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Business Over Tapas – 26th  July 2014

By Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner

miércoles 22 de octubre de 2014, 11:21h

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]  

***Now with Facebook Page (Like!)*** Note: Underlined words or phrases are links to the Internet. Right click and press 'Control' on your keyboard to access.

Editorial:

Spain is a great place to live, but it's currently not a safe place to invest in. Despite Government claims to the contrary, the country remains in a savage decline, with enormous problems which are simply not being addressed. Tourism aside, the country seems to act increasingly like a failed experiment. We need some sensible answers, which the Government is incapable of providing. It's time to represent the People, not the Corporations.

Housing:

Spain's eviction laws have been ruled in violation of fundamental rights by the UE in a recent court ruling from the European Court of Justice. '...The PAH (platform of those with mortgage problems) welcomes the ruling of the ECJ because "it recognizes housing as being a basic need, in a way that puts us a nearer to the recognition of housing as a fundamental right", in the words of their lawyer Rafa Mayoral...'. (From El Diario). The three main Spanish leftist parties in Brussels – The PSOE, the IU and Podemos – have signed a joint letter demanding that the Government accept the ruling.

'The latest data from the Sociedad de Tasación paints a pessimistic picture of the Spanish property market’s short term future. Although there are signs that downward pressure over property prices are “moderating,” the valuation company concludes “there are still no reliable signs of recovery, and the industry is still waiting for the housing credit to start flowing.” Most importantly, the group sees no evidence of a “significant” improvement in the level of demand. Outside of bulk purchases by foreign investment funds, “it is not perceived that an accelerated absorption of the excess supply will be produced, which is still abundant,” ST concludes in its latest report...'. From Mark Stüklin's Spanish Property Insight.

'According to the Spanish Real Estate Situation report published by independent property value experts, Euroval, only 30% of the homes currently purchased in Spain are made with a mortgage, and 70% are financed without a mortgage or paid in cash, which is quite a contrast with the data which recorded that 65% of the home purchases carried out in 2007 were made with mortgages...'. From Kyero.

Un-urbanised land can not be charged IBI at an urban rate even if it has been re-zoned, says a ruling from Spain's Supreme Court, after some land in Badajoz was found to be rated at a hundred times its real taxable value. Item found at Hoy.es

Headline at The Telegraph: Ex-pat property: Is the Costa Blanca back in vogue? Property website reports more than a third of all enquiries are about homes on the Costa Blanca.

'The Valencian parliament has just passed a comprehensive new town planning law for the Valencian Community, which the regional government’s Councillor for Infrastructure, Land and the Environment, Isabel Bonig, recently claimed will “clarify powers between the Generalitat and town halls, increase flexibility, and improve legal security.”
Known as the Ley de Ordenación del Territorio, Urbanismo y Paisaje (LOTUP for short, or ‘Law of Territorial Planning, Urban Development, and the Countryside’ in English) the new law aims to simplify and speed up the regional town planning process, replacing five previous laws and two regulations with one slimmed-down law that reduces the legislation by 75 per cent, from 1,200 articles to 269...'. From Mark Stüklin's Spanish Property Insight. A Reader comments: 'There should still be a period for allegations and then the new law must be gazetted in an official bulletin. The main “protection” (from speculators and promoters) now is the lack of credit, market interest apart from vulture funds and of course the shortage of buyers for most new builds and “second hand” homes on the market now, even though those are selling better than new homes. The Finance Minister of course is planning to make it much more costly for existing home owners to sell – thanks to the elimination of exemptions for those residents over 65, long term property owners, etc.'.

A note on the Plusvalía. There are two different plusvalias (a tax estimated on a number of variables) imposed after selling a house. The first is a local tax, figured by the Town Hall. The second would be figured into one's annual tax declaration, the Impuesto de la Renta, (or for non-residents the state tax is called Impuesto sobre la renta de no residentes and in their case a return on the capital gain has to be made within 4 months of the sale). The Government has decided to increase this second tax exponentially from January 1st.

An interview with the property lawyer Gerardo Vásquez, who works closely with the AUAN, in a local paper called Actualidad Almanzora, under the title 'He visto llorar a muchos británicos cuando les digo que su casa es ilegal' (no Internet connection), has this Q&A in part:

Q: The Junta de Andalucía says it wants to legalise these homes, but, at the same time, it is part of the penal cases which seeks their demolition.

A: It's an active part of the prosecution indeed. However, it now appears that the Junta is calming down. I think that it is dawning on them that it doesn't make sense knocking down homes, above all when they have their licences. We could blame one side or the other, which is what politicians do, while what the AUAN wants is solutions, and that this dreadful situation which has caused so much damage is resolved. Almería is one of the provinces where house-prices have fallen the most and where foreign investment has dropped considerably. It's a splendid place thanks to its climate and beauty, and that's what should be promoted – not its demolitions'.

'Those four pesky magistrates who said that the ghastly Hotel Algarrobico outside Carboneras, perched between a national park and the deep blue sea, was built on urbanizable land, were accused in the Supreme Court by Salvemos Mojacar of pettifoggery. Now the ruling has been handed down by that august body. The hotel was erected on legal land, as and when it was built - or if not (says the Supreme Court slyly), then it wasn't for lack of trying'. From The Entertainer Online.

Tourism:

Spain received more foreign tourists than ever in the first six months of this year, according to a study from Movimientos Turísticos en Fronteras (Frontur) and noted in El Mundo. The figure of 28 million is up 7.3% over last year. Almost a quarter came from the UK.

Finance:

An upbeat speech on the economy from the Spanish President, found at Kyero, begins: 'Speaking at an event organised by the Chambers of Commerce of Andalucía, the President of the Spanish Government, Mariano Rajoy, maintained that the fiscal consolidation and structural reform policies implemented by the Government, together with the strengths of the Spanish economy, have enabled Spain to return to growth and job creation...'.

'The Spanish economy continued to claw its slow way back towards recovery, expanding in the first quarter of 2014 by 0.5 percent, the fastest rate in six years, the central bank said on Wednesday. The bank also revised up its forecasts for output for this year and next, saying the economy would grow by 1.3 percent this year and by 2.0 percent in 2015.
The Spanish government has forecast growth of 1.2 percent in 2014 and 1.8 percent next year...'. From The Local.

'España, Camino a la Quiebra' is an interactive graphic that shows how each province is doing related to last year's commercial balance. It comes from El Confidencial. In general, says the article, the country's commercial deficit has grown by 6.3% May on May. Spain, it adds bitterly, has become a giant Ponzi scheme, only viable thanks to the continuing investment from abroad. A similar article – 'Así se lleva a la quiebra a un Estado' – here at Gurusblog – examines the past thirteen years of rule and shows where mistakes were made.

'Spanish lender Catalunya Banc SA said last Thursday it is selling a loan portfolio worth 6,390 million euros ($8.64 billion) to U.S.-based Blackstone Group LP. In a statement confirming an earlier report by The Wall Street Journal, Catalunya Banc, which was formerly a savings bank and also known as CatalunyaCaixa, said Blackstone will pay €3,600 million for the loans...'. From Marketwatch.    ('At a heady time for the private equity industry, the Blackstone Group is raking in profit. Blackstone, the biggest firm in the business of leveraged buyouts, reported last Thursday that its second-quarter profit — measured as economic net income, which includes unrealized investment gains — rose 89 percent, to $1.3 billion, from the period a year earlier...'. Found at NYTimes). Following from this, El Mundo notes that the BBVA has since bought out the Catalunya Bank (beating out two other banks) from the State for an estimated 1,187 million euros. The 12,000 million euros pumped into the bank by the State will be written off. More here.

How much public money has been lost in the above operation? About the same as the annual budget for NASA, or three times the cost of the widening of the Panama Canal; the equivalent of 228 years Government subsidy of Spanish movies, or 682 times the money spent on infant poverty... or 1000 years of the salary of the ex-minister Narcis Serra (1.2million per year) while president of Catalunya Caixa (more examples here).

'Bankia funded up to 2,526 million euros to the Government of the Generalitat Valenciana during the presidency of Francisco Camps, while the bank's own reports questioned the economic management of this administration. This follows from confidential internal documents of Bankia which have been studied by El Mundo. In the risk-report of July 2011  - which coincides with the presentation of Bankia on the Financial Market - Valencia appeared as one of the biggest clients of the financial institution, with a direct risk as mentioned of 2,526 million euros...'. When Caja Madrid and the Valencian Bancaja fused in 2010, the agreement was that the new bank, Bankia, would have its central office in Valencia with its operations based in Madrid. More here and here.

Corruption:

'The Superior Court of Justice of the Valencian Community (TSJCV) has begun procedures to send to prison a former long-term Mayor of Torrevieja who was also a PP deputy in the Cortes Valencianas, Pedro Ángel Hernández Mateo, is sentenced to three years in prison for corruption...'. From El País.

The Supreme Court has confirmed a four-year prison sentence this week for Carlos Fabra, the ex-president of Castellón, on four counts of corruption. Short of an 'indulto' (a pardon) from the Government, Fabra will soon be out of circulation...

When Federico Fresneda, the ex-treasurer of the UGT for Andalucía, was arrested last month charged with participating in the illegal finance of the union, he was wearing a Patek Philippe watch (which costs anywhere between 10,000 and 25,000€) - a peculiar adornment for a union-man. Fresneda is currently out on bail. The inquiry into 'Operación Cirene' continues. In a related story, El Mundo reports that '...all of the management of the Andalucian Federation of the UGT, including the two more recent former General Secretaries, Manuel Pastrana and Francisco Fernández Sevilla, knew of the fund that the Union had built up with their trusted suppliers and were aware of the bribes that some companies were obliged to pay which served to finance the Organisation and to help divert public subsidies...'.

White Elephants:

A site called Despilfarro Público features a number of white elephants, as supplied to the site by readers. Our favourite this week: 'Seven kilometres of AVE track completely abandoned: Lugo'. Cost to the Public Purse: 92 million euros.

Politics:

'The spokesperson for “banking activities” at the political party Podemos, Vicente Gutiérrez, maintains that "the banks have cheated the public by 100,000 million euros in illegal commissions". In addition, he denounces the "junk” fiscal reform that the Government is pushing through. Speaking to the Press, Gutiérrez said that these bank charges are "illegal," as determined by the courts...'. The party is gaining yet more support from the public for its plain-speaking. The clip from Discapnet.

'The Spanish government has approved controversial reforms aimed at protecting the public, detailing more accurate roles and responsibilities for both the public, and security services, as well as the actions that both can expect in the event of confrontation or protest. The new laws have been under consultation for the last seven months, with many opponents stating that they undermine the fundamental public right of citizens to protest, and make it easier to enforce an almost martial law situation, whereas supporters believe that it will reduce the conflicts and damage caused when protests have sped out of control in the past...'. Found at The Leader.

'The Basque separatist group ETA said it has dismantled the "logistical and operational structures" of its armed campaign in a step towards full disarmament, in a declaration published Sunday. The move is the latest tortuous step towards a potential end to western Europe's last major armed secessionist movement, once feared but now weakened by the arrests of many of its leaders...'. From The Local.

A hot autumn for the Government – according to El Confidencial – with warnings to the private TV stations to take care with their news reporting, particularly the Diada on September 11 (Catalonia's National Day); the threat of the independence vote in Catalonia on November 9; the rise in popularity of Pablo Iglesias and his Podemos party... and the consolidation of Pedro Sánchez as leader of the PSOE.

Courts

'A Spanish court has ordered blocks on six file-sharing sites to be lifted. All six sites were blocked in May after being accused of infringing copyright by the Spanish anti-piracy federation. The block meant mobile operators and internet service providers (ISPs) in Spain were told to stop letting customers get at the sites.
Now a court in Zaragoza has said there were "insufficient grounds" for maintaining the blocks and has called for them to be lifted...'. Found at the BBC.

Various:

The 'Google Tax' was solemnly passed by the Government on Tuesday (without debate). This is a canon that must be paid to a select coterie of daily newspapers when any 'non-significant fragment' of news in aggregated, anywhere within Spain. The AEDE get the money, regardless of who is quoted and linked to, while the evident argument that a link merely adds readership to the site in question has been laid to one side yet again. Here in Spain, it's about the power of the lobby, in this case the most powerful news groups – to cause a censorship of the lesser media (and pirate some extra cash). Take Menéame for example (Spain's version of Reddit), who last year provided readers with some 300 million links to original material. The editor says he can either close down... or move abroad. Facebook, Twitter and a whole host of smaller news providers will be affected. The BoT, purely as a newsletter, is apparently safe (for the moment), but it will certainly be harder for us to find the news to share with readers. We leave with this question: Will you now be better or worse informed about the news, analysis and events going on in Spain following the implementation of the 'Canon AEDE' otherwise known as the 'Google Tax'? More opinion here, here, here, here and here. A list of the AEDE controlled newspapers here. The law will pass through the Senate in September or October. A law-blog called @lex explains the various ambiguities and doubts about the whole sorry situation here.

London has had the Spanish ambassador on the carpet for the fifth time over the 'provocative actions' of Spain over Gibraltar. The Spanish response was to call in the British ambassador. Meanwhile in Gibraltar, it's hassles as usual. Story at El Mundo.

'It's official. The infamous Gibraltar border queues are being deliberately created by Spain, according to new statistical proof. The recently launched Frontier Monitoring Programme records the number of cars that cross from the Rock to La Linea in one minute.
The flow rate should technically remain constant, irrespective of the number of cars waiting to cross. However, data collected on a single day this week shows a massive drop from 7.8 cars entering Spain per minute at 2pm, to 1.5 per minute at 6pm...'. From The Olive Press.

'Repsol wants to start exploratory drilling work off the east coast of the Canary Islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote in the last quarter of this year, the Spanish oil firm has announced...'. From El País in English.

Monforte del Cid, in Alicante, is returning to a horse and cart to collect the garbage, an idea from the Town Hall to save costs. 

'MORE than three quarters of adolescent ex-pats integrate into Spanish life without any problems, according to a report … Rosa Aparicio, the university professor behind the Obra Social ‘La Caixa’ study, stressed that child ex-pats feel far less discriminated against than their parents, and find it easy to integrate with local children...'. From The Olive Press.

If you have guests from the UK who need to see a doctor in Spain but have lost or forgotten their EHIC (or if it has expired or been stolen), they can call the Overseas Healthcare Team (OHT) on 0044 191 218 1999 and request a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC).

Guirilandia, the site for Spaniards living in London, features an article about the positive psychological aspects of emigration.

Some recipes for Salmorejo here from Eye on Spain. Mmmm, good.

Finally:

Well, here he is, an old favourite of mine. 'Opa, Yo Via Jase Un Corra' - Grandad, I'm gonna go build an animal shelter. A hilarious song from El Koala delivered in 'andalú'.

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