Although things are not going so badly in Spain for the workers – with the minimum wage set to rise to 1.080€ a month – and for the pensioners with decent rises too; it’s also true that the cost of living is going up, the prime lending rate is suddenly climbing and the ongoing rise in employment has faltered after the Christmas bonanza, with 70,744 more people currently out of work (while remaining at a fifteen year low).
However, one can only wonder at the banks. The reported profits from these institutions is not only obscene, but is causing uneasiness across the country.
The Banco de Santander reports profits for 2022 of 9,605 million euros.
BBVA reports profits for 2022 of 6,420 million euros.
Caixabank reports profits for 2022 of 3,145 million euros.
The Banco de Sabadell reports profits for 2022 of 859 million euros.
Indeed, the top six banks (including Unicaja and Bankinter) reported profits of 20,850 million euros in 2022 (although, of course, much of this comes from foreign business).
The Spanish bankers are among the highest paid in Europe (with 221 of them earning over a million euros a year) says the European Banking Authority – as noted by Pedro Sánchez as he asked for some show of solidarity in a recent speech.
Yolanda Díaz, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister and Labour Minister, quickly called for a freeze on variable mortgage rates following the news. She says ‘While the rise in the Euribor will make the average mortgage more expensive by €250 per month, the crisis cannot be an excuse to earn more. We must freeze mortgages and moderate benefits’.
The president of the Banco de Santander, who goes by the unfortunate name of Ana Botín (Botín means loot or swag in English), answered by saying that her bank wouldn’t be able to offer mortgages to the poor if controls were put in place by the Government.
Of course, there aren’t that many branches to be found these days to pick up a mortgage, since 2008, around 27,000 branches have been closed down (evidently with some major redundancies).
As someone says - it’s best not to think about the banks: best that is, for your mental health.
‘Spanish house prices have posted their biggest annual increase since the boom period before the global financial crisis, after a surge in demand from buyers rushing to avoid paying higher interest rates. Prices jumped 9% in January from a year earlier, according to a monthly index compiled by Fotocasa, the real estate website. That was the sharpest rise since September 2006…’ The article is at Bloomberg here.
When it comes to VPO (public housing), El País reports: ‘This is how scams are in the sale of subsidized housing in Spain: you are invited to pay for the furnishing on top or stump up to 50,000 euros in cash. The builders of VPO homes find shortcuts to sell the apartments above the legal price set by the autonomous communities and take a premium’. (I remember seeing the paper bag full of cash once at the notary’s office. When I asked what it was, the guy from the bank said it was his bocadillo).
When there is a shortage of rentals, why not convert a store or a bar or an empty commercial space…? From El Salto Diario here: ‘There is an evident solution to the impossibility of renting a place: as long as it has three meters of frontage to the street, a free height of at least 2.5 meters and more than 25 square meters of space, it could become a possible home. Conversions were carried out by 778 owners in Madrid in 2020 and another 594 in 2021. Spaces that in their day were fishmongers, bars, hardware stores, bakeries or any other business that offered a local service to its neighbours…’.
Cinco Días reports that ‘The Junta de Extremadura will expropriate more than 200 hectares for the Elysium City macro-project to be built in Castilblanco (Badajoz). The promoter will pay the compensation and add a further 1,185 hectares for this operation’. The area is known as ‘The Siberia of Extremadura’ apparently – so a welcome 8.000 million euros will be spent (says the article) on hotels, villas, casinos and so on. Elysium City has its own webpage here.
A potential bombshell from Spanish Property Insight here: ‘A Costa del Sol developer called Grupo Otero is reportedly in financial trouble, with foreign investors in harm’s way’. The Olive Press has more on this, reporting from Manilva here with ‘Dozens of foreign off-plan villa buyers are millions out of pocket as Costa del Sol developer collapses’. It says that anything up to a hundred buyers could be ‘likely lost tens of millions of euros’.
‘The Supreme Court endorses that the Palma City Council prohibits tourist apartment rentals. The Town Hall insists that the use of local dwellings for short-term tourism "represented a substantial modification of the concept of housing", which had "an impact on the configuration and coexistence of neighbourhoods affecting the availability of properties for residents"’. An item at LaSexta here. Houses and chalets are not affected by this prohibition says the article.
From Sur in English here: ‘Save Our Homes Axarquía to disband after 17 years of fighting. SOHA, made up mainly of foreign home owners, says it has achieved "as much as possible"; stopping demolitions and legalising homes in the Spanish countryside through the DAFO (patch)’. We read that ‘The latest regulatory changes introduced by the Junta de Andalucía from 2019, with the change of the regional government and the arrival of the Partido Popular to power, have not entirely satisfied the collective either. As such, in November 2021, SOHA stated that the LISTA "did not solve their problems" and that the text would "create comparative grievances". The subsequent regulation, finally approved in December 2022, left the owners of the houses built with municipal licenses, which were subsequently annulled by the Junta and / or the courts, "helpless, by giving them the same treatment as the illegal ones"’. … From BoT, our best wishes to Phillip Smalley in his ‘retirement’.
From Sur in English here: ‘Pilots at Spain's Air Nostrum airline announce indefinite strike action. The industrial action will hit all the Iberia franchised airline’s bases around the country, with effect from 27 February’.
‘Too many tourists in Lanzarote?’ asks El Español here. The Daily Mail readers evidently think otherwise says the article.
The exceptional bank tax affects those entities that in 2019 obtained more than 800 million between interest margins and net commissions. These will have to pay a rate of 4.8% in 2022 and 2023, which will result in a collection of 3,000 million euros for the Government. The banks must pay the tax on February 20th and ‘will take the matter to the courts as being unconstitutional’ the following day says Business Insider here.
The consumer organisation Facua has been checking out the prices (and sizes) of products in the supermarkets. La Vanguardia brings us: ‘From Ruffles crisps to Lidl’s chicken wings, Facua detects 14 products with less content and more expensive than a year ago. Four out of ten foods analysed by Facua-Consumers in Action have become more expensive by over 30% in the last year’. I notice the canned dog-food is one of these.
A timely warning from 20Minutos regarding those products and services one doesn’t need, but which add to the monthly bill. These include: having various streaming TV platforms, a spare and unused credit card or a higher-than-necessary electric potential. Unattended leaks and so on. Then there are our sometimes wasteful buying habits to contend with – that extra bar of chocolate, the coffee in the local bar, the stuff from Amazon and AliExpress or a wasted trip in the car. These unnecessary expenses – says the article – are gastos hormiga. Little bits here and there which add up towards the end of the month.
There is a fuss over the ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ law designed by the UP minister Irene Montero to protect women from – broadly speaking – unwanted advances. The judiciary, whether through their own interpretation of the law, (or whether to cause trouble for the lefties) has taken to reducing sentences for rape – or even early release from prison – in a number of appeals. From El Español newsletter: ‘The Socialists, despite the opposition of their partner in the Government, Unidas Podemos, have unilaterally chosen to increase sentencing of those rapes committed with violence or intimidation and reduce those that are not. The collateral effect could have been the rupture of the coalition government, but it is clear that neither the PSOE nor Unidas Podemos are willing to break up over this’. elDiario.es reports Pedro Sánchez as saying “We will defend the justice of the law as we aim to correct the issue of the reduced sentences”. 20Minutos says that the onus on the alleged offense may once again fall on the victim to prove her resistance.
There could be an argument for thinking that this issue may help the PSOE in this election year as being a sensible party compared to its eccentric Unidas Podemos partner…
Alberto Núñez Feijóo says he will resign from the leadership of the PP is the party loses the general elections later this year (leaving the way open for the more acceptable Isabel Díaz Ayuso or Juanma Moreno). The story at ECD here.
¿Que te vote Txapote? Would Txapote vote for you? Where does this phrase come from? (Txapote was a bloodthirsty ETA killer from the bad old days). The intellectual author is Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Community of Madrid. She wasn't the first to use it; nor the one who invented it, but she was the first public official that popularized this expression and used it in an official speech; an offensive slogan that perfectly sums up the type of “responsible opposition” that awaits us in this election year. El País has the story with the title: ‘Ayuso’s phrase which annoys both the PSOE and the ETA-victims’. The idea from the right is to remind voters that EH Bildu is a partner in the Government.
‘The end of the line for the Izquierda Unida. Alberto Garzón manages surveys that predict the disappearance of IU after the next general election. The party remains at 2.5% of the votes, which would leave them without deputies in Congress. The Minister of Consumption seeks survival in a confluence with Yolanda Diaz and her Sumar movement’ says ECD here. Indeed, we read that IU is quietly seeking to split with Podemos and join Sumar. If this new ‘party’ can bring all the strings together, with Más País, the IU, Equo, Compromís and even Podemos – that’s to say, all the lefties – the system of counting the votes and apportioning deputies would bring more seats than if they went separately says the article. Can Podemos give way to Yolanda Díaz? Not so far: but maybe their day is over (and job is done) says an opinion piece from Gerardo Tecé at ctxt here.
The debate last week in the Senate between President Sánchez and the Leader of the Opposition left this zasca (cutting remark): ‘To conclude I tell you the following Sr. Feijóo: with your departure from the presidency of the Xunta, the Galicians will have won, but we Spaniards have all lost. Thank you". El Huff Post has some Twitter replies to enjoy.
‘EU soon to no longer stamp passports of third-country nationals entering Schengen’, reports SVI here. It says that the new immigration control, the Entry/Exit System (‘the EES’), which will automatically record movement into and out of the Schengen Area, is a new system which is expected to launch later this year fully. The system will be used to keep track of third-country travellers who enter the EU and detect over-stayers.
‘Brexit will join Suez and Iraq in the great pantheon of catastrophic British errors. Three years on, we are covered in the scars of what it has done to this country’. Opinion from iNews here.
The other evening, RTVE switched from its normal 9.00pm Telediario to a short report on the day’s news followed by a lengthy exposé of the problems connected with the public health system. The video, ‘Sanidad en España’ can be seen here.
‘Face masks are no longer mandatory on public transport’ says Catalan News here. They continue to be compulsory however in pharmacies and health-centres.
‘The Junta de Andalucía is firing interim hospital health-staff after having employed them with anything up to 100 consecutive temporary contracts’. More at Fuentes Informadas.
There’s no doubt but that the courts, like most other public services, are at their limit. Here from La Cadena Ser we read - ‘A drug trafficking case with 50 detainees is prescribed after 15 years waiting for the court to post a trial date. The Prosecutor's Office and the anti-drug associations warn of the collapse suffered by the courts in the province of Cádiz’.
From The Corner here: ‘2023 is marked by the regional and municipal elections in May and the general elections in December. This fact is noticeable in the budgets dedicated by the Government to institutional advertising. The plan approved in the last Council of Ministers foresees an expenditure of €145.98 million in campaigns of all kinds…’
A dictatorship in Europe? Such is the cunning plan of the Spanish president Pedro Sánchez according to Sputnik, a Russian news channel. The story at ECD here.
Following (no doubt, coincidentally) from the murder of the priest in Algeciras, a shanty town in Nerja, Almería was fired and bulldozed flat the following Monday at first light following from a judicial order. Around 400 ‘illegals’ and irregulars who had lived in ‘El Walili’ for anything up to several years were obliged to find new accommodation. Público reports here.
‘Froilán de Arabia’, as one news-site puts it. The grandson of Juan Carlos I didn’t spend long in Abu Dhabi and is now returned to Madrid and his merry ways. Perhaps, suggests the article, they should have sent him to a convent instead. El Mundo has more here. His bodyguards don’t have an easy job of it here. We learn the new word hijísimo at another, comic article about the lad here.
From The Majorca Daily Bulletin here: ‘The Proposta per les Illes (el Pi) party has proposed the creation of a language exchange programme to promote the Catalan language among the foreign resident community in the Balearics. This initiative was presented by Pi spokesperson Xisca Mora, who said that it is time that the Catalan language should be promoted among foreigners…’.
The Cantabria trains that don’t fit through the tunnels. Cantabria24Horas reports laconically that ‘A failure in the transmission of gauge data from the railway operator RENFE to the company subcontracted to manufacture the new narrow-gauge trains for Cantabria has meant that "trains are being manufactured that do not enter the Cantabrian (and Asturian) tunnels"’. A few heads have rolled as a result of this avoidable mess.
‘(The bad bank) Sareb's deputy director goes to work for Blackstone in a new revolving door scandal’ says El Salto here. ‘Álvaro Areal, assistant director of the Sareb (wiki) for nine years, went from working in the public entity to working for this investment fund favoured by the latest decisions of the bad bank’. The article also features several other senior financiers and politicians who have famously ‘switched their colours’ moving from public to private interests.
From The Guardian here: ‘We’re being invaded by pigs’: Spain’s pork revolution faces backlash. The proliferation of intensive farms has polarised rural Spain, pitting those who see the farms as a source of jobs against grassroots groups who oppose their rapid growth. The country’s transformation into one of the world’s biggest pork producers is helping to accelerate rural depopulation, claim opponents of the industry’ (Thanks to Michael)
‘The Spanish authorities have announced that the country has decided to train and employ a group of Moroccan truck drivers in order to tackle the labour shortages in the transport sector’, says SVI here.
‘Salamanca is in turmoil these days on account of a millionaire investment project that ensures that it can carry out an investment between 10,000 and 15,000 million euros in the expansion of the city through an industrial, logistical and urban project. The promoters, under the name of Peace City World, have held a congress between January 23 and 27 to present some ideas that have caused widespread scepticism…’. elDiario.es has the story, adding in a second report: ‘An inactive company and non-existent partners, the background to the alleged sheikhs that promote the 'Dubai de Salamanca'. Another pipe-dream, then.
From Diario de Almería here: ‘The Indalo Project was a secret plan developed by the United States, in collaboration with various Spanish governments, to study the interaction of plutonium with the inhabitants of Palomares (Almería) and, in the same way, the environment. The Almería researcher José Herrera has once again broken down the history of the Palomares case in his work 'Human experimentation with plutonium in Spain. Genesis and development of the Indalo Project (1966-2009)’, where he collects the formulas used by the governments of the time to falsify reality, hide files and increase the acceptable level of plutonium at will…’ (The reference in the report is to the mid-air crash of a B-52 bomber carrying hydrogen bombs over Palomares in 1966 wiki).
Momentos del Pasado bring us some old photos of the Puerta del Sol in Madrid (1850 – 1960) here.
The BBC brings us: ‘Menorca's enormous T-shaped stone towers, which soar more than 5m high, gave rise to the legend that they were built by giants 2,500 years ago’.
Eight of Spain’s most impressive medieval bridges with National Geographic here. As always with NatGeo, there are some fantastic photos in the article.
From Sur in English here: ‘Being a visitor to Málaga province has never been easier thanks to a new website launched as part of the Diputación de Málaga provincial authority. All the best elements of the province, from local towns and traditions to tourist hot spots and fun itineraries are now available all in one easily accessible place. The website has over 10,000 tourist attractions and points of interest in all the 103 Málaga municipalities…’
Blanca Paloma wins the Benidorm Fest 2022 and will be Spain’s choice for the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool on 9, 11 & 13 May says The Olive Press here. The contest was over, and an invited guest performed her best known song (and the crowd was thrilled):
Blanca Paloma here on YouTube with Eaea.
Monica Naranjo here on YouTube with Sobreviviré.