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Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nº 306)

Business over Tapas (Nº 306)

  • A digest of this week's Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners: Prepared by Lenox Napier. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

viernes 07 de junio de 2019, 21:45h

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Editorial:

Podemos has come to the end of its tether. It was a fantastic run – a party that came from nowhere and managed to ignite the passion of the young; bringing change and progress to Spain in a few short years. We can thank Podemos, amongst other things, for the fall of the corrupt government of Rajoy, the end of the ‘Sun Tax’, the regularisation of pensions and for last year’s minimum wage (SMI) increase to 900€.

The power-that-be were against Podemos and its eccentric leader from the start, plotting with Venezuelan politicians to invent scandals against the party and even spending public money on creating an anti-Podemos news-site called OKDiario, with its visible champion Eduardo Inda. The conservative newspapers happily followed the story-line from Inda and even found their own narratives. But it was Pablo Iglesias himself that managed the final shot against him, by unwisely buying a large mansion in a fancy part of Madrid when he should really have been staying with his wife (who is Nº 2 in Podemos) in a modest garret in a poor part of the city. His house may not be as large as some other politicians’ homes, but, hey, Pablo Iglesias’ message is about the little folk, not the nobs on the hill!

A couple of weeks ago, Pablo criticised Amancio Ortega, who is Spain’s wealthiest man (his daughter is third on the moneyed list of billionaires). Amancio has donated expensive machinery to the Spanish health service and Pablo made the point that tax-avoiders should pay their dues rather than perform philanthropic stunts. This, as the Americans say, did not go down well in Peoria.

Now, with several founder-members of Podemos either absent, or in another party (Íñigo Errejón being the most notable), or quitting (the leader of Podemos for Zaragoza says ‘she’s lost the dream’ and abandons politics), or critical of Iglesias following two disastrous election results; with several break-away Podemos parties like Compromís, Podemos Andalucía (here), En Marea and Ahora Madrid. Now fellow party founder Ramón Espinar is proposing ‘an urgent Citizen Assembly to address "the failure" of Podemos, "that is broken into pieces"’. ‘Kichi’, the charismatic mayor of Cádiz, supports the idea. Could Espinar be planning to take over the party as Iglesias falls on his sword asks the media?

While Pedro Sánchez holds Pablo Iglesias at arm’s length following the general elections, needing but not needing the input from Unidas Podemos, the Podemos leader has created a small purge in the party, removing the wheelchair-bound Pablo Echenique as party spokesperson in favour of dreadlocks Alberto Rodríguez.

For Iglesias, it could be coming to the end of the trail, a shame indeed, for he will – someday – be recognised as being one of Spain’s greatest politicians.

Housing:

‘Spain’s last epic housing bubble, one of the biggest in living memory, propelled median home prices to €2,100 per square metre, at which point the bubble began to burst. The national median price eventually plunged 31%, according to government data, as Spain’s financial system began to collapse only to get bailed out by an international aid package. The long-drawn-out event wreaked all kinds of mayhem on the economy, workers, and the people. So where is the housing market now?...’. An article from Rigged Game here.

From La Ser: ‘Jail for rebuilding an abandoned town. A dozen squatters have been trying to revitalize an abandoned town for 40 years with the frontal opposition of the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha’. The Fraguas story with video is here.

Tourism:

Turespaña has created a new post-Brexit campaign. ‘We have Spain in common’.

‘The high-speed national rail service known as the AVE will connect to Granada for the first time later this month – firstly with fast links to Madrid and Barcelona, then later directly to Málaga and Seville. Transport board RENFE says the AVE will be on track in the Alhambra Palace city from Wednesday, June 26, and will allow passengers to reach Spain's capital within three hours and five minutes...’. From Think Spain here.

Finance:

Nine of Spain’s ten municipalities over 20,000 inhabitants in size with the lowest incomes are in Andalucía says El Mundo here. The poorest is Nijar in Almería with an average income of 6,253€ per year, followed by Los Palacios and Villafranca, Alhaurín el Grande, Vícar, the Isla Cristina and Barbate. Mazarrón in Murcia is eighth on the list. The highest is Madrid’s Pozuelo de Alarcón at an average income per inhabitant of 25,957€. Some Andalusian cities – Linares in Jaén, Cádiz, La Línea de la Concepción and Granada – have unemployment at 60% says El Confidencial here, looking at 14 of Spain’s 16 cities with the highest unemployment.

Murcia Region is very broke, says the likely-new president Rosa Peñalver PSOE, with debts of 10,000 million euros to resolve. La Cadena Ser has the story here.

While accusing the PP of the lion’s share of the problem, Público raises the point that Spain has a massive public debt which has grown by 753,000 million euros in the past decade to a current 1,137, 859 million euros.

Politics:

Some recounts following the recent elections have produced fresh results in Navarra, Cantabria and Castilla y León. El País has the story here.

The 'swearing in' of Town Halls takes place on Saturday June 15th. This follows votes by the councillors for the job of mayor. Firstly, along party lines, then, if necessary, along pre-agreed coalitions or – in extremis – with a minority mayor. Autonomies have two months from the initial vote to form a parliament, otherwise (unlike town halls) fresh elections must be called. The 'diputaciones' (roughly, 'county councils') will generally be formed in the second half of June, based on party power across the province.

Vox may be a step too far for C’s (or maybe not). From El País in English. ‘Ciudadanos rules out talks with far-right party Vox to form governments. The centre-right group’s executive committee wants to avoid a repeat of the situation in Andalucía, and says it is open to “exceptional” deals with the Socialist Party’. The three-way government in Andalucía, by the way, is not going well, with Vox saying that they won’t sign off the budget for the coalition. From El País in English again. ‘The Far-right political party Vox announced on Monday that it will not lend its support in the Andalusian regional parliament to the budget plan of the new government, which is made up of the PP and Ciudadanos...’. The PP’s response to this, according to ElDiario.es, is along the lines of ‘are you nuts?’

From ElDiario.es comes: ‘45.2% of Spaniards want a coalition government, according to the CIS’. ‘The Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas ("Centre for Sociological Research") or CIS is a Spanish public research institute’, says Wiki here. Its director is José Félix Tezanos, who was a university professor and a member of the PSOE (Wiki here). Because of Tezanos’ background, some of the media like to claim a bias in the CIS publications. As below.

Thursday Headlines: El País: 'El 44% de los españoles prefiere un Gobierno del PSOE con apoyos puntuales, según el CIS'. VozPópuli: 'El 44% de los españoles quiere que el PSOE gobierne solo, según el CIS'. El Español: 'Los españoles prefieren un gobierno en solitario del PSOE o en coalición con Podemos, según el CIS'. El Huff Post: 'Los españoles, a favor de un Gobierno en solitario del PSOE según el CIS'. Then along comes the ABC: 'El CIS vuelve al «método Tezanos» y pone al PP por detrás de Ciudadanos y Podemos' and from El Mundo: 'La mayoría de los españoles quiere que Sánchez forme un Gobierno de coalición, según el CIS de Tezanos'. La Razón: 'El CIS de Tezanos condiciona los pactos: la mayoría quiere una coalición entre PSOE y Unidas Podemos en el Gobierno'. OKDiario: 'Los españoles quieren un gobierno PSOE-Podemos según el CIS de Tezanos'.

A year has passed since the moción de censura and the end of both Mariano Rajoy and (más o menos) the Partido Popular. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, El País (now) reckons it was a great success.

Which politicians were the rudest and most prone to handing out insults? El Huff Post has the unsurprising answer here.

A recount in Motril (Granada) has cost a Vox councillor in favour of one from Andalucía Por Sí. A pact for the town hall is still necessary despite the change in councillor numbers.

‘From homeless to Congress: Meet the Spanish deputy who used to sleep on the street. Socialist lawmaker Luc André Diouf was once an irregular immigrant with nowhere to live; now he is a newly-elected member of parliament committed to fighting the rise of the far right’. A feature from El País in English here.

A future mayor from Vox leaves the party and declares himself an ‘independentist’. Antonio Jiménez, the gypsy who was the candidate for Vox in Alfarràs in Lérida, says he feels "cheated" by the party and apologizes to the Catalans’. From La Vanguardia here.

The ex-Podemos founder Íñigo Errejón plans an autumn founding congress of his (still unnamed) new political force – a ‘new left’ – which hopes to take over the leadership of the ‘forces of change’. The new political project led by Errejón will formally be established between the months of October and November. El Confidencial has the item here.

José María González , ‘Kichi’, the mayor of Cádiz, is a role-model for the left. He has given away around half of his wage as mayor for the past four years, saying that he will only keep the equivalent of his salary as a teacher. Thus, around 70,000€ has gone to local charities.

Catalonia:

The official claim that the Catalonian independence ‘procès’ is not driving away foreign investment collapses following the current European Economic Attractiveness Report: for the first time, 9% of investors prefer Madrid to do business compared to 6% who opt for Barcelona. In 2018, 11% less foreign money went into Catalonia, while in the Community of Madrid, investment skyrocketed by 125% in year-on-year terms. El Español looks at the details here.

From El País in English here: ‘The Prosecutor in the Catalan secession trial calls 2017 events a “coup d’état”. In closing arguments on Tuesday, the prosecution in the Supreme Court case sought to prove the pro-independence leaders had committed rebellion and not the lesser offense of sedition’.

Corruption:

The 'National League Against Childhood Cancer (LINCECI)' managed to raise up to five million euros promoting a "new campaign" to help children with cancer in both Spain and Peru. That money ended up financing the luxury life of the ringleader of what has now been found to be a scam, Roberto Pérez Rodríguez, and his cronies. El Español has the story of ‘Roberto's obscene fortune at the expense of children with cancer: five million euros, luxury cars and trips’ here. Roberto and four of his colleagues are currently in clink awaiting trial.

Brexit:

Well said, Elton John. La Vanguardia here.

Media:

Popular Catalonian singer Kiko Veneno speaks of ‘the dictatorship of information’ as he attacks the media here.

‘The SGAE (Wiki), the Spanish copyright society, has been temporarily expelled from the International Confederation of Authors. The decision has been adopted by 90% of the General Assembly of the body, which considers that the SGAE has received complaints that generate "serious concerns"’. VozPópuli reports on the troubled agency here.

Ecology:

Motorpasión brings us a list of all the electric cars available in Spain here.

From The Guardian comes: ‘Madrid could become the first European city to scrap their low-emissions zone. The region’s likely new president Isabel Díaz Ayuso believes congestion is part of city’s cultural identity’.

LaSexta brings us a video showing just how polluted are the waters of the Mar Menor.

‘Spain is the European country most exposed to air pollution by sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions that come from cruise ships. ... The study, which provides data for 2017, indicates that Carnival Corporation, the world's largest luxury cruise ship operator, issued almost 10 times more SOx on European coasts than 260 million cars that year were expelled. It is followed by Royal Caribbean Cruises, with emissions four times greater than those generated by the continental car fleet. In absolute terms, Spain leads the ranking with 14,496,000 kilos of SOx, ahead of Italy (13,895,000), Greece (7,674,000), France (5,950,000), Norway (5,261,000) and Portugal (5,108) .000)...’. From EcoDiario here.

‘The Nuclear Safety Council has raised the severity of a breakdown of the Vandellòs II (Taragona) nuclear power plant which suffered two water leaks that have forced the reactor to stop in a very short time, only three and a half months, leading the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) to reclassify it as ‘one’ on the Ines scale (here). This latest event happened on April 6. Initially it was rated zero but now it has risen to one due to "the repetition of consecutive failures due to the same cause" and in the same zone as the pressure barrier. Greenpeace and Ecologists in Action have argued in recent months that the repetition of this type of breakdown could reveal the existence of "some structural problem" due to the aging of the nuclear reactor systems that should be addressed...’. From Kaos en la Red here.

From National Geographic España here: ‘Six areas of Spain contaminated by nuclear radiation. The Nuclear Safety Council has identified six contaminated sites, although it has admitted that they are not classified as such due to the absence of legislation in this regard’.

As smoking actually rises in Spain, Catalonia plans to ban smoking in cars from next year.

When that photo of the food product doesn’t look much like the one you just unwrapped...

Various:

Spanish farmacias have always been kind to dispense certain drugs without a prescription. Illegal but no big deal. Now, to give them extra paperwork and the citizen extra bother, certain popular cures must now have their scrip, or the pharmacist risks a large fine. The products in question, according to El Confidencial, include Paracetamol (1g), Ibuprofeno (600 mg), Omeprazol and certain anti-histamines. Of course, you can still easily buy Ibuprofeno at 200 mgs and take three of them...

Why are Spanish windows smaller than the European average, asks El País here (as the sun beats in to the editorial office). There are lots of pictures of windows in this silly article.

‘The priest and founder of Mensajeros de la Paz, Ángel García, better known as Padre Ángel, tells in his book ‘Un mundo mejor es posible’ (Enienta) that he once received a 2,000 pesetas bill from the dictator Francisco Franco for his NGO. First he wanted to return it because it seemed "very little" and, then, because this was thought to be inadvisable, he had it framed so as to never spend it...’. An item from Europa Press here.

‘Inside Spain’s new high-tech cop cars being rolled out across Malaga, Valencia and Mallorca. The new Toyota Prius cars have been specially equipped with three state-of-the-art cameras, capable of checking 400 license plates against the stolen database per minute’. From The Olive Press here.

Correos has changed its logo. This wasn’t cheap at 250,000€ for the new design. Euribor says that changing the paperwork, signage, paint jobs, uniforms, offices and 14,000 vehicles should cost a few euros more of public money...

From El País in English here. There’s just no getting rid of the old rascal. ‘Spain’s Supreme Court suspends the planned exhumation of Franco. The Socialist Party government of Pedro Sánchez has been working on a project to move the remains of the former dictator since last June, but has met with the stiff opposition of his family’.

See Spain:

From El País in English here: ‘Ten Spanish cities that will make you fall in love with archaeology. From Roman ruins to Visigothic remains, Spain is home to numerous sites that tell the fascinating stories of the cultures that came before us’.

Público has the cities which receive the best-rating from visitors: Barcelona, Granada, Madrid, Oviedo, Salamanca, San Sebastián, Santander and Toledo.

The ABC joins the growing group of list-makers. Here they have twenty of Spain’s most interesting and beautiful castles.

Mike Arkus travels to ‘Valladolid, the city that would be national capital’. (You have to copy and paste this). https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bolero-ing-round-spain-looney-front-part-6-valladolid-mike-arkus/?published=t

From The Guardian comes: ‘Tarifa holiday guide: the best activities, bars, restaurants and hotels. This beach town in the far south of Spain, only a windsurf away from Africa, mixes a surfer vibe with excellent nightlife’.

From the AUAN

The New Government of Andalucía tackles illegal houses

The new government of Andalucía (PP, Ciudadanos) has announced a series of measures to deal with an estimated 300,000 irregular houses in its territory. These houses are a consequence of the building boom of 1997 to 2007, where out of control development led to the construction of properties that failed to comply with current planning regulations.

Many of these properties were unwittingly purchased in good faith by foreign buyers, resulting in years of legal wrangles, lack of proper paperwork and problems with accessing basic services such as electricity and water. It became known as less the living of the dream, more of surviving the nightmare for many.

Addressing the Parliament of Andalucía on Wednesday 29th May, after a series of meetings with homeowners’ associations from across the territory, the Minister for Development and Territorial Planning, Marifrán Carazo, declared that her government had “clear ideas and a firm and dedicated intention” to resolve the problem. She went on to outline a series of measures designed to bring relief to homeowners and to minimise environmental damage, as quickly as possible, whilst a fundamental rewrite of the Planning Law is underway.

Instruction

Firstly, Sra. Carazo announced that her Ministry, having reviewed existing legislation, would issue a clarifying instruction which would allow officials to expand the granting of an AFO certificate (a form of legal recognition) to more irregular homes. The instruction was in fact signed on 31st May and is now in force.

Decree

Secondly, the Minister announced that the government was planning to amend specific articles of the existing Planning Law (LOUA), as quickly as possible via a Decree, in order to further expand access to an AFO to those homeowners awaiting legalisation via a town plan so that they too can access basic services and register their houses whilst waiting for their town plan to be approved and executed. “It’s about allowing the recognition of an AFO to be given without so many obstacles and impediments” she said.

The Minister stated that the decree would be approved by the Council of Ministers (Consejo de Gobierno) before the end of the current parliamentary session in August of this year.

Access to an AFO offers certain interim advantages to those awaiting legalisation via a town plan given that it can be obtained relatively quickly and used to provide immediate relief from issues relating to the lack of proper title (embargos, unable to sell) and/or lack of access to basic services. Under current legislation, homeowners must wait until a town plan has been approved and executed before such problems can be resolved, a process that can take over a decade to reach a conclusion and often fails.

Special plans

Thirdly, the government proposes to deal with the “more complex” problem of irregular housing estates or asentamientos without having to wait for the approval and execution of a town plan (PGOU), which the Minister described as “a complex and lengthy process”.

This will be achieved through the introduction of “planes especiales” or special plans that function independently of the town plan and establish solutions tailored to the specific requirements of each estate. The Minister emphasised that the costs of the special plans would be met by the property owners, as is the case with town plans.

It is understood that a special plan will be applied to an irregular estate if it is deemed to be impractical to ‘legalise’ it due to is physical characteristics or distance from existing urban centres.

Reaction from homeowners’ groups

Gerardo Vázquez, the spokesperson for AUAN, welcomed the Minister’s statement saying “In the Valley of Almanzora there have been many years of campaigning, a lot of litigation in trying to avoid the demolition of houses, many tears when those affected learned of their situation, many journeys to various parts of Spain, and many fallen along the way, who died before seeing their homes regularised. For us it is not only what the Minister has announced, which is important, but of much greater significance is the clear and convincing willingness of her new Ministry to sort it out”.

The president of AUAN, Maura Hillen, said “Witnessing the Ministers statement to parliament and the response of the various political parties it is clear that we now have consensus to put an end to this problem once and for all. And we have a government that is prepared to listen to the associations and take the necessary realistic and practical steps. This is not the end of the road but I believe it is the beginning of the end”.

Letters:

On this week’s editorial: He took the youthful, even joyful spirit of the 15-M movement and proceeded to beat it to death with every arrogant, ill-advised action and every angry word. Egotism, self-righteousness, sectarianism, and absolute intolerance of criticism are what he will be remembered for. He was a Pied Piper who led a whole generation of hopeful progressives off a political cliff. But he got a nice chalet w/pool out of his little escapade. (A better politician would have done something about his teeth and hair instead.)

Finally:

The brief story of the USS Maine on YouTube. The story is also covered at History Today here. The explosion on the Maine and its sinking in Havana (Cuba) waters in 1898 was used as an excuse by the USA to declare war on Spain.

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