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Weekly Report

Business Over Tapas

By Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner

viernes 13 de marzo de 2015, 01:50h

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. Business over Tapas and its writers are not responsible for unauthorised copying or other improper use of this material.

Editorial:

The Media needs to be responsible during election times. Just one example of manipulation: The ABC was complaining about Teresa Rodríguez, the Andalucian candidate for Podemos, having finally been invited – suddenly – to a televised debate to be held the following day (Tuesday) on Canal Sur, after saying that she wasn't going to go. In reality, she had a busy schedule (understandably) and so she sent her second in command Jésus Rodríguez (no relation)... as indeed both the PP leader Juan Manuel ('Juanma') Moreno and the current President and candidate for the PSOE Susana Diáz sent their own 'seconds'. The debate was rounded off with candidates from the IULA-CA (as the IU is called in Andalucía), the UpyD, Ciudadanos and the largely forgotten Partido Andalucista. The sudden turn-around to include the 'smaller groups' followed instruction from the national election board – la Junta Electoral Central – to the Andalucian version. The main subjects discussed were, of course, corruption and unemployment.

In an earlier debate held on Monday (ABC again), where 'y tú mas' (roughly: 'huh, your guys are worse than our guys') was frequently heard, only the parties with current representation in the Junta de Andalucía were invited: the PP, the PSOE and the IU. A final three-way debate is planned for March 16th.

Returning to 'media manipulation' (see this late story here), El Mundo's editorial on Wednesday denies this in their newspaper: 'We have never served any other interest beyond those of our readers, and we have no agenda beyond reporting the truth: it was thus 25 years ago, and it is still the case today...'. Well said!

Housing:

Property sales and prices are up, or are they down? Here David Gosley interviews nine Costa del Sol agents to find out, face-to-face. Videos and story at Eye on Spain.

'According to BBVA Research, in 2015, Spain’s economic growth prospects and more favourable financing conditions will lead to a new increase in housing sales throughout the year, which they predict will be “accompanied by a moderate growth in prices and a new increase in construction activity”...'. Found at Kyero.

Can just anyone sell a home, asks the ABC ingenuously? Reasons, kindly supplied by the real estate agencies, as to why you shouldn't buy from a private vendor. Well, here.

The call for a change in the law to oblige the authorities to find full compensation before a house bought in good faith and later labelled as 'una vivienda ilegal' could be demolished was, against all odds, approved by the Senate on Wednesday. Congratulations to the AUAN and the SOHA. It fell to the Mayor of Almería, who is also a senator for the PP, Luis Rogelio Rodríguez Comendador, to pass on the good news: 'The parliamentary groups in the Senate have agreed on Wednesday an amendment to the Penal Code reform that will allow a judge to postpone the demolition of illegal dwellings, which were bought in good faith, until compensation to their owners is secured'. Well, it's almost what they wanted.

Tourism:

A plan is under study in the Balearic Islands to charge a special tourist-tax of 2.50€ a night. The suggestion comes from the MÉS party. The money collected, they suggest somewhere around 108 million euros (!), to be spent on the environment, education and innovation.

The average price of a hotel room in Spain rose by 14% January to January to 103€. the average European hotel rate is 120€. Switzerland is the most expensive at a whopping 232€, the UK at 145€ and Bulgaria is just 57€. Information at Hosteltur.

Ryanair says it will start to operate the (until now never-used) Castellón airport, with flights to London Stansted and Bristol from September.

Hacienda is starting a special drive on the tourist sector, with particular attention to 'private tourist lodging offered on the Internet', says El País.

Spain has the most kilometres per inhabitant of high-speed rail (the AVE) in the world at 54k per million inhabitants), but also the lowest 'use' at 11,000 travellers per km/year. Japan, for example, has 158,000 per km/year. The Spanish system has more than 2,500 kilometres of track and cost an average 18 million euros per kilometre to build (the new bits are considerably more expensive). More details and figures here.

Finance:

'Spain has outstripped France and Italy to become the world’s biggest wine exporter, exporting 22.8m hectolitres in 2014, a 22% rise on the previous year. However, because much of it was bulk sales with small margins, the Spanish wine industry’s profits were down 2.2%...'. From The Guardian.

Ibex-35 companies operate 810 subsidiaries in fiscal paradises (figures from 2013), says La Marea. In all 34 of the 35 leading companies have filiales in tax havens like Delaware, the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg. The Banco Santander leads with 182, followed by ACS with 119 of them. In general, Spanish investment in the Caymans has increased by ninety times recently, with the first nine months of 2014 seeing 1,969 million euros arriving (as compared to 22 million coming from Spain in 2013). In total, says El Diario, Spaniards have 144,000 million euros stashed in fiscal paradises.

Fear of a possible victory by Podemos is driving people to explore ways of getting their money out of Spain, says El Confidencial Digital.

In employment, the majority of new jobs driving down the unemployment figures are 'junk jobs', which have temporary contracts that will last for just a short time. El Mundo says here that four out of every ten temporary jobs last less than a month (January figures).

Cinco Días writes of how expensive it is in Spain, compared with other European countries, for the self-employed.

'The U.S. Treasury Department designated Banca Privada d’Andorra as a “financial institution of primary money laundering concern,” a move that would effectively shut the bank off from the U.S. financial system. The agency’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said high-level managers at the bank for years facilitated transactions for money launderers who worked on behalf of organized crime groups around the world...'. Found at The Wall Street Journal. The story is echoed in El País, which adds that the Andorra Government has now 'intervened' in the bank. Turns out that the Andorran bank owns a Spanish one – the Banco Madrid – which is now being investigated as well...

By the way... permission for the Andorra bank to buy the Banco Madrid back in 2011 was given by the Administrative Council of the Banco de España, one of whose members was the then PSOE Director General of the Treasury Soledad Núñez, who is today on the council of the self-same Banco Madrid. El Mundo explains.

A disturbing view from economist Edward Hugh on 'Why Is Spain's Population Loss An Economic Problem?', here.

Politics:

The Government has put some propaganda experts into the news-rooms, says Público, with five examples of Government media manipulation seen on the TV News earlier this year.

The Real Instituto El Cano (a leading 'Think Tank') has a paper on 'España en el mundo durante 2015: perspectivas y desafíos' – a study on Spain's foreign proposals and activities for this year.

The latest opinion poll, from Metroscopia, has only four points difference between Podemos (22.5%) the PSOE (20,2%), the PP (18.6%) and Ciudadanos (18.4%), says Euro Mundo Global, who adds that post-election 'pacts' will be a certainty.

Meet the leader of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, the most valued politician by the general Public, at Change in Spain, here.

Reuters reports on the policies of Podemos, including their plan towards 'putting a stop to austerity measures to stop the rise of far-right parties which would suppose a threat to democracy'. Pablo Iglesias (who is just 36) says that his party is pro-European. On Wednesday, The New York Times featured an article about 'the man with the ponytail' on its front page (here in pdf), the full article here. The Guardian also runs an interesting analysis of the party, called 'What has gone wrong for Podemos?'.

From Colin Davies' Thoughts from Galicia: 'In sharp contrast with their treatment of themselves and their friends, Spain's banks are brutal with those who default on mortgages they were persuaded to take out in the good times. As I mentioned recently, the law on their protection is weaker than anywhere else in Europe except Bulgaria and Greece. The net result, last year, was a total of 119,450 foreclosures and evictions. Of these, 35,000 were of homes. Or almost a hundred a day. They don't have much of a voice, though things might just improve if Podemos manages to at least form part of the next government'.

Mariano Rajoy sees an enemy, in the shape of Esperanza Aguirre, at his shoulder as they appear to struggle for the heart and soul of the Partido Popular. Story at Cuarto Poder.

Corruption:

In a rather muted way, the trial of the century has finally begun. El País in English explains the Gürtel Investigation, the kickbacks-for contracts scandal that involves the Partido Popular. Remarkably, The Times of London appears to have more reference than any Spanish paper, with its 'Spanish Ruling Elite accused of stealing 450 million euros in cash', as explained in Spanish here. Now, finally, 'Forty members of the Spanish ruling party and a number of prominent businessmen will stand trial in the country’s biggest political corruption scandal since the end of the Franco regime...'. Says David Jackson here.

Ah, the anti-corruption judges... Wolf Street talks of the humbug surrounding the Bankia investigation and its protection by the Establishment: '...In an almost word-for-word replica of an argument already employed by Bankia’s former CEO, Rodrigo Rato, Spain’s public prosecutors (now turned defence lawyers) stated that not only was the measure unnecessary, it could end up damaging Bankia’s institutional reputation (Ha!), “sending an unsettling message of uncertainty to the markets” that could easily have a detrimental effect on the company’s share price...'. El Diario tells a similar story: 'The State Financial Apparatus conspires to bury the Bankia scandal'.

Judge José Castro, the judge deep in the Balearic Palma Arena case (Iñaki Udangarin, the Crown Princess Cristina et al...) has been told he must retire at 70, that's in December this year. He's been on this case since 2008. Will there be time to wind up his inquiries? Doubtful. More at El País here.

Andalucía elections (March 22nd). 6.5 million voters.

According to the CIS, the PSOE will win Andalucía, but will need to pact either with the PP or Podemos. El Ventano has more.

'I want to give my son (she is pregnant with a boy, apparently) a better Andalucía than the one left to us by our parents', says Susana Díaz, candidate for the PSOE, the party which has dominated the region since the first autonomic elections in 1980.

The fun bit is when candidates show us their patrimonio. They are often surprisingly modest, with the PP candidate Juanma Moreno, for example (who has banked over 1,5m euros from political earnings, according to El Plural), reporting just 6,000€ in his bank account. Poor Juan Antonio Marín, from Ciudadanos, only has 2,105€ in his.

Some proposals from Teresa Rodríguez the Podemos candidate sound a bit 'out there', says the right-wing Periodista Digital, including 'the expropriation of large land-holdings to give homes for all' and, worse still, a new law to control the press. The site reveals some of her other slightly peculiar ideas (like something out of Dr Zhivago).

Andalucian Elections: seven party political videos here.

Local Politics

In Albox (Almería), one of the towns at the centre of the 'illegal homes' crisis in Andalucía, the president of the property owners group the AUAN, Maura Hillen, has joined the local PSOE as second on the list (and certain to become a local councillor following the elections of May 24th) as an independent. The PSOE has tempered its arguments against the illegal houses and now favours a proposal raised by the AUAN to insist on full compensation for buyers in good faith of homes before they are eventually demolished. The rule of thumb currently being: not many are bulldozed, but many could be. This, according to the PP, being just an electioneering promise and an all-around low blow (since it was the PSOE-controlled Junta de Andalucía that suddenly discovered those '300,000 vivienda ilegales' in the first place 'they should be trying to legalise them, not collect indemnifications', they say). A valid point, perhaps. The story so far, here. Juanma Moreno the PP candidate went on to say on Tuesday that his party would scrap the Andalucian building law, the POTA, and modify the LOUA, if they got in. On Wednesday afternoon (see Housing above) the Senate reached broad agreement on a slightly watered-down version of the PSOE proposal.

Courts

The three last leading State Prosecutors, whose Constitutional job is to pursue crime to 'the social satisfaction of society', have all been denounced for prevaricación ('corrupt practices') for, apparently, political reasons. The complaint comes from the citizens' defence group AJURA. Their web-page here. Spain is at the tail-end of Europe when it comes to faith in an independent judiciary, says Público here. Only Slovakia and Bulgaria are worse, says the news-site. '...and things are getting worse in those countries', says the European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourova. The indicator for 'independent justice' (UK at 6.2 and Germany at 5.9), continues the item, is just 3.2 in Spain, and apparently falling.

Various:

The 21% IVA on all things cultural – theatre, books, music and cinema, is soon to be reduced to just 10%, according to an item in the ABC (mind you, it was at 8% when the PP took power three years ago). From Lenox' The Entertainer Online.

A few years old now, The Guardian report with video of the investigation that uncovered the plight of migrant workers who live in appalling conditions and are paid half of legal minimum wage (have things changed?).

The Legal4Spain (commercial site) has an interesting article called 'Non-Spanish Residents’ Tax Returns for Spanish Property Owners- Update'. Here.

Two international studies by the International Ocean Discovery Program, focusing on geological risk – chiefly to do with earthquakes and volcanoes – have decided to do without the help of Spanish scientists and geologists after it emerged that Spain had neglected since 2011 to pay its annual subscription. El Mundo is indignant.

'Estoy Harto de los Españoles' – 'I'm sick of the Spanish', says any number of billboards with pictures of a variety of evidently angry (white) foreigners erected all over the country recently. This campaign is not, apparently, an attack on the foreign residents (or even the owners of illegal homes or the victims of Land Grab), but rather a clever campaign by the 'Clear Channel' people to promote something which will be revealed later this week. We can hardly wait.

A very fast, very expensive car made with extensive use of graphene and a hugely aggressive visual appearance, the Spanish super-car called the GTA-Spano with its 925hp V10 is now on sale at your favourite concessionary. Priced at 890,000€, we've ordered two.

Story here and uninspired YouTube introduction at the 2015 Geneva Motor show here.

75 years ago, Pablo Neruda, the Chilean poet, chartered an old cargo ship called the Winnipeg, took her from France to Spain, quietly collected 2,200 refugees from the Spanish Civil War and transported them to a new life in Chile. Wow.

The fascinating story of the end of the Moslem domination of Spain and the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba in 1236. Found at The History of Islam here.

The Seasons of Navarra, here.

The Olive Press took a walk along the terrifying Caminito del Rey (Málaga province), now restored and due to open to the public on March 28tth. See video here.

The Guardian introduces us to the magnificent and exotic 'flamenco fusion' singer, Concha Buika. Videos on YouTube here...

Finally:

Spain's effort for this year's Eurovision Song Contest comes from Edurne and is called 'Amanecer'. Here on YouTube.

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