Business Over Tapas (12th september,13)
By Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner
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 email: [email protected] - Note: Underlined words or phrases are links to the Internet. Right click and press 'Control' on your keyboard to access.
Spain is understandably upset after losing out to Tokyo last Saturday for the 2020 Olympics. Madrid has been spending fortunes on the last three competitions for these games (2012, 2016 and now 2020), seeking the fame that goes with them, together with this country's strength in sporting matters. The Press itself was mainly triumphalist and propagandist during the build-up, confusing readers by supplying an abnormal expectation of 'victory'.
A shame though.
'Alicante Province has consolidated its place as the principal destination for foreign visitors wishing to purchase second homes.
The Spanish stock-market reached its highest point so far this year on Wednesday at 8875 points – the best since February 2012. - 'Investors have maintained their confidence in Spain. Thus is shown in the variable and fixed income market, where the Ibex 35 has exceeded its ceiling for this year and the risk premium remains at the minimum of two years ago'. Explains El Mundo.
'Montoro Sees Recovery: 'Spain is the great economic success of the world''. - With a title like that, what is being heard on the Spanish Radio these days? From La Ser:
'The Finance Minister assures that we are living an unprecedented moment turning Spain into a country 'able to give lessons to Europe and to the world'. Cristóbal Montoro said that Spain lives a 'new phenomenon' to experience an economic recovery "at a speed that was not expected" and that no one predicted, neither the Government nor international agencies. The Minister of Finance, emboldened among his fellow ministers, is here to say that 'Spain is the great economic success of the world''...
The Olympic games once again missed Madrid last Saturday in the final voting in Buenos Aires. 'A member of the IOC, Nawal El Moutawakel, following the elimination of the bid had this to say: 'We believe that Spain must invest her financial resources on issues more important than on the Olympics'... (From an article titled 'six reasons why Madrid lost the 2020 Games' at Yahoo Deportes.)
'Madrid city council has debts of 7.780 billion euros. And after having crashed out in the first round of voting on Saturday in its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, the prospect of an influx of funds has vanished into thin air. The estimated 4.012-billion-euro injection of investment that hosting the 2020 Games would have brought with it would not have allowed the council to pay off its debts, which are the highest among all of Spain’s municipalities. But it would have given Mayor Ana Botella two things: liquidity, and hope in a project that would have mobilized the city and, thus, also voters'... El Pais in English from 'The Relics of a Broken Olympic Dream'
'In his nearly two years in La Moncloa, Mariano Rajoy has twice received a personal visit from Sheldon Adelson. The Prime Minister awarded in this way the Casino mogul and major shareholder in Las Vegas Sands by raising him to the height of a few worthy Heads of State or regional barons. The two meetings between the leader of the PP and the American entrepreneur focused on a matter of priority, and not negotiable, for the 15th richest man in the world - that smoking would be permitted throughout the Casino complex as already happens in Adelson casinos in the United States, China and Singapore. An option that is fully supported by the Regional Madrid Government'... But not, apparently, by the National Government, according to an article in El País called 'Black smoke for Eurovegas'
'The Bank of Spain warned failed savings bank Caja Mediterráneo (CAM) on a number of occasions about its exposure to the bloated real estate sector, but its management turned a deaf ear to calls for it to remedy the situation, the former head of the central bank’s supervision department, Julián Atienza, said Wednesday. The central bank issued its warnings to CAM’s management in 2004, 2005 and 2006, during which period the savings bank’s exposure to the real estate sector rose from 20 percent of its total loan portfolio, as of the end of 2004, to 25 percent in 2005 and 30 percent in 2006. “It’s not that they didn’t do anything; rather they did the opposite,” Atienza told a commission of the Valencia regional assembly'... More at El País in English.
El Mundo has published an article accusing the Andalucían UGT union of taking 'mordidas', which are bribes, before buying provisions or making payments. This is perhaps a little more widespread that the article suggests, as a salesman for office supplies once told me that, in ten years, he had never dealt with a client that didn't want an extra box of something, a tip, a drink or a discount. But this is a little bit more than that. The article begins: 'They are not only ordering fake or inflated invoices for diverting public funds. For years the General Union of Workers of Andalucía (UGT-A) has also asked its usual suppliers for payment of commissions of very dubious legality, since in most cases the money comes directly from subsidies granted to the Union, mainly by the regional administration'... - The union has also been taking 'rápels' which are end-of-year black payments as a percentage of business (200,000€ in 2011).
'After three years of judicial proceedings concerning the fraudulent ERE subsidies (public subsidies provided to companies for mass lay-offs) in Andalucía, on Tuesday Judge Mercedes Alaya issued a writ calling for six political figures, who have repeatedly been mentioned in the news media as being implicated in the case, to “appear in the proceedings.”'... From an El País in English editorial. These include two ex-presidents, Manuel Chaves and José Antonio Griñán.
From El Mundo, comes hope for the solar panel industry. 'The National Energy Commission (CNE) joins the opinion of a "vast majority" of the members of its Advisory Council and calls on the Ministry of Industry to remove the new 'back-up toll' to consumption of electricity. In its report on the new regulation, the controller adopts this decision considering that the new toll devised by industry for those who produce their own electricity is discriminatory and makes non-viable projects, which is in the opposite direction of European Community directives on energy efficiency'...
The Governing Council of Murcia agreed on Friday to make an appeal of unconstitutionality to the Ministry of Energy in Madrid against the Royal Decree which adopted urgent measures to ensure the financial stability of power producing companies which especially set out to amend (and weaken) the regime of the renewable energy sector.
According to the spokesperson from the Murcia Government, José Ballesta, the decision was adopted once it had received a favourable report from the Directorate of legal services of the autonomous community, the main argument in the appeal of unconstitutionality to be the violation of the principle of legal certainty for users. He said: 'probably no citizen would have invested in these technologies had he known of the changes planned by the government'. In 2007 the regulations 'encouraged long-term investment in installations of renewable energies, attracting investments from not only national but also numerous international funds, which are now adversely affected'. From La Verdad de Murcia.
Well, it's no secret that the Government places advertising (known as 'institutional advertising') in the Media to keep everyone sweet. Some friendly media get more and conversely the foreign-language media here in Spain get nothing (we don't have the vote). Así es la vida. But a squabble over these (gigantic) accounts is brewing. - 'The Secretary of State for Equality in the Ministry of Health and Social Services responded last Thursday to a question put by the PSOE regarding the allocation of its 'institutional advertising' due to strictly economic criteria, and denied that it was intended to help support 'friendlies' against other media.
Sources of this Department say that the main reason for the deal they choose are the beneficial advertising rates and that if they invested more in a newspaper with fewer readers (like the right-wing La Razón or La Gaceta) then this is because their rate-cards were much cheaper'... An example of the double-dealing criteria was offered by the PSOE – For every 1,000 readers, the Government spends 18,30€ on El País (centre-left), 487€ on La Gaceta and 272€ on La Razón. (Quotes from El Mundo, which no doubt manages nicely as well). More, including radio expenditure (to show the same point), at El Plural.
'Susana Díaz has become president of the Junta after José Antonio Griñán resigned this summer. The 39-year-old makes history as the first woman president. Both her party, the socialist PSOE, and their coalition partners left-wing Izquierda Unida (IU), were supporting Díaz and her call to fight corruption from the beginning'... From The Olive Press.
Cayo Lara, the leader of the IU alliance, urged Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday to resign in the first session of control to the Government of the political course, by quoting a few words from a historical political figure called Estanislao Figueras.
The IU leader, during his speech at the Congress, has accused Rajoy of have gone from silence to a complete disregard for the truth and asked that, 'for the good of Spain, to do the same thing as Estanislao Figueras, the head of the Government in 1873, who gathered his ministers and – as quoted the IU leader – told them: 'Gentlemen, I can not stand any more of this. I'm going to be perfectly frank, This is a complete fuck-up'. 'Dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections. History will be grateful' added the politician in a day marked by a major water-leak in the roof of the Congress building. From El Faro de Vigo.
'Thousands of Catalan separatists were gathering on Wednesday to try to form a 400 Km (250 mile) human chain across the region and renew pressure for a referendum on breaking away from Spain.
A deep recession and cuts in public spending in Catalonia, a wealthy industrial region in north-eastern Spain that accounts for a fifth of the country's economic output, have stirred discontent with the central government in Madrid.
Polls show backing for secession has risen steadily in Catalonia, with some registering support as high as 50 percent. A large majority of Catalans want the right to hold a referendum on the issue, the polls show'... (from Reuters)
'...One year after a massive demonstration in Barcelona breathed new urgency for self-determination in Catalonia, pro-independence forces led by the governing center-right CiU nationalist bloc are organizing a human chain crossing the region to mark this year’s Diada.
This new show of strength had been envisaged as part of the build-up to a sovereignty referendum in 2014, but Catalan premier Artur Mas last week said that the vote would not be held next year unless it had full legal backing. There is no indication that the government in Madrid, Congress or the Spanish courts would countenance such a referendum being binding'... From El País in English.
The Foreign Minister García -Margallo has something to say about the Catalonian drive for independence: - '...The Spanish Constitution has two articles, and only two, the rest is just literature. Article 1(2) says that sovereignty belongs to the Spanish people as a whole, and therefore the secession of a territory would have to be approved by all of the constituents, and article 2 says that the Constitution is based on the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, 'a country common and indivisible...'. From an indignant video here.
Finally, from El Huff Post: '...Hundreds of thousands of people have joined the Community, from North to South along the coast, in a hand-to-hand call for self-determination. On this occasion, the politicians were prepared for this massive event, not as happened last year. It's time for lessons about the future.
The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) has asked the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, to convene a consultation on independence this year "without delay or loss of time". Currently, 52% of Catalans are in favour of independence from Spain.
'The Government of Gibraltar considers that the attitude of the Government of Spain is bellicose, and that it has lied to the public. So says the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabián Picardo, in an interview with Cadena SER, adding that his government has refused to remove the concrete blocks thrown into the sea. "The population believed the lie of his Government", says Picardo, who believes that "If the citizens knew all the truth, they would have another point of view"... From El Huff Post.
'Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Spain's foreign minister, compared his country's battle to get Britain to surrender sovereignty over Gibraltar – a small, rocky outpost ruled by Britain for three centuries – with Argentina's demand for control of the Falklands Islands.
"The similarities are enormous," Mr Garcia-Margallo said from Montevideo, Uruguay adding that both Gibraltar and Falklands were in need of "decolonisation."'... From The Telegraph
From The Huff Post UK (at the G20 Meeting in St Petersburg): '...Cameron said: "On the issue of Gibraltar, I did meet the Spanish Prime Minister to try and look at issues where we can try and de-escalate the war of words that has taken place. We haven't made any progress. We should continue not only to defend absolutely to the hilt Gibraltar's right to decide its own future but also we want to see good and strong relations in the region as well."...
Gibraltar National Day September 10th (speech from David Cameron found at The Olive Press).
Carmen Chacón, a senior ex-minister (and possible future leader of the PSOE), has taken a year's sabbatical in Miami. Here's one opinion on the matter, taken from the El Espía en el Congreso blog: - 'President Rodríguez Zapatero had 17 female Ministers over the years and Carmen Chacón is the fifth to have fled Spain. The other 12 have become millionaires and hope not to be investigated into having to return their fortunes anywhere in the future. However, they all have something in common. They have something to hide: accusations of corruption, million-dollar subsidies or formal relationships with companies that later hired them with outrageous salaries, ideological changes notwithstanding... Confidant in their impunity, twelve remain in Spain although the unexpected departure of Chacón last Thursday sent chills in not only a few socialist seats in Congress'...
Naming them all, and how they are managing today... (the other lady ministers who are currently in foreign parts are Elena Salgado working for Endesa in Chile, Magdalena Alvarez vice-president of the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg, Bibiana Aido in New York with a UN charity (102,000€ per year), Leire Pajín also in New York, helped as a minister and now works for the Panamerican Health Organisation)... Waspish stuff.
'Harry Shindler led a delegation to Brussels today in an attempt to enlist the support of the EU for change to a British law that strips the right to vote from ex-pats who have lived abroad longer than 15 years. Mr Shindler, who... now lives in Italy, is also taking his case to the Grand Chamber of European Court of Human Rights, a non-EU body.
He came to Brussels to press the commission for its support to help EU citizens living in another EU country keep the right to vote in the national elections of their country of origin.
"This is the first time ever that ex-pats have come together in an organised way to make their case to the commission. I welcome support given by the Commission and with support - and our own activity- we will win the democratic right owed to us to vote in the UK," he said'... From The Telegraph. (I'd be more interested in having full voting rights in Spain and a Commissioner for ex-pats in Brussels - Lenox)
A wonderful story from the Los Angeles Times: 'S&P raises desperate defence against government lawsuit. The credit rating firm being sued for its role in the financial crisis essentially argues that no one should have taken its ratings seriously in the first place'. The piece continues: 'Everybody wants to see the perpetrators of the financial crisis punished, but you have to feel a little sorry for Standard & Poor's, the credit rating firm being sued by the federal government for its role in the disaster'...
Two weeks ago, we published a letter from a Spanish research scientist (now working with NASA in the USA) lamenting Spain's poor service to scientific research, her fascination for job protection and superfluous paperwork. The Guardian picks up the same story and runs a further article regarding the scientist in question, Amaya Moro-Martín, who describes how cuts and delays are compounding long-standing bureaucratic problems to damage the viability and international credibility of the Spanish science system.
Food and Wine
By Andrew Brociner
A Quick Guide to Choosing Wines
While in Almería, it occurred to me seeing all those people sipping beer, wine and tinto de verano, that most people just order their favourite drink no matter what they are eating. It is very hot during the summer and most people want to be refreshed. But, the idea of wine is to be an accompaniment to what you are eating, and the right choice will enhance your meal.
So, I thought to write down a few points about how to choose the wine. There are many books on this subject and, indeed, there is quite a lot to know. But without going into the matter too deeply, I thought to just offer a broad outline.
As a matter of priority, I will start from the wine and proceed to what to do with it.
Now, if it is hot outside, you can have a sparkling white wine or rosé. Some are quite light and fruity and there is no better setting than having them outside. Some can be had on their own or with light finger food for an excellent aperitif.
Moving on towards the meal, let's consider white wine. If you are eating seafood, especially fried seafood, as so many places serve in Spain, you need to have an acidic white wine. This is because the acid cuts the fat of fried foods. And here we come to an important point. Some wines will enhance and others will contrast the food they are accompanying. So fatty food needs to be contrasted. If the wine is sparkling, so much the better, as bubbles magnify the effect of the acid. An acidic, sparkling white wine, therefore is best with fried fish. Of course, white wine is not the exclusive domain of fish and can be served with a variety of dishes, such as chicken or pig or indeed, any white meat, and with vegetable dishes as well. But how these are prepared will determine which wine to choose as the choice will be based on the condiment or sauce, but this is too complex to go into in this short guide.
There are, of course, other types of white wines, some aromatic, which serve to enhance a meal with say, pesto or some other food with herbs. Most of these will be found in northern climates as the type of grapes do better there and also, because the cold fixes the aroma.
The next type to consider is red wine. Now, there is a lot to say, but I will be as succinct as possible. If you are having red meat, such as a steak, you will want a red with a lot of tannins because the tannins help you to chew the steak. If, on the other hand, you are having meat which has been cooked slowly for a long time, you will want to have an old red which has lost its tannins and preferably of a complex grape which ages well. Stewed or braised beef, for instance, is the right meal for this type of wine and so many people will open a bottle like this for food which is not adapted for it. After all, it does not make too much sense to have the best old red wine with a pizza.
This brings us to another important point. Anything which has a high absorption rate, like pasta or rice, calls for a light to medium wine, depending on what else is in it. But even pasta with meat needs a light red wine as a more complex old one will be lost on the pasta. Bearing this in mind, one can always progress from something light, like a sparkling white wine at the beginning of the meal to a light red with the first course and then onto something heavier for the main course. And just to note, the progression must be made from light to heavy, never the other way around – as someone once said, “you can never go back”.
Now we come to sweet wines. Here too, there is much to distinguish about the type of wine and the type of desert. As deserts are so varied, so too are the wines which accompany them. You could generally apply some rule such as the sweeter the desert, the sweeter the wine, but you also have to get to know each one. And, just to note, sweet wines are not exclusively for sweet dishes. Sauternes, for instance, goes extremely well with fois gras or blue cheese.
And finally, as in all things, once you master the basic elements, you can go forth and create. I once caught a friend of mine, a professor of oenology, eating a pork sandwich in his wine shop, accompanied by a full-bodied red wine. I questioned him on this, knowing that he should be drinking a white wine, or at least a specific type of red. But he said, “you see, it is raining and I am a bit depressed. I have not had any sales all day”. So that was a lesson in itself. When you know what you are doing, you can do whatever you want. And of course, I helped him out.
Brits Abroad – Ex-pats in Spain – a slightly odd BBC photographic presentation here.
It seems that nobody speaks English in the Spanish hierarchy* – at least not Ana Botella, the mayoress of Madrid who was in Buenos Aires last week drumming up support for the Madrid candidature with her now famous 'Relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor'. Rajoy's inglés isn't up to much either – see 'it's very difficult todo eso'. Zapatero's wasn't any better here. See an example of Aznar's efforts (good one). And here's the Caudillo with his most famous and most impenetrable speech ever, captured on celluloid.
As a special treat, we've got Rafael singing 'Acuarius'.
*Both Catalan President Artur Mas and ex-Madrid President Esperanza Aguirre speak perfect English as, we are sure, do many other senior politicians.
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