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Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nbr 381)

Business over Tapas (Nbr 381)

  • 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 14 de enero de 2021, 21:11h

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Editorial:

Madrid woke up last week to heavy snow as Spain suffered its coldest weather for fifty years. Indeed, a record was made and broken just 24 hours later by another, even colder measurement (in the Picos de Europa, León: -35.6ºC). The weather people are saying that, in general, things are unlikely to improve much before an expected thaw for this Saturday 16th January. It is, of course, all the politicians fault.

The joke going around says ‘After just one year of commie-rule in Spain, Madrid is looking a lot like Moscow’. In fact, with 60cms of snow last Saturday, it looked worse than the Russian capital – no trains, buses or, barely, cars. One fellow was photographed (videos) skiing down the Avenida de la Castellana. Of course, in the forgotten pueblos of the Interior (particularly Teruel, Soria and Guadalajara) things were worse.

Reddit/Spain has lots of pictures featuring snow.

Many foreigners are surprised by these extremes, fondly imagining Spain to be warm all year round. In fact, since almost all of the country is elevated (the average height above sea level for Spain is 660m says Wiki), once away from the costas, we tend to enjoy bubbling heat in the high summer and perishing cold in mid-winter.

As for Global Warming (what, with these freezing days?), it’s ‘perfectly reconcilable’ with Climate Change says the ABC here – and anyway, just to make the point, it’s hot in Australia right now…

To make bad things even worse, the price of electric rose sharply (except in Barcelona, where the service is a publicly-owned company). Schools have to keep their windows open (Covid rules), several towns and villages were cut off or without electricity, and the army was called in to help volunteers clear the streets. Indeed, on Sunday even Pablo Casado managed a brief photo-shoot in Madrid as he shovelled some snow.

Housing:

The price of housing in Spain could fall by 5% in 2021’ says The Corner here.

Contrarily, from Think Spain here, ‘Despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its implications for Brits living abroad, estate agents, real estate developers and property portals are all reporting strong interest in the Spanish property market, with enquiries already significantly up on last year. Whilst Covid-19 is still casting a shadow of uncertainty over people's lives, the pandemic has pushed people to reassess how they might use a second home, and a trend towards longer stays in sunny climes combined with extended periods of remote working is emerging…’. .

Note: there’s clearly a difference in price and demand over city apartments and country or beach properties. Often, news articles lean towards the one (generalised by Spanish bread-winners), or the other (foreign or retired buyers).

Neinor, Vía Celere, Aq Acentor or Kronos Homes. These are some of the huge foreign-owned funds that are buying property in bulk along the Costa del Sol says elDiario.es in an article called ‘The Málaga Kings of Bricks and Mortar’ here. ‘…With the small promoter out of the picture after the bubble burst, a large part of the land that the banks took over is ending up in the hands of US real estate investment trusts (whose equivalent in Spain are SOCIMIS: publicly traded companies of real estate investment, in principle dedicated to the rental market), which have been established or acquired by the promoters that are building a large share of the new construction in Malaga…’.

Tourism:

From Catalan News here: ‘Spain extends UK flight ban for non-residents until February 2nd. Cabinet justifies decision by citing "uncertainties" over the scope of the new variant’.

El País (partial paywall) here: ‘The collapse of national travel deepens the black year of tourism. Spaniards travelled and spent 40% less in their own country than they did in 2019’. In 2020, tourism only accounted for around 4% of the GDP, rather than the usual 12%. International tourism was down in 2020 by 77%. The tourists that did come, spent less, says the article – Spaniards’ daily spend fell from 47.50€ per day to 38.70€ while (those few) foreign tourists went down from a daily spend of 155€ to 135€ (2019, 2020 figures)

A bad sign from Portugal as camping vans must now over-night in recognised places (that’s to say, in camper-parks). The story at On Road Magazine here.

Seniors:

(A notice from Age in Spain, a non-profit group) ‘This week we have been training Friendline volunteers and the first calls will happen very soon. The response to our adverts for volunteers has been fantastic and so we want to encourage more Friendline members to come forward. We know that a lot of people don't like to be seen as a burden and are reluctant to ask for help. Perhaps they think that there are others in greater need. If you are English-speaking, living in Spain, over 60 and you would like to receive a regular friendly phone call – then you qualify! We have volunteers trained and ready to be your Friendline friend. You can register your interest here.

Over-eighties, who live at home, can expect their first vaccine within two weeks’: reports El Español here.

Finance:

Wolf Street has a stringer who lives in Barcelona. His report titled ‘Keeping a Business Alive that’s Generating No Revenues is an Uphill Struggle’ looks at the collapse of the local hotel business here.

Telefónica has sold off its 31,000 communications-towers for 7,700 million euros to American Tower says VozPópuli here. The towers are located in Spain, Germany, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina.

Politics:

El Huff Post saysThe Economist has three words to define the relationship between Sánchez and Iglesias: it’s a ‘turbulent political marriage’ says the magazine in an article dedicated to analyzing the political situation in Spain’. The Economist’s title is ‘Does Spain’s leftish leader have his far-left allies under control?’ The article (paywall) is here.

From El Español here – ‘The PP and Ciudadanos together in coalition would beat the PSOE by twenty seats if they went to a general election held today’. And, gushes the article, with Abascal’s Vox, it’d be a shoe-in for the ‘centre-right’! (Wishful thinking?).

Catalonia:

Support for independence for Catalonia is on the wane says La Vanguardia here, with 50% against and 43% in favour. How close they are will become apparent in the forthcoming regional election of (unless there’s a change) February 14th.

It’s not the best time for elections say medical experts in Catalonia. Catalan News goes further: ‘Government to propose postponing election for health reasons as parties remain divided. Date of vote to be announced on January 15 as up to 216,000 people could be in quarantine’.

Gibraltar:

The best way to regain Gibraltar, says El Mundo (Paywall) is to close the gate – not knock it down! Their title is ‘Sánchez gives up on Gibraltar’. El Español has a story about the ex-Foreign Minister Margallo's ‘secret plan to take back Gibraltar that Rajoy finally discarded because it was "a mess"’. In short, allow the Gibraltarians full EU services and rights post-Brexit in exchange for Spanish sovereignty, which Margallo – now an MEP – says in the interview (with video) that Pedro Sánchez later gave away in exchange for nothing.

Ceuta, Melilla and Western Sahara:

AP News here, ‘…Plans by the United States to open a consulate in Western Sahara mark a turning point for the disputed and closely policed territory in North Africa. The US move recognizes Morocco’s authority over the land — in exchange for Morocco normalizing relations with Israel. Top American and Moroccan officials were in the region this past weekend to lay the groundwork for the project.

While this shift in U.S. foreign policy frustrates indigenous Sahrawis who have sought Western Sahara’s independence for decades, others see new opportunities for trade and tourism that will provide a welcome boost for the region and sun-kissed coastal cities like Dakhla…’.

Western Sahara, what’s at stake for Joe Biden? Al Jazeera takes a look at the implications of Trump’s Western Sahara deal with Morocco on US interests in the region’. Here.

Europe:

The British residents in Spain, forgotten by the United Kingdom’: a brief piece from EFE here. Meanwhile, The Independent here is a little cruel: ‘British expats who voted for Brexit become laughing stock after furiously moaning about the consequences’.

For the first time, the European Union has its own uniformed service – the European Border and Coast Guard standing corps. And here’s a sneak peak of the uniform they will be wearing to represent the EU at its borders’ – A Tweet from Frontex (via Menéame) here.

From elDiario.es here: ‘"I had to make the decision to come during the pandemic or not come at all": the last of the Spaniards who migrated to the UK before Brexit. From January 1st, all Spaniards who want to settle in the United Kingdom must meet a series of requirements, which has been called the Points-based Immigration System’.

From GOV.UK here: International travel update, 11 January 2021. From 4am on 15 January 2021, pre-departure testing will be required for all inbound passengers to England’.

The Coronavirus:

From El Español here: ‘Fernando Simón (the gravelly-voiced Government expert on Covid-19) said on Monday that ‘…"In the following three weeks, even when we control transmission, ICUs and hospitals will continue to be saturated and we will have an upturn in deaths", as Spain had reached 2,111,782 infected and 51,874 deaths from Covid…’. .

Doctors and experts ask the Government to decree home confinement due to the increase in positives’. From 20Minutos here.

La Razón says: ‘It is confirmed that the majority of Covid-19 patients continue to have at least one symptom six months after infection. Three out of every four affected suffer long-term effects after recovery, according to research published in The Lancet (here)’.

The weather - another nightmare for health workers to add to Covid: 36-hour shifts and kilometres through the snow’ says elDiario.es here.

Companies will be able to fire workers who refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Refusing to receive the coronavirus vaccine may be grounds for justified dismissal in companies that include it in their occupational risk prevention plan’. Item from El Español here.

Andalucía, at least, looks like it is about to announce fresh controls, beginning on Monday. El Mundo has the latest restrictions (Wednesday, 9.30pm) from the various autonomies here.

Corruption:

Público calls it ‘Lawfare’, saying ‘The judicial strategies of the far right: cascading complaints and schools for future judges and political leaders. A group of ultra-conservative organizations are taking laws, measures and parties contrary to their ideology to court. Without respite. The new Education Law, the government's management of the pandemic, religious sentiments, the 'Catalonian Procès', even Unidas Podemos. It is the strategy of the 'satellites' of the extreme right, who are also training future judges, lawyers and politicians in their own academies’.

Luis Bárcenas, the ex-treasurer of the PP now in prison for 29 years for his part in the Gürtel Inquiry, says he will now help the judges with their questions regarding the Caso Punica (where illegal commissions were charged by government officials Wiki). The investigations are now leading to a past president of the Madrid Community. The story is at República here.

Courts:

A long and agonising inquiry into Podemos’ business affairs, as denounced by an apparently vindictive lawyer who was sacked from the head office of the party a year ago, has (to no one’s surprise) come to naught. Spanish Revolution reports with some satisfaction that ‘The Sewers of the State have Failed in their Objective’. Once again.

The unfortunate Cristina Cifuentes, the leader of the Madrid region who was outed from office a few years back after a video apparently showed her to be indulging in a minor spot of shoplifting, is now in court regarding her allegedly bogus Masters Degree for which she faces up to four years in jail. What a plot we weave… elDiario.es reports here.

Media:

The New York Times is to open a bureau in Madrid.

These days, even more media sites are erecting pay-walls to help pay their bills. Useful sites (for the purposes of BoT) such as elDiario.es, El País, El Mundo and La Vanguardia are now partially hidden behind a cash-window. The problem being, if you buy into one, you get just their single interpretation of the news.

BoT stumps up for a couple of them (including The Guardian with an annual sub). In short, if we don’t want to rely on our news coming from places like Facebook or the EWN, we need to support some news-provider or other – or better still, a news-aggregator!

A fascinating essay on how the media works comes from TK News here. It says ‘…Media firms work backward. They first ask, “How does our target demographic want to understand what’s just unfolded?” Then they pick both the words and the facts that they want to emphasize…’.

Private disinformation agencies continue to grow and a report points to a Spanish company’ says El Salto Diario here. ‘The business of political manipulation through social media is still in vogue. These include a Spanish company, Eliminalia (here), which appears in a report by the Oxford Internet Institute as a disinformation tool used in electoral processes in Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic’.

Various:

From Foreign Affairs, a review of Paul Preston’s new book ‘A People Betrayed: A History of Corruption, Political Incompetence, and Social Division in Modern Spain’. It says ‘…For all its success at consolidating democracy, the country has often been held back by the staggering corruption of its political class. This affliction is exhaustively detailed in the eminent historian Paul Preston’s latest book which offers an unvarnished indictment of Spanish elites, including those who have shaped the current democratic regime. “Starting with the monarchy and moving on to the Church”, Preston approvingly quotes the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, “no national authority has ever thought of anything but itself.”…’.

Facua (the consumers’ organisation) denounces that the rise in the price of electricity has already reached 36% during the cold wave. The agency asks the Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, to "act against speculation and to fulfil the commitments adopted in the Government’s agreement to lower the electricity bill.". Item from Público here.

Reputed to be the worst slum in Spain, La Cañada Real, south of Madrid, is a horrid encampment filled with broken people and drug dealers. To make matters worse, there’s been no electricity there for several months; and it’s bitterly cold. The power company, which says that illegal marijuana farms crash the electricity each time they turn it back on, is now handing out blankets and free gas heaters to local residents (and their distributors are getting beat up for their pains). In one part of the settlement, with just four legal clients, the electric company says there are 1,400 homes, most of which ‘are/were illegally connected’. Wiki says La Cañada Real is considered to be the largest illegal settlement in a European city. Around 7,300 people are thought to live there. We read of ‘A night in La Cañada, minus nine and without electricity in the tin shack that belongs to Ángel’: an experience with El Español.

How can we have such a cold spell while suffering from Climate Change? El Español explains here.

Barcelona’s notorious pickpockets are having to re-invent themselves after the disappearance of their favourite prey – foreign tourists, says La Vanguardia here.

Vox and the Far-right encourage their supporters to join Parler (does it still exist?) and sundry other sites that don’t veto incitement towards violence says elDiario.es.

What do the various party leaders think of last Wednesday’s ‘Assault on the Capitol’? Público obliges us here. Their Tweets have been collected by El Huff Post here.

2020 had an excess in deaths of 68,000 says el Sistema de Monitorización de la Mortalidad as quoted by elDiario.es. In all, 465,000 people died in Spain last year, an increase of 17%.

From El País in English here: ‘Something to celebrate for new fathers in Spain, as paternity leave extended to 16 weeks. The fully paid allowance, which came into force on January 1, is equal to that for mothers and is one of the most generous in Europe for men’.

The Home of Pacharán - Spain's "cure" for all illnesses’ is at Eye on Spain here.

The most famous Spanish Templars: a journey through the Order on the Peninsula’. The story of the Caballeros Templarios, or the Order of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, known as the Knights Templar, is to speak of one of the most powerful Christian military orders of the Middle Ages. Fascinating Spain recalls that ‘…Around these knights there is a great halo of esotericism, legends and enigmas. In Spain, the Knights Templar were of great importance. Their legacy is still alive in castles, churches, monuments and in numerous novels where their deeds are told…’.

Ron’s Chipper: a review from way back with Spanish Shilling here.

See Spain:

From Fascinating Spain comes ‘San Martín de Trevejo, the village in Extremadura where Asturian (sic) is spoken’. It begins ‘This is possibly the most isolated town in Spain, located in the Sierra de Gata and bordering Salamanca and Portugal. This geographical isolation may explain why it has an old town far from all the stereotypes of Extremadura. It also conserves its own dialect, A Fala, which has been declared an Asset of Cultural Interest…’.

From Travel and Leisure here: ‘Spain Is Getting a New National Park — and It's Home to Incredible Wildlife, Hiking, Kayaking, and More. The Parque Nacional Sierra de las Nieves (it’s to the northwest of Málaga City) is set to receive official government approval sometime this year’. The Sierra de Las Nieves has its own webpage here.

Letters:

Hi Lenox

I was sorry to see that you haven’t made a New Year’s resolution to try and balance your hyper comments against Brexit.

I have enclosed an article (‘Europe’s vaccination fiasco threatens to become the EU's biggest failure’ from The Telegraph here) that highlights one of the many problems with the EU. The EU is a dinosaur and we know what happened to them.

There are a lot of sour grapes from the leaders of Europe at the moment which is understandable, how can anyone not want to be a member of their club?

You said: ‘Ursula von der Leyen reputedly said ‘Britain has won nothing and has lost a continent’ (The lost Continent?). I have looked for her comments but cannot find them. But if they are true she is in a long line of characters who have underestimated the British resolve:

"Britain is about to have its neck wrung like a chicken!” ( France)

Lindberg USA 1940 against helping Britain's fight against Germany:- “No matter how many arms we send to Britain it cannot possibly win!”

General Galtieri Argentina “The English will not defend The Malvinas!” Etc, etc.

Lenox, you come from a great country please try and give it a little more credit by some balance with your comments.

Best regards

John

Lenox - there are so many pieces of unsubstantiated piffle in your mailing this time that you risk damaging your reputation and end up looking silly.....

We still await your No.1 reason for being a Remainiac ???

Take a serious grip (as we used to say at boarding school).

The EU is sinking (and the €€ especially) - get used to it, please.

Cheers, John

BoT has two readers called John who are in favour of Brexit and who often write to me. Here at BoT (where far more than half of our readers are from the current EU states), while we think Brexit is a disaster for the UK, we are more concerned by the problems facing the British subjects who live here in Spain.

Lenox

Finally:

The eccentric Rodrigo Cuevas with ‘El día que nací yo’ on YouTube here. Wiki says he is known as the ‘Freddie Mercury of Asturian folklore’.

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