Business over Tapas

A digest of this week’s Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:

With Lenox Napier and Andrew Brociner.  Consultant: José Antonio Sierra

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March 14 2019            Nº 294


One of the charms of the south-east of Spain is its intriguing desert. Dry hills festooned with a few scrub bushes and a rabbit or two. There are few habitations and hardly anything moving in the scorching heat beyond perhaps a thirsty cyclist and a watchful vulture.

Nothing much grows in the land around Tabernas in Almería (Spaghetti Western country) and up towards Granada, or along the way towards Murcia. To see it from the air is to see the only true desert of Europe.

Here and there among the million hectares of desert we can find some olive plantations lining the minor provincial roads, fed with water from the overstretched aquifers, while the stressed earth under the plastic farms of Nijar and El Ejido to the west is pushed to its limit, filled with chemicals and tired indeed of the very life it creates in such abundance.

The official spread of the farms, quoted since 2004 as around 30,000 hectares, is understandably erroneous, and local farmers will quote more likely figures of 75,000 hectares under plastic. Plastic which, once perished, is now no longer sent off to China. Now, most of it is dealt with in unsatisfactory ways (90% is not recycled says Greenpeace) – ploughed under, left to rot, chucked into dry riverbeds – and from there to the sea (where some of it ends up, apparently, poisoning dolphins) or sent to official dumps (which often mysteriously catch fire).

El País has published a major study on how to attempt to arrest the desertification of the region, with some brave agriculturists trying out various crops such as almonds, olive, pistachio plus some reforestation (photos here) as the poor soil is lost to erosion through wind and occasional washes of floodwater. The article looks at foreign philanthropists and NGOs such as Alvelal, Commonland and Sunseed Desert Technology.

That the land is bad is no surprise. ‘…The content of organic matter in the agricultural soil of the Altiplano ranges between 0.38% and 1.5%, which is why much of it does not reach the usual organic matter rate of 1.5% minimum, according to data from the University of Almería. These soils lose an average of 1.8 millimetres of thickness per year from the most superficial layer, the most fertile, which means 20 tons of land per hectare. In recent years rainfall has been scarce, between 200 and 400mm per year…’.

Then there’s the problem of the depopulation of the towns: Vélez Blanco – in the sierras where Almería, Granada and Murcia meet – is given as an example. It has lost five thousand souls from its 1950 census, with now just two thousand inhabitants left.

Climate change, hotter summers and Spain’s growing desertification have been a source of worry from some time. We end with an article from El Mundo from July of 2017 titled: ‘By 2090, Spain will be the new Sahara’. It says: ‘Water is scarce, heat waves break records … and Spain dries up. But this scorching summer is only a foretaste of the future: in 2090, the desert will have swallowed half of the Peninsula, from Lisbon to Alicante, according to a study by ‘Science‘’.



A map shows where the foreigners buy the most homes (and who). The Germans prefer the islands, the Brits like the coastal pueblos, the French like the Costa Brava or are heading inland and the Chinese are buying in Madrid. Found at Business Insider here.

From El País: ‘Sales of homes to Britons are up, but following a possible Hard Brexit, both confidence and indeed the pound could fall’. The article says that the agencies are jittery.

‘Housing is approaching prices of the ‘boom’ in several cities … and in some already exceeds them’, says El Confidencial here. ‘In San Sebastian, Pozuelo de Alarcón, Marbella, Castelldefels, Alcobendas or Majadahonda it could be in a matter of months, if the market does not turn around beforehand’.

From Short-term Rentalz comes this: ‘A government decree regulating rentals has come into effect, which aims to improve protection for tenants as affordable housing is increasingly difficult to find. Furthermore, the decree extends the duration of the rental contract from three to five years (or seven if the landlord is a company), and prevents annual rent increases which exceed the consumer price index (CPI) within that period. The updated rules do not put a cap on how much monthly rent a landlord can ask for, as the anti-austerity party Podemos had lobbied for…’.

‘Just weeks before Spain holds elections, the Socialist government limited rent increases to the inflation rate in new contracts for the country’s six million apartments. The emergency decree threw a curve ball to investors including Blackstone Group, which has spent billions of dollars acquiring property in a bet on the recovery of the real estate market after Spain’s 2012 financial crash. While rents jumped about 60 percent in Madrid and Barcelona in the 2014-2017 period, according to BNP Paribas Real Estate, annual hikes will be held to inflation, currently 1.1 percent. The cap will last five years for individual landlords, or seven years for institutional landlords like Azora or Blackstone…’. Bloomberg reports here.

From La Voz de Almería comes ‘The massive regularization of irregular houses is closer The Junta de Andalucía announces that urban settlements will be able to normalize their situation’: The predominant association of those affected by alegal houses (i.e., neither legal nor ilegal), the AUAN, has welcomed this announcement with «satisfaction», with the view that the PP is living up to the commitments made to this collective prior to the elections. The association estimates that there are «around 2,000» houses on asentamientos urbanisticos in the Valley of Almanzora and Levante alone. Across Andalusia there are tens of thousands.



Following from the women’s rights demonstrations last week, ‘the CEOE believes that the «psychological traits and non-cognitive abilities» of women explain the wage gap between women and men. «The differences in psychological traits and non-cognitive abilities of men and women (differences in the propensity to take risks and negotiate)», among the factors that «may end up affecting the wages of each other» says the employers business association with satisfaction. The story is at here.

The viral meme from Podemos that won’t be seen in the mainstream media is here.



General elections: April 28th. European, local and (most) regional elections: May 26th.

Another poll, this time from, gives the PSOE the lead, but not enough (together with Podemos) to stop a majority from Ciudadanos, the Partido Popular and Vox.

(This one made us laugh): ‘War on the right: Pablo Casado discovers that Vox’s goal is to finish him off rather than Pedro Sánchez’. The story is at El Español here. Casado’s reply is that Santiago Abascal from Vox «…does not know about health, education, economics, international politics, security, immigration and budgetary policy».

Pablo Casado has asked Vox not to present candidates in the smaller provinces so as not to break the right-wing vote and allow a few extra left-wingers in. The story is at El Mundo here.  Understandably, Vox has said ‘no’ to this proposal.

Ciudadanos is to join with the PP’s ally, the UPN in Navarra. The three parties will act as one in coalition in that province in national, regional and local elections says El Mundo here.

Podemos has (once again) signed a deal to run for the general elections in an alliance with Izquierda Unida and Equo says here.

A foundation of the Junta de Andalucía has been discovered by the new government with 1.2 million euros a year of public expenditure, two employees and zero activity. The Centro para la Mediación y Arbitraje de Andalucía is simply another ghost agency attached to the regional administration, which has eliminated in less than two months 85 consortiums or bodies without any functions but with succulent budgets… La Voz del Sur has the story.



The Spanish think-tank Elcano Royal Institute has produced a paper titled ‘The economic effects of Brexit in the “Campo de Gibraltar”: an econometric approach’.



Crimes in Europe

By Andrew Brociner

When considering the quality of life in a country, there are various indicators, such as the quality and coverage of health care, social security, longevity and also safety. With regards to the latter, there are several statistics on crimes providing comparisons across European countries.

If we look at sexual crimes, we find some countries have far more than others.


These countries shown have among the highest rates in the EU and refer to reported crimes; the actual number is probably much higher. Countries like England, France and Germany have a large number of such crimes. Spain has more than twice the number of such crimes as Italy, even though Italy has a much greater population. If we compare keeping population constant, we get the following result:


England is still high on the list, but so are Scotland and Scandinavian countries.

If we look now at deliberate homicides, we find that France and Germany have the highest amount in terms of absolute numbers, which astonishingly account for over one third of all such crimes recorded in the EU.


Looking at homicides as a proportion of the population, we find that Spain and Italy have relatively low figures, while the Baltic countries have high rates.


In terms of burglaries of private residences, the countries with the highest figures are shown below and as can be seen, France tops the list:


If we look rather at the proportion of burglaries as a proportion of the population, we find that while France is still high on the list, some Scandinavian countries along with the Netherlands have the highest figures.


As far as these indicators are concerned, France is a place with much crime in all categories, and is one of the worst in absolute numbers, as is often England. Scandinavian countries do quite poorly when population is taken into account. Perhaps surprisingly for some, the southern European countries of Italy and Spain, while still part of the group of worst offenders, are more moderate than most.



From El Mundo here: ‘Brexit will have a cost of at least 2,600 million euros per year for Spanish industry, especially for the automotive and agri-food sectors with the consequent effect on their accounts and employment…’.



‘…the media maintains a corporate class bias through five systemic filters they refer to as the “Propaganda Model”: concentrated private ownership; a strict bottom-line profit orientation; over-reliance on governmental and corporate sources for news; a primary tendency to avoid offending the powerful; and an almost religious worship of the market economy, strongly opposing alternative beliefs…’. The foregoing is from Project Censored (USA) here. In Spain, for the reasons given above, people increasingly rely on smaller, independent news-sources.

The far-right Hazte Oir took out full-page adverts against gender-violence laws in three national newspapers to coincide with the women’s rights protests last Friday. The story here.



Greenpeace has presented a major paper called ‘Maldito Plástico: Reciclar no es suficiente’. The agency says here that only 25.4% of plastic containers were recovered in Spain in 2016, according to an average of the data provided by the autonomous communities and municipalities, and the characterizations of waste made by these administrations.



‘Massive marches in Spain displayed the strength of the feminist movement. Demonstrations called last Friday, International Women’s Day, brought out an estimated 350,000 protestors in Madrid and 200,000 in Barcelona’. El País in English looks at the demonstrations and the politics.

Spain is, apparently, the fifth best country in the world to be born a girl.

From Truthout here: ‘In 92 countries and counting, hundreds of thousands of students are planning to skip school on March 15 as part of the “School Strike 4 Climate” (in Spanish: Juventud por el Clima) — a growing movement of young people demanding that policymakers worldwide take urgent and radical steps to battle the climate crisis’. ‘Young Spaniards join the international strike for the climate of March 15 with calls throughout the country says Europa Press here. Expect demonstrations in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, Bilbao, Málaga, Zaragoza, Palma, A Coruña, Valladolid, Albacete, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Granada and Badajoz…

The electricity bill is going up (again), this time by at least 4% from April.  Onda Cero reports here.

BBC News discovers the ‘caravans of love’ – organised bus-loads of hopeful brides who visit forlorn villages where the remaining men-folk are looking to form a steady relationship, or marriage even. There’ll be a fiesta tonight to welcome them.

‘The CIA are implicated in the recent attack on the North Korean embassy in Madrid’, says El País in English here. ‘According to Spanish investigators, two of the men who broke into the diplomatic headquarters have connections to the US intelligence service’.

‘…In Spain, the United States Army has two permanent installations at the bases of Morón de la Frontera (Seville) and Rota (Cádiz). The presence of US troops is regulated by an agreement signed on December 1, 1988 by the governments of Felipe González and Ronald Reagan…’. Details on the two bases are at Móron Información here. Now, Donald Trump is considering a call to ask the Spanish government to pay for ‘the privilege’ of the presence of the two bases.

Some macro-regions will have great success in the future, such as ‘Galiciortugal’. Nation-states? Cities? There are around 29 mega-regions around the world, and a couple of them are located in Spain. This is what they reveal about our future says El Confidencial here. In case you hadn’t guessed, Galiciaortugal and uh, Barcelyon are huge manufacturing centres…

El Mundo lists the best international schools in Spain here.

Those ‘detox’ drinks they sell in the health-food aisles? Absolutely none of them work says Maldita Ciencia here.

‘Fuengirola bosses have been slammed over plans to paint all of its beaches in a rainbow of fluorescent colours. The town hall is considering reversing the project after already painting one of its beaches to much uproar from locals. Neighbours branded the move as ‘tacky’ and ‘absurd’ after government workers painted several huge rocks on San Fernando beach in various bright colours…’. Item from The Olive Press here.

‘In the Spanish language, a wide range of objects and ideas are defined by a nationality, from the so-called Russian salad (ensaladilla rusa) to the English wrench (llave inglesa), and expressions such as “voting like a Bulgarian” (votar a aprobación a la búlgara), which refers to decisions that receive unanimous approval, typically out of fear. But what does the adjective “Spanish” mean in other languages? When, and for what reason, is “Spanish” used as a descriptor?…’. An illuminating article from Eye on Spain here.


See Spain:

All about Andalucía, a free guide to download from The Olive Press here. 

From Eye on Spain here: ‘If I were asked to define the mythical Eden, it would be a place of natural beauty with abundant native flora and fauna, where wild and domestic animals roam freely, nature is managed sustainably and people live in harmony with their surroundings. Not many places fit these criteria anymore, though there are still a few Edens on earth. One of these is El Centro Algaba de Ronda…’.

From España Fascinante comes ‘Things to do in Cambados’ (drink Albariño mainly).

An abandoned village which is now become ‘a rural paradise’. Traveler takes us to El Acebuchal, up behind Frigiliana (Málaga).


Enviado por José Antonio Sierra