Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nbr. 347)

Business over Tapas (Nbr. 347)

  • 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 23 de abril de 2020, 02:37h

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We’ve seen clips of American freedom-fans (with their submachine guns) gathering in packs outside City Hall and calling for the right to ignore quarantine rules (or guidelines, depending on where they are). ‘These are great people’, says Trump here. They will vote for him in November, they say, those who manage to stay alive until then.

We’ve seen Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro smother a cough as he tells his fans not to fear crowds.

We see our boy Santiago Abascal call for all quarantine to be lifted in Spain forthwith.

Who do these leaders speak for – the ordinary people or the captains of industry?

Certainly we are heading for the Mother of all Recessions. Worse, no doubt, the longer we stay inside; yet, worse too, if we come out too early.

Politics is more or less following the same division. The left seeks to save lives (they’ve not done a particularly good job of this in Spain), the right seeks to save jobs, the economy and, in short, capital. If you can’t eat, they say, you’ll die anyway.

But, answers the left, the simple choices are poor and alive, or rich and dead. Politics. This division is creating huge tensions, which spills out into a non-collaboration policy from the opposition. A policy which not only weakens the country, it also weakens its response to the coronavirus.

There will be some gentle loosening of restrictions in the coming weeks. Children up to the age of 14 will be allowed out (briefly, with face-masks, and under parental supervision) from April 27th (El País in English here) and, further ‘…there will be a “cautious and progressive” de-escalation of confinement measures from May 11th’. But, does letting us out earlier carry the risk that we are going to end up being in quarantine for longer (HBO’s John Oliver here)? It’s a bit like the storyline for Jaws – the resort needs to open again…

Of course, no one knows. There’s no vaccine. There’s only hope against the worst. Perhaps the plague will return after the summer, or we shall slowly build up a resistance, or maybe it will mutate into something worse

The far-right (and pro-business) Zero Hedge asks here ‘What will you do if they try to extend Covid-19 lockdowns into next year?’ Jeez, that’s a hard one. It notes ‘…These lockdowns may be slowing down the spread of the virus to a certain extent, but they are also absolutely crushing economic activity…’.

The maverick American politician Ron Paul pens a piece called ‘what if the lockdown was all a big mistake?’ here.

A regular presence on BoT is Marc Stücklin who has just recovered from a three-week bout with Covid-19. He says ‘…Although I understand the need for an initial lockdown to give the health system a chance to prepare, not least to give medical staff a chance to catch and recover from the virus before they are overwhelmed with sick people coughing all over them, I fear the cure will end up worse than the disease. An economic depression will come at a high price in terms of human health and happiness…’.

On the other hand, the left-leaning Common Dreams says ‘…We must protect ourselves and others, especially the most vulnerable. Solidarity and common sense dictate that we change what up until now has been considered “normal” behaviour…’.

Some regions in Spain have had fewer cases of coronavirus, and they lean towards easing up on their restrictions. Andalucía is one such and the president Juanma Moreno says that the hospitals are now coping but businesses are not.

A map of the incidences by regions is here

Mourning in Spain.

Spain is, today (together with Belgium), the country with the highest number of deceased and infected people in the world according to its percentage of population. We are still far from overcoming this pandemic with a total of 208,389 infections, 21,717 deaths and 85,915 released from hospital (Wednesday 2.00pm).

After forty long days of confinement, the daily lamentation does not stop. We hope that this will end soon, but hearing the number of patients who died each day at the press conference of the Government Crisis Committee plunges us into infinite sadness and traumatic pain that will surely leave its mark on our life history.

There are thousands of relatives who have not been able to say goodbye to their loved ones and who see their coffins in images in the former Ice Palace (skating rink) where the funeral companies must queue in line to undertake their doleful task. Tens of thousands of infected people lie in hospitals and thousands more are in intensive care, counting their luck to see whether it will be their turn to die or if they will be saved. More than 14,000 deaths have been reported in nursing homes, in which the Prosecutor's Office has already opened proceedings to clarify responsibilities. There are millions of people in confinement who live alone or who share 60 square meters with their family nucleus, or who cannot leave their single room because that is the only thing they have rented. There are millions of children who have not been on the street since March 13; millions, too, of unemployed who do not know when they will be able to recover a decent job and under what conditions.

We are in a closed economy, blocked by the priority of confinement.

Despite all this, we still have the strength to persevere in the attempt. We cannot let our guard down and we make the effort to find a smile, a book, a film, a song… that takes us away, momentarily, from so much suffering. We communicate on social networks and see our relatives with video calls from the phone. But always, like a heavy slab that oppresses our chest, the thousands of deceased people are there in the shadows.

I would like to send a message to the rest of the countries of the world: do not be fooled, do not soften individual and collective measures to curb this serial killer. Outbreaks can wreak havoc today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or next month. Take as an example what has happened in Spain and take note of our tears and our pain.

Installed in sadness we live. As the poet Miguel Hernández wrote: “Sad is the man who doesn’t die from love. Sad, sad”. Choking with a thousand tricks the taste of isolation and death. With Rafael Alberti we share his "I will cry when necessary" and now we need to cry and open our hands, hearts and minds to find ourselves closer to a new day and reclaim ourselves as a species.

We will overcome the crisis in Spain, but we will always remember those who are no longer; all the people who from their health work risked their lives to save those they could. We will not forget this pale rider and we will learn from this, so as never again to be complacent, knowing that everything can be repeated and can suddenly end our lives.

I have recently returned to Bertolt Brecht and have translated his poem on Nazi extermination into our current situation worldwide:

"They're coming for me now, but it's too late." We know that the Covid-19 is relentless with people over 65, but we should not trust ourselves because it can come for each and every one of us at any age.

As we cry desolated, we applaud our healthcare staff and essential personnel (care, cleaning, feeding) and greet each other from balconies and windows with our unknown neighbours every evening at 8:00 p.m. We write down what we miss in a list that grows longer every day, in which hugging our people is written on the first line. And we long to regain our freedom, alive.

Francisco Pineda Zamorano.

Expert in International Relations and Cooperation.

Projections from the IMF allow appraisers to venture that prices will follow a similar trend in the next nine months to the time after the property bubble burst in 2008. The question is whether there will be a relatively fast recovery or will the impact end up being greater than that of the 2008 crash’. VozPópuli here. Expansión asks ‘What will happen to house-prices this year’, with December forecasts by region here. *Both articles refer more to city apartments than resort homes or rural property.

The Spanish Federation of Associations of Tourist Homes and Apartments (FEVITUR) estimates the sector has already lost €448 million so far this year due to coronavirus disruption and forecasts total loses in 2020 at close to €3,000 million. Easter was a wipe out for a business in which holiday-home owners rent out their properties to tourists. Spain was in total lockdown over Easter, with no visitors allowed into the country, and no domestic tourism allowed either. FEVITUR (Federación Española de Asociaciones de Viviendas y Apartamentos Turísticos) estimated that €188 million of rental income was lost during Easter alone. The Federation assumes that at least half the season will be lost this year, but hope that a gradual return to normality will mean that rental bookings can be taken for June and beyond…’. Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight here.

Mortgages. Your Spanish bank could owe you money. A legal opinion at Hillen here.


The Government plans a recovery of normal activity in two phases: summer and end of the year. The Minister of Labour plans measures for the resumption of activity with caution: in the most affected sectors, such as tourism or leisure, the difficulties will continue throughout the year’. El País quotes the minister as saying that tourism will not return to normal in 2020. It's doubtful that it will return at all this year much beyond Spaniards visiting their second homes (or going back to their 'pueblo' to stay with granny). Public places (bars, restaurants and so on), once reopened, will be faced with strict rules this year including spacing, digital menus, glassed-in booths and extreme hygiene regulations. El Mundo says there might not be any hotels, bars or restaurants open at all this year…

From El Español here: ‘Benidorm, a ghost town: the hotels ask for help to open before February 2021. The sector proposes a protection plan that contemplates being able to extend ERTEs (unpaid leave) up to one year. The danger of having to sell cheap to vulture funds hangs over establishments that cannot bear the Crisis’.

El Mundo says ‘Holidays in ‘el pueblo’, beaches without foreigners and more low-key trips, this is how Spanish tourism will be in the coming months. As the promotional video from the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages in Spain says, ‘We’ll be back’.

Andalucía to push for hotels and restaurants to open in summer to avoid ‘economic catastrophe’ but the president admits a fully recovering British market will be ‘impossible’’. An article at The Olive Press here.

The Evening Standard says ‘Britons should not book summer holidays amid 'no certainty' on when lockdown will lift, Downing Street suggests’.

The Junta de Andalucía believes that this summer we will be able to go to visit the playa, says La Voz de Almería brightly. Are we looking at social distancing (anathema to Spanish beach-goers) and waterproof face-masks?

Some American restaurants have booths. Take it a step further, and you have glassed-in closets for diners. El País looks at the future of eating out.


The Bank of Spain forecasts a fall of up to 13% in Spain’s GDP for 2020 says El Mundo here.

The Government studies opening up employment in three phases for fear of another wave of the Covid-19. The crash plan contemplates rotating shifts in companies, flexibility in working hours and a balance in work/family. The first measure is scheduled for May 11th. The process of a slow return to ‘normality’ is known in Spain as ‘La Desescalada’. The State of Alarm nevertheless continues ‘sine die’ in fear of a second wave of contagion. The story at La Información here.

Nursing homes in Spain: a business worth almost 5,000 million euros, are fed with public money. More than 40% of the turnover of these private operations comes from local and regional government. Large international investors, mostly with French capital, have established themselves in the sector’. Público explores the subject here.

Who are behind the care homes in Spain? A video on YouTube looks at the companies (and the profits) in the residencia industry here.

Spain’s guaranteed minimum income scheme will come with a €5,500 million price tag. The coalition government is finalizing its plans for the system, which will be introduced in May and will benefit households in poverty’. El País in English explains here. The ambitious scheme even covers prostitutes without work papers, says 20 Minutos here.

The loss of foreign holidaymakers to the Canary Islands in 2020 could cost 270,000 jobs and 35% of the islands’ GDP says La Provincia here.

Spain is the country in the entire European Union that has the fewest publicly-owned companies’ says La Marea here. It says that the State owned 130 public companies in 1985 as against the current sixteen.

A slightly odd industry to come under the protection of the City Hall of Madrid, but betting shops and bingos who maintain their staff numbers are to pay less in taxes says Público.


"Where there are corpses, you’ll find vultures", the words of author Juan José Millás that describe the attitude of the opposition and the media during the crisis. Contrainformacion looks at the opportunism apparent in right-wing circles.

The right-wing has succeeded in something amazing – they’ve unified the left-wing, says Diario16 here.

From El Huff Post here: ‘The ice-cold relationship – both personally and politically – between Pedro Sánchez and Pablo Casado.

Pablo Casado: “Unity is not a guarantee that a pandemic will be better resolved”. Here.

The Coronavirus:

On Wednesday, the President advised Parliament that the ‘de-escalation’ will be slow and gradual, to avoid missteps. ‘Life will return to a ‘new normal’ in second half of May, said Sánchez’. Items from El País and The Olive Press.

Counting bodies and pointing fingers as Spain tallies coronavirus dead. No country is really sure how many people it has lost to the pandemic. But in Spain, it has become bitterly political’. Headline from The New York Times here.

The State Prosecutor is opening ‘penal investigations’ into the practices of 38 care-homes where seniors have died. Público has the report here.

Last Wednesday midday, the figures were 177,663 diagnosed, with 18,579 deaths reported and 70,853 recovered. This Wednesday midday April 22nd, the tragic score is 208,389 diagnosed, with 21,717 deaths registered and 85,915 recovered.

The reports of children under-14 allowed to accompany their guardian on his/her trip to the supermarket or bank from Sunday 26 April has now been revised to allow a short restorative walk instead (following general indignation).

El Comidista, a section of El País, says – broadly speaking – not to fret about disinfecting the packaging or the food you buy from the supermarket. It will be just fine.

From El Mundo (paywall) here: the ideal victim for the viral attack is male, overweight and drinks and smokes too much. Who’d have guessed?

The Cadena Ser says that the feminist rallies held in Madrid and other cities on March 8th did not contribute to the coronavirus infections, according to a (female) judge. We may not all be fully convinced by this ruling…

The Celtas Cortos and friends with their song No Nos Podrán Parar is on YouTube here.


An important businessman from Alicante, the builder Enrique Ortiz, admits that he corrupted two PP mayors to fix the urban plan. The Prosecutor's Office has in return reduced its sentence from eight to two years’. El País reports here.

Creators of fake news (‘bulos’) can be sentenced for up to a maximum of five years says the State Prosecutor here.


La Última Hora (there’s no independent trace of it on Google) runs a piece to say who is funding the OKDiario, ‘the news-site dedicated to fake news’. The item quotes another, rather interesting site, called ‘Quíen Financia a la Cloaca’ (‘Who pays for the sewage?’) which lists such companies and institutions as the Banco Santander, Clece, Mapfre, Naturgy, Idealista, Endesa, Sacyr, Quiron Salud, Indra, BlackRock and Rodilla.

But wait, some late research on the anodyne title laultimahora.info (here) has brought up an interesting story of a (self-admitted) left-wing news-page with no journalists, background or comments section. In short, it is totally anonymous. Which makes its news stories and impartiality deeply suspect.

El Mundo claims that there are hundreds of fake Facebook accounts out there of supporters of the Government. The accounts are all women, pretty and with American names (Kylie, Jacey, Mckenna and so on). El Huff Post wonders whether it’s a double-cross. La Ser rather suspects that it is: ‘An investigation of Facebook reveals that it was precisely the Spanish Government who denounced the false profiles’.

Conservative and right-wing voices play an outsized role in spreading mis- and dis-information online about the coronavirus pandemic worldwide…’. Found at Forbes here.

The Media Association condemns any attempt at censorship, insisting that press freedom and pluralism are essential pillars of a democracy’. Title from the Diario de Mallorca here.

We join the article from El Mundo as it criticises the apparent bias of the CIS polling company… ‘…In addition, the CIS in April contained another question that has angered the main opposition party "Do you think that at the moment, the dissemination of hoaxes and misleading and unsubstantiated information by networks and social media should be prohibited, by referring all the information about the pandemic to official sources, or do you think that total freedom must be maintained for the dissemination of news and information?". …"It is an intolerable attack on freedom of information that we will not consent to. We will take all necessary measures against possible censorship" says the PP.

The Government proposes to lower the IVA on electronic books and the digital press “immediately”. The Minister for Hacienda María Jesus Montero claims to be evaluating "seriously" the measure that would reduce the tax on these products from 21% to 4%’. Item from El País here.

Spain remains at 29th (out of 180) in the freedom of the press national stakes according to Reporters without Borders, as reported by Europa Press here. The original, with full ranking, is at RSF here (the UK is 35th!).


An effective treatment against the plague of the olive moth (the sticky white dust on the leaves) has been developed in Granada. The annual damage of the 'Prays oleae' in the olive harvests within the province can reach 67,000 tons, the equivalent in money to about 20 million euros’. Item from Granada Hoy here.

Fruit labourers: 'If you don't want to work like a slave, you're out'. Spain is one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in the world. The southern region of Almería is known for what the Spanish call the sea of plastic. Cheap plastic greenhouses cover tens of thousands of hectares and migrant workers pick the fruits and vegetables that are sold in European supermarkets. The BBC has spent several months investigating allegations of exploitation there’. Video here.


They live amongst us. A far-right organisation called Christian Lawyers (the mind boggles) '...sues the Minister of the Interior Fernando Grande-Marlaska for evicting religious ceremonies during the State of Alarm. The president of Abogados Cristianos (Christian Lawyers) considers that "the Government is taking advantage of the State of Alarm to impose an anti-Christian dictatorship" and believes that evicting the temples during the state of alarm responds to "religious persecution"'. Item from LaSexta here.

Fiestas and ferias are being cancelled (or optimistically postponed to the autumn) across Spain. ‘Spain’s biggest bullfighting festival in Pamplona, San Fermín, cancels its July events due to the coronavirus pandemic. The sanfermines attracts 1.5 million tourists annually and is one of Spain's biggest international events’, says The Olive Press here.

The Road Owned Simultaneously by Spain and France’ is a video on YouTube here.

A huge collection of Olé comics (Zipi y Zape, Mortadelo y Filemón etc) from Editorial Brugurea from 1971 – 1986 is free to download from Leer-comics here.

See Spain:

The historic building that’s challenging Spain's civil war amnesia. Residents of a decrepit, shrapnel-scarred Madrid building once photographed by Robert Capa share their stories’. An article from AlJazeera here.


Hi Lenox,

It looks like Mojácar won’t get much tourism this year, so the town hall will be obliged to look with a bit more fondness than usual on its second string of income: the full-time foreign residents.



The remarkable ‘You clap for me now’ video about how the foreign health staff are treated in the UK. It’s remarkable, too, when you look at the current number of ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ at YouTube here.

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