maintained by bilingual staff (there are plenty of medical and specialist staff who have worked, or continue to work, in northern Europe, and who would be glad of a decent job ‘back home’).
According to a report at Público, the amount of money provided by the Government to keep the banking industry afloat since the 2008 crisis adds up to 350,000 million euros.
The Banco de Santander earned a profit last year of 6,204 million euros, says El País.
The Banco Popular has posted losses in the region of 3,000 million for 2016 says El País.
' “We probably have the best mortgage system in the world,” explained Francisco González, Executive Chairman of Spain’s second largest bank, BBVA, seemingly with a straight face last week at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. Given the devastating effects Spain’s “mortgage system” has had on the country’s economy and society over the last decade and a half, González’s sweeping statement is hard to fathom. It played a central role in stoking one of the most mind-boggling real estate bubbles of modern times, which was followed, in time-honoured fashion, by a devastating crash that would have probably destroyed Spain’s financial system if it hadn’t been for the government’s taxpayer-funded bailout. To date, over 600,000 mortgage holders have been evicted from their homes in its aftermath...'. Excerpt from Wolf Street’s latest sally – ‘Spain’s Banks Openly Flout the Law Like Never Before’.
From El Español comes news of a change of direction for Hacienda: ‘The Tax Agency (AEAT) is sharpening its knives to begin chasing after any suspected fraud committed by the most wealthy. Following a number of scandals in the last year, with cases such as ‘Nummaria’, the ‘Panama Papers’ or the ‘Football Leaks’, the Ministry of Finance has proposed strengthening the fight against fraud practiced on occasion by millionaires. To do this, the Tax Agency is preparing an offensive that will be one of the keys to the Guidelines for 2017 that the AEAT will present publicly today (Thursday)...’. On another front, Hacienda will be working on the detection of IVA fraud, thought to have cost Spain some 6,279 million euros in 2014.
The new laws for autónomos – the self-employed – now going through Parliament will include fines for late monthly payments to the Social Security, depending now on their tardiness (rather than a flat 20% surcharge as before), as listed here at Pymes y Autónomos.
China is interested in the olive oil business and has announced its intention to compete with Spain by planting 59 million olive trees says Vozpópuli here.
‘The campaign to reclaim Spain’s Socialist party (PSOE) for the activist base of the party opposed to the PSOE’s de facto of second term for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Partido Popular (PP) will head to the heart of Susana Díaz country on Saturday, with a rally featuring former PSOE general Secretary Pedro Sánchez in Seville, capital of the southern region of Andalucía...’. Story from Progressive Spain here.
‘Spain has finished in 41st place comparing the levels of corruption around the world. Spain shared 41st place with Brunei and Costa Rica in this year’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released by Transparency International on Wednesday. The three countries were given a score of 58 on the 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) scale...’. More at The Local. Political corruption is a serious problem for Spain’ says El Huff Post here. ‘While we didn’t lose points, we lost five places worldwide’, says La Voz de Almería here.
‘The Municipal Government of La Linea has just published a study on the impact for the City of Brexit’, says The Olive Press. ‘The UK’s only continental border is with the Southern Andalusian town of La Linea de la Concepcion, which developed as a dormitory town for Gibraltar and gained the Charter of a city in 1870. La Linea is one of the places, like Gibraltar, where the theories and windy notions of Brexit become hard reality. Centuries before the founding fathers of the “European idea“, Adenauer, Monnet, Schuman et al were born, a relationship of good, if sometimes uneasy, neighbourliness grew on either side of the old battle line separating British from Spanish territory...’.
A Scottish blog called Grouse Beater makes a point: ‘Gibraltar, British territory since 1713, doesn’t count itself a ‘corner of a foreign field forever England’. The people are of one mind: furious, incensed and enraged. They detest the British government for dumping Europe and closing down on its borders. 97.5% voted to stay in cooperation with Europe. They feel betrayed...’.
The judge of the National Court Jose de la Mata has refused to approve a new grand sweep against the Pujol family as formally requested by the Judicial Police. This time, for a new offense regarding foreign trade relations for their millionaire business in Africa...’. The UDEF police have been patiently asking for a number of search warrants since April last year. The story is at El Mundo here.
The Spanish Economy:
The Housing Sector
by Andrew Brociner
We now begin our series on the housing sector in Spain to analyze the situation and to compare it to our findings last year.
Sometimes, depending on the source, it is heard that the housing sector is picking up and that prices are rising. Is this true?
If prices are rising, they are doing so ever so slightly. Looking at the INE statistics, for prices per square metre in Spain, we can see that prices are incrementing very moderately indeed.
If we look at the data from 2007, to focus on the period after the boom, we can magnify the latest period:
It certainly doesn't look like much of an increase at all. As we said last year, it has bottomed out, but it is rather flat and more or less where we have been for the last four years. This leads to the conclusion that we are still in a period of consolidation.
We will be exploring other aspects of the housing sector in the issues to come.
The El País editorial titled ‘An extremist Brexit’ is now published in English here. An excerpt: ‘...Everything in May’s speech is grating. Her promise of a “positive” agreement is misleading. It is not positive to look down on European citizens or to discriminate against residents. Nor does it make any sense to issue threats against the Europeans that she will have to negotiate with during the next two years...’. From The Guardian: ‘Britain’s contempt for other countries makes no sense. How does Britain think it will land a positive deal with its negative attitude towards Europeans?’. Noting that, ‘...The tone in almost all of the media the day after the speech was similar: Mrs May’s words were described as challenging, hostile, hard, threatening, without concessions, illogical, extreme or fierce...’.
‘Mariano Rajoy has said Brexit is a ‘serious threat’ to Spain because of how many Brits live in and visit the country. Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Rajoy pleaded for Europe to remain united and said Britain’s departure from the bloc threatened Spain’s economy. “Brexit is a serious threat,” Rajoy said, “Without wanting to go into other considerations, I will only tell you that one in five tourists who come to Spain are British, and close to 17 million Britons visited Spain last year.”... Found at The Olive Press here.
From Gov.UK comes the updated ‘Advice for British nationals travelling and living in Europe, following the result of the EU referendum’.
From The Sur in English comes more on a recent meeting in London between ex-pats and the Government: ‘'Bremain' campaigner from Spain invited to speak at Westminster meeting. Four people were selected to present oral evidence on behalf of British people living in other European Union countries to the Exiting the EU Select Committee (House of Commons), on Wednesday, including Sue Wilson, who lives near Valencia and is a prominent campaigner for the anti-Brexit Bremain in Spain Facebook group (here)...’.
‘A matter of life and death’, a documentary from Channel 4, addresses the possible changes in access to healthcare, with a presentation from John Shaw from Fair Deal for Expats (the homepage is here).
And finally... ‘‘Expats living in LIMBO’ Britons in Spain may be forced home as Brexit is ‘crowning jewel’. Expats living in Spain could come flooding back to Britain when Article 50 is triggered’. The Express has the goods (the comments are as illuminating as always).
The ‘Marcha Verde’, when Hassan II of Morocco took over the erstwhile Spanish Sahara at the time of the death of Franco, was agreed in secret between the Moroccan king and Juan Carlos of Spain, says recently released CIA documents. El Español has the story here.
‘Donald Trump’s White House has been vilified far and wide for taking down the Spanish version of its website. Just hours after Trump’s inauguration on Friday, the Spanish version of the White House website was taken down, along with information about climate change and LGBT rights (and the Native American page as well – Ed.). ‘...“to have a country, we have to have assimilation… This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish"...’. Story at The Olive Press. The situation is also covered by Ideal here. ‘What the Donald Trump presidency could mean for Spain’. The Local has some forecast here.
A number of peace organisations are calling for the cancellation of the Homsec, the arms industry fair to be held in Madrid in mid March. The fair, says the NGOs, and quoted by Nueva Tribuna, ‘ ...whose promoter is Grupo Atenea-Seguridad Nacional, "a business network fostered by characters linked to the coup d'état of February 1981 and known for their links to the ideals of the extreme right"...’. The protest is agglutinated under the ‘Plataforma Desarma Madrid’ who says “the gentlemen of war are coming to Madrid”. Spain is the World’s sixth largest arms exporter. The Homsec page in English is here.
Economy minister Luis De Guindos defends the current Spanish arms sale to Saudi Arabia, saying ‘if we don’t sell them, then someone else will’. He also admitted on a radio interview that he ‘was not aware of the specific circumstances regarding human rights’ in the country.
Those who need a visa to visit Spain are scratching their heads over the paperwork – which now goes to a company in India called BLS – with web-pages down and inoperative telephones the norm. One potential and anxious visitor to Spain, coming from Bolivia, reports that she has been told that she must wait three months before she can even petition for a visa. The story is at El Confidencial here.
The Pope has granted an interview with El País. The English-language version of the newspaper has a report here. A review of the story at Yahoo News is titled ‘Pope warns against populism and “saviours” like Hitler’.
Queen Elizabeth II to honour the director of CAC Málaga Fernando Francés with The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his work in exhibiting British art in Spain
George Campbell, one of the most important Irish artists of the XX century, leaves his human and artistic heritage in his two motherlands: Ireland and Andalucía. A video here.
Could they have found the tomb of Ulf the Gallego, the Viking known to the Danes as Ulv Galiciefarer and who raided Galicia repeatedly during the ninth century?
Want to see what they might serve you at the famous restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca in Gerona? Here’s some pictures. But, would we still be hungry after we’d finished?
From Ian and Spain: ‘At this time of year there is nothing more warming and hearty than a hot plate of lentils with chorizo. One of my favourite winter dishes accompanied with some crusty bread and butter (that’s the British influence in me), which is much easier to make than you might think and if you make a little extra it will last in the fridge for a few days, however they don’t freeze well so it is always best to make them fresh...’.
‘An abandoned church in Llanera, Asturias was recently converted into a skate park and canvased by artist Okuda San Miguel. With the help of an online fundraising push and support from Red Bull, a collective lead by the “Church Brigade’ salvaged and transformed the space into one of the coolest spots to skate we’ve seen. The church was originally designed by Manuel del Busto in 1912...’. Pictures and video at Ned Hardy here.
Luar Na Lubre, the Galician Celtic group, comes to perform in Almería next week. Here they are on YouTube with ‘Memoria da noite’.
Business over Tapas – Useful News for Homeowners and Investors
Business over Tapas is a subscription news service which has been around for a while now, originally as Per Svensson’s ‘Weekly Report’ and from 2013, with its current name.
The BoT seeks to supply useful information for those who have little time to trawl through a hundred or more sites about Spain every week. There’s only hard news here: no frills, and certainly, no shills. The reports come synthesised from a large number of news-sites, both Spanish and foreign, as well as from blogs, press releases and personal experience (the editor, Lenox Napier, is a journalist who moved to Spain as a child, many decades ago). Lenox is helped by economist Andrew Brociner, who divides his time between Spain and Italy, and retired journalist José Antonio Sierra, who spent many years living in the Republic of Ireland.
The idea of the name is the point that, in Spain, so much business, gossip, deals and trade-secrets are shared outside the office and over a beer. Not a full lunch then, with heavy plates to digest, but a wealth of different subjects served in saucers.
While the ‘free press’ is avidly picked up by the English-speaking expatriates in Spain, there is little useful news, and many stories are tied in some commercial way to local business (from where the free press draws its income). Business over Tapas has no advertisers and relies on a modest annual subscription.