Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nº 337)

Business over Tapas (Nº 337)

  • 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

jueves 13 de febrero de 2020, 22:04h

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A happy life includes a companion to share it with, good health, shelter, food on the table... and a table. A surprising number of people in Spain have been found to be without the last three of these absolutes.

We begin with a depressing title from El País in English: ‘Spain’s social protection system is broken, says United Nations expert on Poverty and Human Rights’. It adds, ‘After a 12-day visit, Special Rapporteur Philip Alston concludes that ‘people in poverty have been largely failed by policymakers’’. The savage report continues ‘...This expert described “deep, widespread poverty and high unemployment, a housing crisis of stunning proportions, a completely inadequate social-protection system that leaves large numbers of people in poverty by design, a segregated and increasingly anachronistic education system, a fiscal system that provides far more benefits to the wealthy than the poor, and an entrenched bureaucratic mentality in many parts of the government that values formalistic procedures over the well-being of people.”...’.

The story has been picked up by The Guardian here ‘Spain abandoning the poor despite economic recovery, says UN envoy’, while ElDiario.es has an interview with Alston and leads with ‘“The authorities turn a blind eye to the conditions of immigrant day labourers”’.

He did a full job, too. Alston visited the hovels where the immigrant farm-labourers live – ‘...“I have visited places that I suspect many Spaniards would not recognize as part of their country. Poor neighbourhoods with much worse conditions than a refugee camp”...’.

On another subject, Alston had criticism for rental costs. “The Government does not take control of the rental price seriously”, he is reported as saying in an interview with Público here, adding that he considers housing to be Spain’s leading problem. Evictions are a major source of social friction, with the Australian Sight Magazine reporting on one in Barcelona: ‘...Thousands of families are evicted each month across Spain, as a combination of over-tourism, rising immigration and a growing urban population push up housing prices, leaving many tenants unable to afford rent, say housing rights advocates. As local activists call on the government for solutions, advocacy groups like Stop Desahucios ("Stop Evictions") are finding ways to help people keep their homes, with some comparing the situation to a refugee crisis. "The housing crisis situation in Spain is comparable to less developed countries where they have seen big displacements," said Santi Mas de Xaxas, spokesman for the Mortgage Victims' Platform (PAH), which runs Stop Desahucios...’.

The high cost of housing, says The Economist here, is an understandable stimulus to vote for populism. ‘...Housing is also a big reason why many people across the rich world feel that the economy does not work for them. Whereas baby-boomers tend to own big, expensive houses, youngsters must increasingly rent somewhere cramped with their friends, fomenting millennials’ resentment of their elders...’.

So, we must travel to La Cañada Real, the largest hobo camp in Spain. Wiki describes it as ‘...a shanty town in the Madrid Region, a linear succession of informal housing following a 14.4-kilometre-long stretch of the drovers' road connecting La Rioja and Ciudad Real...’. It says ‘...The population is mixed; it houses both Spaniards (mainly Roma) and immigrants (mainly from Morocco). As of 2017, it had a population of 7,283...’. El País calls it ‘The forgotten fourteen kilometres of Madrid’.

Not all refugees make it to the sunny uplands of La Cañada Real: The Guardian (Nov 2019) reports ‘...authorities are unable to provide basic shelter and protection to dozens of migrants and asylum seekers, including children. The number of people arriving in the Madrid region to seek asylum has almost doubled over the past year, rising from 20,700 to 41,000...’.

The poorest region of Spain is Extremadura. A report from there says ‘In Spain, 26.1% of the population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion, this percentage rises to 44% in the case of Extremadura. Although La Crisis of 2008 savaged the incomes of many families, the poverty rate was already worrying even before the recession...’.

We all know the rich from endless articles in the media. But who are the poor?

(Copy at lenoxnapier.blogspot.com)


Future dwellings, says El País, will be very different from what we know today. The article forecasts co-living, robot furniture and energy self-sufficiency.

...When it comes to sellers we also have a favourite mantra which is, why the first offer is always the best offer. Imagine the situation, you have just put your beautiful home on the market and within one week a buyer comes along and offers you a price close enough to your asking price to make you seriously pause for thought...’. From The Olive Press here.

The AUAN accuse some town halls of failing to regularise housing’, says The Leader here.

Marbella completes its wall of brick by the sea. A luxury hotel and 186 homes will occupy the final free bits of sea-front in the city, using an apparently still-valid 1986 urban plan’. The 242,000m2 property is in the Siete Revueltas estate with around 100 metres of beach. The story is at El País here.

An 81,000m2 chunk of authorised pig-farming land to the north of Mazarrón (Murcia) is currently at auction. The land is only 400m away from the Camposol urbanisation and residents are understandably concerned that someone might be able to go ahead with the stinky macro-piggery project, says Murcia Today here.

A gushing article from Her says that there’s ‘...a castle in Spain you can rent for 16 people, and it's actually very cheap. Located between mountains, rivers, and valleys of Gerona, Spain, the property features 11 beds in 8 bedrooms, as well as 4 bathrooms...’. The Airbnb-castle, fully booked, goes for €30 per day, per person... The Airbnb blurb is here.


From Think Spain here ‘Tourist spending is 'mostly in supermarkets', study finds’.


The Madrid Nuevo Norte plan, which will be developed between Plaza de Castilla and the El Pardo, is one of the largest urban development projects to be built in Europe in the coming years. In total, the former Operation Chamartín will occupy 3 million square meters and will extend 5k. In this large space residential blocks, office buildings, green areas, commercial areas and several skyscrapers will be built. One of them also intends to earn the medal of being the tallest building in Europe. The skyscraper in question will measure about 330 meters high, counting the antennas, and will surpass the tallest building in Europe to date: The Shard, 309.7 meters located in London...’. From The World News here.

The Modelo 720 tax form will soon be due (by March 31st), says A. Lawyer here.

Eight Spanish bank brands are among the 500 most valued worldwide, says The Corner here. ‘...Spanish banks, represented by 8 entities (Santander, BBVA, Caixabank, Sabadell, Bankia, Bankinter, Kutxabank and Abanca) occupy the seventh place worldwide by brand value and account for 4% of the total brand value of the banking sector (represented by the 500 most valued entities)...’.

The leading banks have not paid a single euro against their profits since the crisis broke out. Corporation Tax has usually been in their favour in the last ten years as a whole, despite the fact that the entities earned 84,000 million’. Público fields this one here.

From La Información comes ‘The unknown tax haven that avoids the payment of personal income tax to 10,000 Spaniards’. Simply enough: ‘agreements with France and Portugal allow taxpayers working across the borders to receive 60,100 euros tax free’.

British who own homes in Spain are facing significant tax increase on rental profits post-Brexit transition’. From The Olive Press here.

Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap: the secret to Mercadona’s (and Lidl’s) success here.


Spain’s democracy was ranked 18 last year, out of a total of 167 democracies analyzed by the Democracy Index of The Economist’s Intelligence Unit. This ranking represents an advance of one position compared to the previous year. Despite this good mark, the publication condemns Spain for the long sentences it imposed on the Catalan leaders of the so called “procès.”...’. Item found at The Corner here (Norway leads by the way).

Antonio Sola, a top political commentator who is known as ‘the Creator of Presidents’ (apparently), is interviewed by El Español here. Sola foresees both ‘the arrival of a Macron-like figure uniting the left’ and ‘the end of Vox within a decade at most’. He demolishes all five party-leaders one after the other in the interview.

From Spanish Revolution here, ‘The time has come to take the second step. The Coalition Government of the PSOE and Unidas Podemos plan to reform the Criminal Code to punish the public support of Franco, after overcoming the "democratic anomaly" that meant keeping the dictator in a public mausoleum along with his victims (i.e, El Valle de los Caídos). While in countries such as Germany, Italy or France, the exaltation of Nazism or fascism has a criminal response, the Spanish Criminal Code only goes as far as ‘crimes of hate’, but that is about to change. The Deputy Secretary General of the PSOE Adriana Lastra said on Monday that the Criminal Code will be reformed so that the apology and exaltation of Francoism is "finally" a crime, "because democracy does not pay homage to dictators nor tyrants”, she said...’. The Government will also close down the Fundación Francisco Franco (wiki), says Digital Sevilla here.

ElDiario.es reports that the Government is preparing to rule that Spain will become the fourth country in Europe to legalise euthanasia. The proposal was voted favourably on Tuesday and must now be examined and approved by the Comisión de Sanidad, the Cortes (again) and the Senado. The PP and Vox voted against, with the PP claiming that the proposed law is a PSOE ploy to cut medical costs (!). The PP and Vox describe the Euthanasia Law as ‘Nazi eugenics’ says El Español here.

Pablo Iglesias, one of the deputy prime ministers in the new coalition government in Spain, announced on Monday that the first legislative measure that will come from the Social Rights Ministry that he heads up will be a law protecting children from violence. The new legislation, Iglesias said, will be known as the “Rhodes Law,” in recognition of campaigning by British concert pianist James Rhodes in defence of children’s rights...’. The story comes from El País in English here.

The Basque Country and Galicia have both put their regional elections forward to April 5th. Here are the latest polls.


The Spanish PM meets with the Catalan premier ahead of talks on the region’s future. “Dialogue is the path,” says Pedro Sánchez after a 90-minute encounter with Quim Torra in Barcelona.’ An item found at El País in English here. ‘...“What I am proposing, as I have already said, is that we need to start over,” the prime minister told reporters after the encounter between the pair. “We need to restart the dialogue where our paths separated. The dialogue should begin with the recognition of the other side, of understanding the reasons of the other side. “The law is the condition, as I said, but dialogue is the path,” Sánchez continued. “I have come to talk. I appreciate the tone and the willingness of premier Torra. It was a respectful dialogue between two leaders.”...’.

One positive idea is to give Barcelona more gravitas. From La Vanguardia here: ‘Barcelona to become cultural and scientific co-capital of Spain’


Tough times ahead? ‘James Lasry, chairperson of the Gibraltar Funds and Investment Association, fears a Spanish veto could hurt the finance sector on the Rock. “Brexit has been difficult on the finance industry in Gibraltar,” Lasry told The Olive Press. “Some companies, particularly asset management firms, have indeed left Gibraltar and some have restructured, thus minimising their Gibraltar footprint...’. The story is here.

From ElDiario.es here: ‘La Línea and Gibraltar face Brexit with uncertainty: "If the border is closed, where are we going to go?" ask the cross-border workers. Brexit, effective since February 1, has not altered the day-to-day border so far, but many prepare for the end of the transitional period and accuse politicians of using the issue for electoral posturing...’.


The "Bad Bank" - SAREB. The story of a swindle. The creation of the so-called "Bad Bank", the SAREB, is the story of a private network of interests and corruption designed by financial entities and investment funds to embezzle public money, with the utmost impunity ... The SAREB is the tale of a plot full of corruption, customer networks, influence traffic, revolving doors, international interests, threats, data concealment and accounting procedures, designed to the smallest detail to embezzle, take the money and run...’. So begins an hour-long podcast from Doble Cara on Ivoox here.

The scandalous activities of Eduardo Zaplana, ex-president of the Generalitat Valenciana and ex-minister of employment in José María Aznar’s government, have now been released by the court that managed the Operación Eriál here.


From emigrate.co.uk here: ‘British expat couple in Spain win case against Rothschilds Bank’.


The new telephone service “Brexit 060” has commenced operating from February 1, 2020.

Its objective is to respond to the calls of citizens, both Spanish and British, and to inform in relation to the impact of the departure from the United Kingdom that took place on January 31, 2020. The telephone service “Brexit 060” will pay attention in both Spanish and English, according to the option chosen by the person concerned. To access the service, citizens who call 060, (or 902 887060 if calling from abroad) after the welcome speech, will have the option “Brexit”. An automated digital voice system will guide you, in a simple and intuitive way, through a series of topics of maximum interest on the “Brexit” related to the relations of citizens with the Public Administration...’. From adminstracion.gob.es here.

Spanish nurses in the UK: ‘if we leave, the whole health system will collapse’. ElDiario.es has the story here.

From The European here (opinion): ‘The EU has never been more popular among its remaining 27 countries’.


Some dodgy reporting from January is collected (with comments) by ElDiario.es here.

A free daily selection of news items from The Olive Press in your e-mail, if you ask nicely: [email protected]

The Weekender (Costa Blanca free-paper) has joined forces with The Costa News Group.

The problem with a pay-wall for a service like Business over Tapas is, even if we pay to become a subscriber, our readers won’t automatically be able to link to the original. Thus, our disappointment to see that El País is putting up a wall soon... A subscription also supposes that one will stick to a single outlet, a single opinion...

There’s a conference at Málaga University on March 19th on ‘Los Medios y los Residentes Comunitarios Europeos en el Sur de España y Portugal’ in the Salón de Grados de la Facultad de Turismo. It’s to do with the foreign-language media in the Iberian peninsula. Information here.


From The Guardian here: 'The struggle to save Spain's Ebro Delta After Storm Gloria devastated one of the Mediterranean’s largest wetlands, an urgent search has begun for solutions to protect it from further floods and creeping water levels’.

The sea is nibbling away at La Manga del Mar Menor (Murcia) and the Minister of Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera is planning on expropriations that contemplates the "recovery" for the public domain of three hundred homes, hotels, restaurants and beach bars’. The story is at El Confidencial here.

A new kind of ‘cool pavement’ is being tested in Murcia that reduces the temperature of both the road and, in consequence, the environment. It has been laid in a test-area of 24,000 square meters in seven streets of the capital. It stores less heat from the sun and apparently is 1.5 degrees cooler than an asphalt road. La Crónica del Pajarito has the report here.


From Redacción Médica here: ‘The World Economic Forum gives Spain the title of best public health service in the world. In addition, Spain ranks as the third country with the highest healthy life expectancy, only behind Singapore and Japan’.

Lenox was sent an email from his telephone, via Google, to tell him where he had visited in the past month, with pictures of the shops and restaurants involved. His device told him how far he had walked and how far he had driven. Big Brother stuff. Now we read that the traffic police, the DGT, can monitor just how fast you are driving with your telephone betraying your leaden foot and breakneck speeding to the cops. Blimey. Oh yes, and then YouTube wrote and asked what Lenox thought of the Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson duet ‘To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before’ he recently watched. Are there no secrets these days?

From Xataca here: ‘The new Google Maps app on your mobile phone is like a social network: it's not just where we go, Google insists on knowing what we like about each place we visit’.

A puff for Invicta Motor, which commercialises three Chinese brands in Spain: Invicta, DFSK and BAIC (gas or petrol). El Confidencial Digital runs the piece here.

New data shows 600% price hikes on oranges, pushing farmers in Spain’s Andalucía ‘to the brink’. Andalusian farmers have been severely struggling recently, with international tariffs hitting the country hard’ says The Olive Press here.

A fresh problem for the beleaguered invernadero farmers in Almería is the fruit and veg arriving from Morocco only to be re-branded as Spanish. The Moroccan produce, says ElDiario.es, has lower quality standards and a cheaper workforce.

Stories of the farmers who sell directly to the consumer. ‘It’s to avoid ruining ourselves’, they say.

A menú del día is a cheap and cheerful lunch option (wiki), generally with a salad, plus various choices on a first course and a second course, with bread, a drink and a home-made pud. All for something around 8 or 10 euros a head (or, er, a bit more). It was introduced by the government as a menú turístico in 1964 and all restaurants had to offer it to their clients. It became very popular with diners and soon changed to its present name (See, Franco did something good after all). Neither changes in fashion nor fast-foods can kill the ubiquitous menú del día says El Confidencial here.

The US Secretary of State has extended the veto on all senior executives from the Meliá hotel group which has interests in Cuba.

The Mobile World Congress planned for Barcelona later this month has been cancelled by the organisers after a number of high-profile exhibitors had pulled out, fearful of the threat of Coranavirus.

The powers-that-be have built a massive 800m wheelchair ramp at a public school in Alcalá de Guadaíra (Seville). Admire the photo! One of the jokes we saw asks if there’s a snack-shop half-way up.

See Spain:

The Playa de Gulpiyuri (Asturias) is one of the most amazing beaches in the world and also one of the most unusual and unique beaches you will find...’. Eye on Spain has the story.

From Discover Southern Europe here: ‘A weekend in Alicante: The Mediterranean Sea and a quarter of a million palm trees’. Nice photos of the city of Alicante.

From España Fascinante (English) comes: ‘Walking along the vertiginous footbridges of Montfalcó’. It says ‘...This itinerary is located on the natural border between Huesca and Lleida and delimited by Nogera-Ribagorzana river. It witnesses a history that goes back many years. Inhabitants of both banks of the Sierra de Montsec had to manage to create a path that would allow them to communicate and trade before the Canelles reservoir was built in the area. The gorge was the shortest way. The route has become a must-see place for those who love hiking and nature...’.

El Viaje más Largo: The fifth centenary of the first circumnavigation of the world (1599 to 1602) with Magellan and later Elcano (Fernando de Magallanes who died during the adventure, with the new captain Juan Sebastián Elcano completing the trip). The daily log is the basis for this Google map. The Archivo de las Indias in Seville has an exhibition. Pictures and details here. Wiki tells the story in English here.


48 Hours in Northern Spain’. A ten-minute travel video-log (‘vlog’) on YouTube here.

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