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Weekly Report

Business over Tapas (Nbr 384)

Business over Tapas (Nbr 384)

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

jueves 04 de febrero de 2021, 21:56h

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Essay:

A few years back, an American called Zach Allen contacted me and said he had once spent a summer vacation in Mojácar – where I was living – way back in 1956. He was the guest of a fellow college-student, whose father was the Spanish ambassador to Washington.

Zack sent me a couple of slides he had taken, one of the village (there wasn’t much to see) and one of the ambassador’s holiday home, el Palacio de Cháverri which was just off the beach. The builder and first owner of the palacio was the Marquis of Cháverri, and he owned a shipping line. His captains were (apparently) instructed to fire off a cannon salute from their ships as they navigated past the estate on their way to or from the nearby port of Garrucha.

I wrote a story about the building here.

Zack had told me he had some more slides but that they were misplaced. I still hope that he finds them.

Old stories about Spain are fun to read, because we foreigners will have had little or no exposure to Spanish history and Spain, at its best, is a deeply satisfying place to know.

Historical structures are increasingly a good business too, depending on circumstance, as many venerable buildings have been knocked down, or they fell down, or they were fortuitously turned into luxurious hotels, or museums, or apartments. Our friend the Marquis’ palacio is now attached, to its mortal embarrassment, to a four hundred room box-like package-tour hotel. Honk as you drive past.

Thus the old buildings that, against all the odds, have managed to have stayed erect over the centuries without too much of them falling down have had the chance to be turned either into hotels (the government-run Parador chain creates very tasteful hotels out of old palaces, convents and other historic buildings) or cynically repaired to become simple money-makers (or ‘cultural tourist attractions’ to be more precise).

Unfortunately, tourists only have a finite period to go and see the historic sites, and the larger and more obvious ones will generally be higher on their list than some obscure pile of moss-covered stones which was once a fortress just a few kilometres walk upriver from a village in the hinterland.

Still and all, if you’re going anyway, it might be worth a photograph.

Or a story.

Housing:

From the ABC here ‘Why do we take longer and longer to acquire a home that is ours? The gap between the working conditions of the young and the ongoing price of real estate delays the age of emancipation year after year in Spain, and raises the average age of owning one’s first property to 40 years’. Atlantico goes still further, saying ‘The price of housing, the main cause of poverty in Spain’ We read, ‘…"In Spain, one of the main problems has to do with house prices, which have increased faster than wages and many people see that it is very difficult for them to live above poverty levels," says the professor of international human rights law Olivier De Schutter in an interview, after publishing a report as a United Nations special rapporteur on the situation in the European Union…’.

Renting out a home brings its own problems, of course, with the number of tenants in arrears up by 270% in January over the same month in 2020. El Economista devotes an article to this, and discusses the protection that the law provides for tenants.

20Minutos looks at the Swallows (‘The word 'Swallow' has been frequently used to describe Brits who travel to Spain each year, often for months at a time, but who are not resident here, meaning they stay under the 183-day rule and return to the UK for the majority of the year’ – The Olive Press). The article says that ‘las golondrinas’ are threatening to sell-up in the Canaries (and, presumably, elsewhere too) ‘…if the European Union prohibits them, as arrivals from a third country, from staying more than 90 days every six months to enjoy their properties and the good weather…’. How many golondrinas británicas might there be in Spain? No one has a clue.

Tourism:

From The Corner here: ‘The Spanish tourism sector has suffered a dramatic drop in activity of around 70% in 2020 due to the coronavirus crisis. The last available data, the overnight stays in hotel establishments, confirm just that. They fell by 73.3% in 2020 to 91.6 million, while room rates fell by an average of 6%. So the industry’s recovery depends, partly, on the receipt of European funds. Now seventy tourism companies have proposed a project to the government to attract €5,800 million in European aid. These firms, including Barceló, Meliá, NH, Iberostar, Azora, Avoris and Globalia, have joined forces to present the “Tourism of the Future” project…’.

Europa Press quotes the Minister for Tourism Reyes Maroto: "Easter may be the restart of national tourism if security conditions are met". In the hope that we learned something from the Christmas-induced spike…

‘Only a third of hotels were open throughout 2020, and with an average occupancy of below 40%. Short-term recovery should be oriented towards domestic demand and the leisure segment’ says AgentTravel here.

Seniors:

The Minister for Tourism Reyes Maroto says she hopes to resume the Imserso holidays for seniors from September according to the ABC here.

Finance:

Now that Bankia has been absorbed into the CaixaBank, the lender’s name will disappear from Easter says the ECD here.

As we have said elsewhere, for la Hacienda Pública, it’s easier for them to catch the sardines than the sharks. From Público here: ‘Hacienda misses 45,000 million euros a year by failing to control the big fraudsters. The lack of personnel and material makes it difficult to prosecute frauds carried out through creative corporate accounting, especially those of companies and estates with ramifications abroad, while the absence of international regulations on tax-evasion facilitates the flight of funds to other territories’.

Hacienda has been shorted some 300 million euros from the better than 30% drop in car-sales last year says VozPópuli here.

From La Información here: ‘The Minister for Work Yolanda Díaz imposes bank transfer to end the payment of wages in cash. The Ministry will oblige by law that salaries must be made through the bank. The Minister says that her department will develop a computer application to detect wage breaches in companies and will toughen the fines’. This will make paying out variable commissions a little bit harder.

Politics:

The leading poll in Spain is the CIS (or, as El Mundo and other right-wing sources call it, ‘El CIS de Tezanos’). ‘The CIS led by José Félix Tezanos highlights the PSOE on the verge of starting the electoral campaign in Catalonia and puts it back on the path of increasing the intention to vote, despite the fact that the country lives beaten by the coronavirus and the strong third wave. The January poll estimates that support for the Socialists grew by 1.2% in a month to 30.7%, which is practically the same rise that it gives to the PP (1.3%), which rises to 20.5%...’. From El Mundo here.

‘Yolanda Díaz has been, successively, the most popular minister of Unidas Podemos since the coalition government was formed. In the latest CIS barometer published last week, the head of the Labour portfolio has been ranked as the third highest valued person in the Executive, only behind the ministers Margarita Robles and Nadia Calviño’. This brings Catalunya Press to ask ‘Will Yolanda Díaz be the next leader of Podemos? The keys to the success of the Minister of Labour’.

Some late news – the imprisoned ex-treasurer for the PP Luis Bárcenas has now admitted to the court that the party was improperly financed between 1982 and 2009, when he gave the ‘real accounts’ to Rajoy, who destroyed them. However, he kept a copy. El Huff Post here.

Catalonia (Regional elections February 14th confirmed):

The polls for the Catalonian elections: ‘The Independence parties are a little weaker than before, but still are close to the largest share’ says elDiario.es here. The largest single party according to the poll is the PSC led by the ex-Minister for Health Salvador Illa with 21.5% of the vote, followed by the ERC at 20.3% and Junts at 19.2%. The right wing ‘constitutionalists’ – that’s to say the PP and Vox – are respectively running at 5.9 and 5.5%. Having an election in the middle of the third wave of a pandemic is nevertheless likely to have an impact on the vote.

TV laSexta will broadcast on February 11 ‘El Debat’ with the main candidates of the Catalan elections present says ECD here.

The imprisoned Catalonian independence politicians have now been allowed out of prison ('third grade' - they still have to sleep there) and will be participating in the ongoing regional elections to be held on February 14th.

Europe:

‘When the UK was booming and the Pound surging, many EU citizens from Portugal to Estonia, and Bulgaria to Spain, upped sticks and sought a better life and better pay in the UK. And while it wasn't El Dorado or The Promised Land, times were good. There were jobs aplenty for Pablo and Pavel, Pilar and Penka. But times have changed. The Pound has plummeted, the rhetoric flourishes of politicians have soared, racist abuse has increased, and that was even before Covid-19 hit, cutting a swathe through the UK and leaving both the natives and old and new arrivals fearful. London has been denuded of foreign workers. An estimated 1.3 million have gone home, as they think the good times now will never roll. That begs the question. When the pandemic is over who will be picking potatoes and strawberries, waiting on tables, manning hotel receptions, or mixing concrete on building sites?’ (Facebook Comment from Brexpats in Spain). The Financial Times (paywall) runs an article titled ‘Foreign workers flee Britain as a pandemic and Brexit bite’ which appears to be reproduced at Eminetra here.

Well, just for fun this one from The London Economic: ‘Brexit-voting Brits in Spain up in arms as UK channels disappear from TV’.

From Leo Noticias here: ‘Britons pay the price of Brexit with more expensive products, containers rotting in ports, exorbitant charges when making purchases online and, above all, mountains of red tape that have already buried many small businesses. The break-up begins to break up’.

From an Italian blog called Maredolce here, ‘The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: a perspective from history’, in English.

The Coronavirus:

An expert from the World Health Organisation warns Spain to stop putting up "patches" and calls for a total closure of three or four weeks. "In a matter of a few weeks, the British strain was in fifty countries, and although it was introduced relatively late in Spain, it is already spreading", says Santiago Mas-Coma. The expert says that ‘…the situation of the pandemic, a year after the first cases were known, is not "at all promising" and the restrictive measures that are taken in Spain are "decaffeinated"…’. El Mundo has the story here. From Reuters here: ‘A new lockdown would cost Spanish firms 1,800 million euros a week, study says’.

Granada is particularly hard hit at the present time with Covid-19. From Granada Hoy come the chilling item from the president of the Medical Union for Granada Francisco Cantalejo that "Patients over 80 years of age are no longer sent for treatment to the ICU and it will probably be decreasing from that age depending on the demand that exists"…

A title from El Español: ‘A single patient admitted for Covid-19 costs an average of 18,700 euros to the public health system. The author of the study has taken into account the additional expenses derived from the pandemic, such as the hiring of backup personnel’.

El Español has the list of vaccines and the agreed prices paid for them to the pharmaceutical companies by the EU, the UK and the USA. The title – which explains a lot – reads ‘Brussels pays 2.5 euros less for the Covid-19 vaccine than the US and the UK’.

Following the fuss between AstroZeneca and the European Commission, the pharmaceutical has agreed to an immediate extra nine million doses for Europe, which would top Spain’s share up to a total of four million doses between now and the end of March. El Español reports here. From El Huff Post here, Spain to receive an extra 7.5 million doses in the Second Quarter. It features a Tweet from the president of the EU Ursula von der Leyen, ‘We are working with pharmaceutical companies to ensure vaccines are delivered to Europeans. #BioNTech/@pfizer will deliver 75 million of additional doses in the second quarter of the year - and up to 600 million in total in 2021’.

El País in English looks at ‘The other effects left behind by the coronavirus crisis in Spain. The pandemic is having a deep impact on all areas of life, with fear of contagion changing work and social interactions, and even sexual relations’.

Courts:

As the CGPJ runs in penalty time, the judicial clique (or ‘association of judges’) is producing a veritable deluge of causes to be argued in the Constitutional Court before they can be closed down and reformed says Público here.

The CGPJ has just ‘ordained’ six new presidents of the provincial courts of Cantabria, Granada, León, Navarra, Illes Balears and Ciudad Real says El Confidencial here. ‘The General Council of the Judiciary has won the race against the parties that make up the Government. While the PSOE and Podemos urgently promote the legislative reform that will limit the Council's ability to appoint positions, the CGPJ elected in its plenary session last week the presidents of no less than six provincial audiences spread throughout the national territory…’.

Media:

Google News – which operates in every country in the western world except Spain – wants to return here. The service from Google is as an aggregator (like BoT, it sends readers to news-sites with a brief overview). The main opposition to this, oddly enough, is the powerful association which leads the very newspapers who would gather fresh readers from this service – the AEDE, the Asociación de Editores de Diarios Españoles. In short, they want Google to pay for the pleasure of sending them readers. Google says it would be happy to negotiate with each and every news-service, but not collectively (evidently, they would then feature items from the cheaper news services). How one can copyright the news is still to be explained. elDiario.es has the details of the issue here.

Público notes the difference in the front pages of the conservative media between when yet another Podemos scandal breaks and when it is later found to be an empty issue. Again.

El Mundo takes a crack at La Última Hora, a pro-Podemos news-site (which gets scant attention at BoT). ‘Podemos intensifies its offensive against journalists with its fake news website’. We read that ‘Podemos has decided to intensify its offensive against the critical press and has launched a smear campaign based on false or misrepresented information and insults against a dozen prominent professionals from various written, radio and TV media…’. El Confidencial has a similar take here: ‘Podemos and its manual of the good populist: attacking the free press, eroding its reputation, intimidating its professionals and threatening its editors and owners’, says the paper, which also blames the pro-Podemos news-page. Let us see what La Última Hora says in return: ‘The information that we revealed regarding the media connection between El Mundo, El Confidencial and Okdiario with the former commissioner José Manuel Villarejo and with the state sewers (‘cloacas del estado’) has unleashed a campaign by a large part of the conservative media against this medium and against Podemos…’.

Ciudadanos has asked that the Government ‘condemn the attacks by Podemos against the freedom of the press’, says El Español here. The party seems particularly concerned about fake news items; at least, those ones that they claim are created by Podemos. elDiario.es also notes the excitement: ‘Shouts, accusations and hyperbole in the media trenches against Podemos. Several news-sites denounce a "witch-hunt" by Podemos against critical journalists precisely when the judicial investigations against the party are beginning to deflate’. The news-site interviews Pablo Iglesias who asks ‘Who can fix all that damage that’s been done to us? Who can repair what has been claimed for years saying that Podemos is financed by Iran or Venezuela?’

The Cadena Ser self-advertises… by warning listeners against Podemos (audio)!

The revelations of Luis Bárcenas include an admission that in 2004 the Partido Popular put 140,000€ cash into the nascent far-right newspaper of Federico Jíménez Losantos called Libertad Digital to help put about conservative views says El Plural here.

El Español seems to run at least one approving article each day about Mercadona. See Google’s list here!

Lots of fun can be found here at Strambotic with news photographs and erroneous captions.

Various:

Magnet reports that ‘Spain is a linguistic exception: only 81% of its inhabitants speak Spanish at home’. It quotes the Pew Research Centre here which says that the other languages spoken in Spain (we’ll forget English, Arabic and Romanian for the moment) are Catalán/Valencian 12%, Gallego 3% and Euskera 1%.

The DGT says that one needs to have one’s ITV (car inspection) in order to drive. This is to correct earlier reports. They say that, at their discretion, they can remove the fine. We at BoT will be testing this as last week we booked an ITV inspection for our car. The earliest date for the ITV within our municipality was for June 4th, four months from now!

‘Does your car-insurance cover without having the last ITV (cars over four years old)? Driving without ITV (the Spanish motor vehicle inspection) is an irresponsible illegality that can also be very expensive in the event that we have an accident. If a collision occurs, insurers can refuse to pay our own damages (those suffered by us) if they discover that we do not have a valid ITV. But also, if the insurance expert finds that the accident was caused by a fault that should have been corrected with the Technical Inspection, such as a problem in the steering, in the lights or in the brakes, the insurer will claim the expenses paid out to third parties, which can come to a very significant amount’. From Sector Asegurador here.

The notoriously difficult to consult national statistics institute INE says there were 262,885

Britons registered on the census in 2020. – er, at some point. The figure quoted for 2019 was 250,392. These exhaustively exact figures are sometimes way off, as foreigners in general tend to fail to inform the local padrón when they return to their own country. The fiendish Modelo 720 tax for foreign-held possessions may keep others away from the padrón. Some foreigners often don’t register (as we know - although they’ll be finding this more difficult now) and many are taken off for no particular reason. Mojácar (Almería), at least, slumped in its entirety by around 25% in 2014 following some strategic pruning at the town hall.

From El País (partial paywall) here, ‘The coronavirus pandemic has caused the largest decline in the Spanish economy (at 11%) in 85 years. According to the history books, only the Civil War and the crisis of 1868 (a railway investment bubble) have caused greater collapses of the gross domestic product in the last 170 years’.

No Pamplona festival this July: ‘The president of the Government of Navarra, María Chivite, has stated that she is "very sorry not to give good news" regarding the possible celebration of the San Fermín festival for 2021 and says that "an international festival such as the Sanfermines, in which millions of people come to Navarra, will not be possible", due to the situation caused by Covid-19…’. An item from ECD here.

We read at elDiario.es that ‘The draft of the Trans Law endorses the change of legal sex without the need for medical or psychological tests. The text finalized by the Ministry of Equality eliminates the requirements currently in force to make the modification in the Civil Registry, which will only require the "express declaration" of the person. The socialist side of the Government emphasizes that it is not an official text and that there are still procedures before the regulation reaches the Council of Ministers’.

Meanwhile, Podemos has chosen a deaf person as their parliamentary spokesperson in the Valencia government. She will communicate in sign-language. A strange world we live in.

Twitter has closed down the account held by Vox for ‘incitement to hatred’. Cadena Ser says here that the party demands the immediate return of its account.

From The Spectator, one of those articles of theirs (Brexit Good, EU bad): ‘Can Spain’s faith in the EU survive Covid?’ It begins well ‘According to ancient Moorish legend, when the world was created each land was given five wishes. Spain’s first four wishes – for clear skies, seas full of fish, good fruit, and beautiful women – were all granted, but the fifth, for good government, was denied on the grounds that to grant that too would create a paradise on earth…’. Then later on it asks, ‘…But will confidence in Project Europe survive if, as seems quite possible, the UK gets fully vaccinated weeks before Spain and then steams ahead economically?...’.

There’s an ongoing fuss about those who live in Andorra to escape Spanish taxes. This has come up because a ‘Youtuber’ (a young ‘influencer’ who makes money from broadcasting stuff on a YouTube channel) has moved to Andorra for precisely – as he says himself – for this reason. Hacienda says it is keeping a steely eye on such people. They note that, using Big Data, they can easily control just how many days our Andorran friends are physically in Spain. El Rubius, the ‘Youtuber’ that has caused the fuss, ‘…is a Spanish-Norwegian YouTube personality whose channel primarily consists of gameplays and vlogs. His channel currently has over 8.8 billion views and 39 million subscribers’ (Wiki). He made 4.3 million euros last year says GQ here. Some other wealthy Spaniards who ‘live’ in Andorra are listed in 20Minutos here.

Smoking is down in Spain says Magnet. Sales of cigarettes have fallen by 8% over 2019 – with some 2,000 million packs sold in 2020. Good news perhaps, but Hacienda is hurting!

From The Guardian here: ‘The return of Yma Sumac: a new label to showcase the singer to a new generation. The Peruvian vocalist’s album will be the first in a series of reissues by a Madrid-based label aiming to highlight female singers from Latin America’. Yma Sumac had a five-octave range, as this video on YouTube shows.

The first ever woman to become a mayor in Spain, María Domínguez Remón, mayoress of Gallur (Zaragoza) was executed by the Nationalists in 1936. Her remains have just been discovered. 'She was a great socialist and feminist fighter', says the vice-president Carmen Calvo, 'She was dug up this weekend from her grave in nearby Fuendejalón, with a shot in the back of her head. She deserves recognition and that we vindicate her legacy', she added.

Then there’s the footballer called Messi, who was paid, per his 2017 four-year contract with the Barcelona football club (BoT said they were heavily in hock to the banks last week), the alarming sum of 555,237,619€. El Mundo (paywall) has just revealed the figures, which keep the footballer in contract with the club until late June this year; and the ‘indignant’ Lionel Messi has now instructed his team of lawyers to sue the paper for revealing this information. The Argentinean footballer isn’t only annoyed with El Mundo for printing out this outrageous sum (with a photo of the contract), he also wants to find out who spilled the beans within the club management.

Compare his 11,567,459€ per month (or 385,580€ per day)… less his agent’s modest chunk, with the deputies in the national parliament who earn a basic of 3,050€ per month (plus extras). Indeed, Pedro Sánchez has a salary of 7,070€ per month – or 0.06897% of Messi’s wage.

In fact, Messi sends home to his doting mum an astonishing 1,084 times as much as the 350 deputies in the congreso combined.

Or, at least, he would, if he didn’t pay a large piece of that in taxes.

Mind you, and to put it all in perspective, Amancio Ortega, the Zara man, makes a cool 110,448,000€ per month (about ten times as much as Messi).

From The Guardian here: ‘They came at night: how a Spanish crew shot an alternative Dracula after Bela Lugosi had gone to bed’.

See Spain:

ABC brings ‘The ten most beautiful viewpoints in Spain’ here.

National Geographic offers the Sagrada Familia in 90 Seconds. Video and photos here.

Judged from Google searches – ‘The fifty most popular towns (under 20,000 inhabitants) in Spain, one for each province’ is brought by 20 Minutos here (with a map).

Letters:

Hi Lenox,

It's a curious fact that a significant number of Brit expats favoured Brexit, including at least two of my colleagues. Given the post-Brexit pain, including the need to get fresh residence papers, those sorts of people are now keeping their opinions very much to themselves. Michael

Finally:

Concha Buika is a fine singer. She was nominated for the 2008 Latin Grammy Award for Album of the Year with her album Niña del Fuego. Here from that album are three songs, La Falsa Moneda, Culpa mía and No habrá nadie en el mundo on YouTube here.

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