Business Over Tapas

Business Over Tapas

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Editorial: The Government, the PSOE and the Media have been of one mind when it comes to Podemos: how to uncover some dirt to show, once and for all, that they are no better than anyone else active in politics. It’s been a hard struggle, with several false clues, but now the Number Three in Podemos, Juan Carlos Monedero, has been caught out with his taxes. It would be nice to see the same rigour from the media when it comes to uncovering fraud and misconduct among the casta – a good place to start being the Falciani List now available in some detail from the counter-culture El Confidencial. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly a blow for the indignados to find that one of their leaders has somehow neglected to declare 450,000€ to the tax-man, earned, apparently, by giving some speeches and perhaps dubious advice to the Venezuelans a few years ago… ……

Housing: ‘No reason for optimism’ regarding Spanish property prices, says Spanish News Today.

VozPópuli agrees, explaining here why property prices will continue to slump.

‘As the number of Spanish regions introducing regulations to strangle the private tourist lettings business at the behest of powerful hotel lobbies grows, here is a summary of the latest developments by region, courtesy of the Spanish property portal Idealista.com…’. Found at Mark Stücklin’s Spanish Property Insight.

‘The Land Registry expects to detect as many as 39,000 irregular buildings in Málaga. Over this year a total of 758,000 homes will revised in the province, and it follows a previous inspection which ran from the end of 2013 and during 2014 and concentrated on 29 towns in the province…’. More at Typically Spanish.

‘Does the current strength of sterling coinciding with the bottom of the Spanish property market make it an ideal time to buy property in Spain for British buyers?…’. Maybe yes, maybe no says Kyero here. ‘…

The number of Spanish property transactions grew 2.2 per cent during 2014, according to statistics published by Spain´s National Statistics Institute (INE) on Tuesday, marking the first year-on-year rise since 2010. Experts say that foreign investment and improved access to credit were both factors that contributed to the growth amounting to 320,000 homes changing hands last year…’. From The Local.

‘Ex-pats who own property or who run a business in Spain are likely to be affected by the changes to Spanish tax that were brought in for 2015 budget. Whilst most changes have been implemented in an attempt to boost the economy, it’s clear that some have simply been adjusted to bring in revenue. It’s obvious that Spain is still struggling financially, and it’s seemingly torn between raising tax revenues on the one hand, and enabling foreign direct investment and business on the other…’. Found at Shelter Offshore. ……

Tourism: Foreigner travel companies have a high opinion of the Spanish tourist market, says Hosteltur, although we apparently need more ‘all inclusive holidays and lower prices’. JacTravel tells Hosteltur that the recuperation of Spanish hotel numbers in 2014 was thanks to the ‘drastic’ lowering of prices in the last three years (-10% just in 2014). Story here. ……

Finance: Brussels has raised its forecast for Spain’s economy in 2015 to a growth level of 2.3% and next year has also been adjusted upwards to 2.5%. El Huff Post reports.

‘FORD has announced its biggest ever investment in Spain’s motors industry. The US car manufacturer will pump €1.1 billion into its Valencia plant, in the final part of €2.3 billion expansion which began in 2013. The investment will allow the plant to build 450,000 vehicles a year, making it Ford’s second largest assembly centre, behind Chongqing in China…’. Found at The Olive Press.

AENA was partly privatised on Wednesday, with 49% of its shares on offer, mostly to company investors and only 5.2% available to the public. The share price started at 58€ but, by Wednesday evening, had risen to 69.8€, a rise of 20% in just one afternoon’s trading.

AENA is the company that runs Spain’s (and some foreign) airports. Story at El País here. ……

Politics: The leader of the PSOE Pedro Suarez has sacked his rival Tómas Gómez as candidate for Madrid and Secretary General of the PSOE-Madrid (the ‘PSM’). Gómez says ‘it’s war’. On Wednesday afternoon, a group of Gómez supporters burst into the headquarters of the PSOE in Calle Ferraz, Madrid and scuffles broke out. Meanwhile, the other socialist ‘barons’ – the regional party leaders, say they support Pedro Suarez’ decision. In short: the PSOE is heading towards a schism. Later on Wednesday, Gómez said he wasn’t leaving… Later still, it seems evident that the post of President of the ‘PSM’ (and candidate in the regional elections) will go to the ex-Minister of Education Ángel Gabilondo.

No one is more worried about the possible victory of Podemos than the power companies. ‘Did you know’, asked a Podomos leader to a howling crowd recently, ‘we could have a government that, instead of giving money to the electricas, preferred to rescue the citizens?’ the Podemos plan is to re-nationalise the power companies. More here.

An interview with José Manuel Soria, the Minister for Industry, Energy and Tourism, appears in Monday’s El Mundo. It shows the PP ideas and projects for the future… ‘We shall create around 1500 jobs, every day this year’, says Soria at one point.

According to Público, President Mariano Rajoy hopes to see ‘a grand coalition’ between the PP and the PSOE following the Andalucian elections. Will such a thing work, with the PSOE-A ‘betraying’ the socialist vote in Andalucía… and would that rebound in a bad way against the PSOE nationally? Probably yes. Meanwhile Susana Díaz, the Andalucian President and PSOE candidate, says she will never ‘pact’ with Rajoy, although neither PP, nor PSOE nor Podemos appear likely to gain a majority. ‘If Díaz hadn’t of pushed the elections forwards, I would have certainly won’, says a smiling Juan Manuel Moreno, the PP candidate for the Junta de Andalucía. Story at El Mundo here.

The candidate for Podemos in the Andalucian elections (22nd March) is EuroMP Teresa Rodríguez. Teresa will leave her post in Brussels to work in the next Seville Parliament. More here.

Nationally, many people seem to be leaving the Izquierda Unida for other ‘formations’. Here is one blogger explaining why he’s leaving after twenty years.

Cayo Lara, the leader of the increasingly un-United Left has accused Pablo Iglesias and his party of making ‘a hostile takeover bid against the IU’. Iglesias, says the disgruntled General Secretary, is more Groucho than Karl. Just as well, probably.

Who would have thought that the uncovering of a small yet embarrassing misunderstanding with Hacienda could have had such grave consequences? Juan Carlos Monedero (Podemos) says he neglected to declare 425,000€ he was paid in 2013 from his work assisting Latin American governments several years previously. Following the revelations in El Mundo (filtered to them by someone in Hacienda), Monedero made a (perfectly legal but clearly embarrassing) ‘complementary declaration’. Between one thing and another, the unfortunately named Monedero (means ‘wallet’ or ‘coin-purse’ in English), has some 700,000€ in his bank accounts, says the same newspaper… Monedero himself says he has 205,000€ in his combined personal and company accounts and shows a bank statement here. Once, El Mundo used to be a fine and independent newspaper…

Now, Hacienda is performing a complete and enjoyable audit of Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos. Who knows who might be next? …and as a special extra: Federico Jiménez Losantos, a well-known far-right radio personality, defends Iglesias against Hacienda Minister Cristóbal Montoro on Libertad Digital (Video here). ‘Ganemos’, the proposed name for local coalitions and groups who see themselves as supporters of the 15M, Podemos or the indignados movement, has been registered (in español, plus its versions in catalán and euzkera) as a political party-name by a councillor from the small town of Santa Maria de Palautordera in Barcelona called Julià de Fabian in an apparently successful attempt to put a spike in the catchy name. More than a few local groups are searching for a new name for their ‘formación’ as the elections approach. …..

Corruption: There are over 1,900 public figures accused in different cases of political corruption across Spain. A video called ‘Radiografía de la Corrupción’ over at Irispress explains how Spain has come to this.

One of the names that has been revealed in El Confidencial in connection with the Falciani List (an employee from the HSBC called Herve Falciani revealed in 2008 information about money stashed under HSBC control totalling some 102,000 million euros including 1,800 million euros held by 4,000 Spaniards. The authorities have, so far, spectacularly failed to show any interest in this) is the late Emilio Botín of the Banco de Santander, who had stashed away some 2,000 million euros in Switzerland, and a further still undisclosed amount in Panama and the Virgin Islands. El Ventano thinks most of those on the list will quietly be forgotten by the authorities, indeed, most major newspapers have ignored the subject, currently being written up in Le Monde. Another site, Cafèambllet, claims the Spanish connection (which also includes Fernando Alonso) adds up to 2,320 million euros from 2,694 Spaniards and contrasts the Monday headlines in European titles (such as The Guardian, the BBC, Bloomberg and Der Spiegel), with Spain’s headlines, mainly bashing Podemos… The original HSBC exposé from the ICIJ here.

On a similar subject, here’s an article called ‘La lenta agonía de la prensa tradicional española’ (‘The slow death of the traditional press in Spain’) from El Blog de Enrique Dans. An excerpt: ‘…Brought into crisis by their business model, Spanish traditional newspapers have sold their editorial line and the very essence of journalism to anyone who is willing to pay for it. Undercover ‘info-mercials’ disguised as news, the omission of stories which could upset their major advertisers, and absolute collusion with the Establishment…’. The evident result is that people are turning to alternative sites for their news. (An abbreviated English version of the entire article here).

The Government appears to have persuaded all the dailies not to interview Luis Bárcenas, but a magazine, appropriately enough called Interviu, is on the job with its story: ‘Be nice to me, says Luis Bárcenas to the PP, or I’ll spill the beans!’ The interview finds its way, in part into at El Huff Post. Of Rajoy, Bárcenas says: ‘We had a great relationship and then he did me a lot of harm’. Another ninety politicians and others were interrogated this week as part of the 3,000 million euro ‘Operación Edu’ fraud in Andalucía. ……

Catalonia: Over 500 companies fled Catalonia in favour of Madrid last year following the recent pro-independence activities of the President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas. Story here. …… Various: The 27 day strike in AENA has been called off after an agreement between unions and the authority.

The Government has granted permission for the ex-Minster for Justice Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón to begin his new career as a lawyer after waiting just five months. Indeed, 84 senior politicians have successfully transferred their attention from the Public to the Private Sector with Government blessing (specifically from ‘La Oficina de Conflictos de Interés’) in what is known as ‘puertas giratorias’: swinging doors. Otherwise, politicians must normally wait two years before seeking jobs which might be considered ‘incompatible’. Europa Press has the list.

Manos Limpias (‘Clean Hands’) is an organisation which ferociously attacks causes it sees as unjust or disloyal: abortion, homosexuality, Baltazar Garzón and so on – ‘around a hundred causes per year’, says their president with grim satisfaction. It is currently managing a campaign against Pablo Iglesias and other leaders of Podemos and has made a dozen related denuncias to the Court (including ‘belonging to a criminal organisation’). The group is in fact led by ex-members of Fuerza Nueva, a Francoist offshoot. Público discusses Manos Limpios here and here.

Elche has lost 133,713 palm trees to the Red Palm Weevil in the last four years, according to a breathless report in Información. The town is a major supplier of decorative palms to public and private buyers alike.

The Government is set to close down the cultural centre Instituto Cervantes in Gibraltar, opened just four years ago in more enlightened times. The aggressive Spanish Foreign Minister Margallo says ‘everyone speaks Spanish there anyway, except for the monkeys’.

Prosecutors may ask for prison time for owners of dangerous dogs who allow their pets out without a leash.

Around 400 Sahrawi refugees (people from the ex-Spanish territory of Western Sahara) have been denied Spanish nationality since ‘they come from a country which is not recognised by Spain’. The refugees have lived in Spain for ten years or more and pay social security. Their papers come from the República Árabe Saharaui Democrática which is ‘not recognised’ by Madrid. Around 4,500 Sahrawi children are received by families each summer for holiday visits. The region was abandoned by Spain in 1975 after the ‘Green March’ and seized by Morocco.

Asturias: Al fresco eating in the mountains. ‘Without a shadow of doubt, the festival of roast lamb (Cordero a la Estaca) is one on the finest “al fresco” eating experiences there is. Up high on a mountain top meadow, fires are lit early in the morning and constantly topped up with firewood from Ash trees creating a slow burning pit of embers ideal for cooking whole splayed lamb for six hours or more…’. From Eye on Spain here.

‘Franco’s Friends’: Peter Day’s 2011 account of the rise of the Generalísimo has now been translated into Spanish as ‘Los Amigos de Franco’. It tells of the support for the rise of the Caudillo from the British MI6. Monsanto has pulled its transgenic GMOs out of Europe, with the exception of Spain and Portugal. ‘Why and How Spain Became the EU’s Top Grower of GMOs’ from Our World. Some Spanish banks have taken to warning certain customers (usually foreign ones) that they must show where their money comes from, the ‘origen de fondos’, or have their account blocked, quoting a rule from the Banco de España which in fact doesn’t exist. Turbo roundabouts have arrived (when most of us still can’t figure out the old ones). Some Spanish nurses can’t hack the British system, says The Daily Mail here. ‘Ten things we will never understand about Spain’, from Spanish-Property.net. Picassos for sale, here. (Maybe we could share one?) Spain’s 100 best restaurants here. Francisco De Goya y Lucientes: The complete works here. ‘Bullfighting: Then and Now’: an interesting story about the history and practice of toreo. Gibraltar History, Chapter 4: ‘1706 – A Population of Rogues and Swindlers’. Interesting material from a full site called The People of Gibraltar. (Here’s an entry on Lord Robert Napier from the same site). ……

The Greek Question By Andrew Brociner

The Background

Some five years ago, Greece went into crisis. Debt stood at 120% of GDP and the markets panicked, thinking that Greece, as its economy stood, with its three recent recessions and its structural government budget deficits, would be unable to pay back this debt. Greek bonds were downgraded to junk status and the markets sent the interest rate on ten-year bonds soaring. In May 2010, Greece received a bailout. This bailout was to protect European banks – as French and German banks, but also Italian and other banks, held most of the Greek debt – and the whole of Europe. Then less than two years later, a second bailout was needed and as the recession got worse, a third was granted the same year. Greek interest rates fell to a low level and things seemed calm again. But what happened next? The austerity measures, which were part of the bailout conditions set by the Troika – and which we analysed in full in a previous issue – caused Greek GDP to plunge by 25%, unemployment to rise to 26% and to almost 60% for youth unemployment (figures similar only to Spain) and the debt to rise to now 175%.

One may ask, if the markets felt that Greece was unable to pay back its debt when it stood at 120%, with worsening economic conditions, what makes them think it could pay it back at 175%? It is clear that it was only a question of time. And now that time has come and the Greek question is coming to a head.

The Situation Today

Greece has experienced positive growth lately, but this growth is modest and comes on the back of six years of contraction, falling by 25%. In addition, the country has been in deflation for about two years. And debt, as mentioned, has kept climbing to 175% of GDP. Industrial output in Greece, as shown on the chart above, has plunged to the 1976 level. With Greeks thrown into poverty after the austerity measures were implemented, it is no wonder that the appeal for an alternative – in the form of the radical left wing-party, Syriza – has shown widespread support. The bitter pill which was too hard to swallow with the prospect of a long, drawn-out illness has seen the popularity of radical parties rise not only in Greece, but also in Spain with the Podemos party and in Italy with its 5-star movement.

The Game

The Syriza party won the January elections and made an anti-austerity measures programme part of their platform. This involves debt renegotiation. It also involves going back to higher government spending, higher wages and more public workers – a reversal of what the austerity measures put into place. The new Greek government is playing a game of high-stakes poker in which it hopes that the EC will back down and meet its demands, otherwise threatening to default on its loans and to exit the euro. There will, of course, be some repercussions if this is in fact the case, but the ECB can absorb a Greek exit, and Draghi – a man who keeps his cards close to his chest – already played one hand as a warning in a surprise move before the Greeks even came to the table, in the form of refusing to use Greek debt as collateral for more liquidity at very low rates. Draghi is proving once again that he is the right man for the job at a very difficult time. He effectively called the Greek’s bluff: if Greece does not abide by its bailout conditions and refuses to make a new deal with the EC soon, its banking system and its membership to the euro will be in jeopardy. It is now the Greek’s turn. ……

Finally: ‘Pure Paradise’ by Armik. Spanish Guitar here. ……

AUAN MEET WITH IZQUIERDA UNIDA AND ECOLOGISTS IN ACTION.

Press Release: AUAN, 10th Feb, 2015

A debate and exchange of opinions about urban planning took place last Friday, 6th February, in the headquarters of Izquierda Unida in Seville under the title of ‘The Territorial Model and Urban Planning’. The workshop was organised by Enrique Ruiz, Environment co-ordinator of IU in Andalucía who also acted as moderator. The speakers were Carlos Girón, planning advisor to the Office of the Ombudsman in Andalucía, Juan Clavero, Secretary of Territorial Planning for Ecologists in Action in Andalucía, Inmaculada Nieto, MP for IU in the Andalucian Parliament, Antonio Ibañez, ex Director General of Housing and Gerardo Vázquez for AUAN.

Speaking of the workshop Gerardo Vázquez said, ‘the truth is that I believe that there was much common ground between AUAN and the rest of the speakers. The representative of Ecologists in Action explained not only the impact of irregular urban planning but also the impact of future planning, with plans in existence for an additional one million more houses in the future. We explained that we are victims of irregular planning, and we emphasised the need to sort out what already exists as a first priority. AUAN stressed in the meeting that prevention is fundamental for the future and that action needed to be taken as soon as the first brick is laid for an illegal house. I believe that we are in agreement about this.’

Sr. Vázquez added, ‘What has happened is a failure in prevention, houses have been finished, and in the case of many home-owners, they have been sold to third party purchasers in good faith, who were unaware of the planning problems. In this respect, the suggestion of the ex Director General of Housing, Antonio Ibañez, to create an independent body to oversee urban discipline was interesting’.

With regard to the owners of the houses Sr. Vázquez said, ‘We also informed the panel about the human side of illegal houses and of the problems suffered by British retirees and other nationalities who had trusted this country and invested their life savings in a house that the authorities now want to demolish through no fault of the owners. We pointed out that we have asked for a reform of the Penal Code to avoid the demolition of these houses via the criminal courts without prior compensation for purchasers in good faith and that the PSOE is going to introduce an amendment in the Senate to this effect. This is material justice because these retired Britons find themselves in a situation of social vulnerability. Because they are retired they cannot rebuild their lives if their house is demolished. AUAN also pointed out to the speakers that the guilty should be punished, although this rarely happens, and not the innocent’.

He added, ‘in summary AUAN asked for an exercise in realism, given that you cannot knock down 300,000 houses at a stroke and that you have to regularise as many as possible’. A point of view, according to Sr Vázquez that was accepted by some of the speakers more than others, although he did give thanks to everyone for their sincerity and willingness to discuss the issue.

Business over Tapas is a weekly news-bulletin about Spain aimed at foreign property-owners, available by subscription. The name comes from the Spanish habit of meeting in an office but finishing the business over a beer downstairs. Business over Tapas deals with property news, tourism, travel, finance, politics, corruption and other interests. There’s no fluff or drivel in the non-commercial Business over Tapas. This year could be Spain’s most difficult yet, are you going to miss the signs?

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