Business over Tapas

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

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July 11 2019            Nº 310


Well done the HSBC, the bank that says we, er, Expats rate Spain as the fourth best place to live and work in the whole wide world. The bank in question, the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, is as right as it is wrong. Yes, Spain is a truly great place to live, but what’s in it for the HSBC, its customers, friends and employees? The HSBC in its Country Guide (here) has this to say ‘…Those seeking an improvement to their quality of life should look to Spain. Expats report improvements to both physical and mental well-being, all while enjoying an incredible climate…’, giving Spain fourth place overall worldwide.  

A bank is the last place I would ask for a great place to live, since it has a viewpoint coloured by business interests (I wonder which country the Bullfight Gazette or maybe the Saki Drinkers Guide would recommend), but beggars can’t be choosers. The Expat-press has taken up the story with the fourth place converted to first (after all, who wants to live in Singapore or Switzerland?). The Olive Press says: ‘Spain voted BEST country in world for expat ‘quality of life’. «Expats in Spain are happier, healthier and their aspirations are to live comfortably amongst beautiful surroundings». We read in an enthusiastic El País in English that ‘…83% of foreign residents saying their overall wellbeing had improved since arriving…’. 

So who will argue with this claim? The Spanish like it, the expats like it, and to put a cherry on the top, Foreign Policy brings us ‘Spain’s Formula to Live Forever. The country is set to boast the world’s longest life expectancy by 2040. What are the Spanish doing right?’ The article cites clean water, healthy food and ‘a mild climate’, plus institutional respect for the elderly. 

Many foreigners who move to Spain (or who work for the HSBC and its friends) will have learned Spanish beforehand. Others – perhaps elderly souls who find it difficult learning another language, and equally difficult finding anyone to practice it on, may identify slightly with this amusing story of a Brit interviewed on London radio who after 27 years still can’t speak a word of Spanish. ‘…Lenny replied: «I cannot pronounce the words, I am a cockney.»…’. 

There are many like Lenny, and what a lot are they missing. How can you rate a country when you have no idea of the culture, the language, the politics and the people?

Spain is a fine place to live as we all know, although Portugal might be a better bet – it’s cheaper, has a special ten years no-tax deal for foreign settlers, and – unlike Spain – doesn’t have a Modelo 720 to try our patience. 

Let’s see what the HSBC think of Portugal… No, not mentioned at all in the Top 33 (Portuguese-speaking Brazil is 33rd). 

Maybe they don’t have a branch in Lisbon.  



‘Spanish home prices climbed about 6% annually through June, led by double-digit growth in Madrid and other regions popular with investors and tourists, according to private web sites that publish quarterly data earlier than the government. Property leaped 14% in Madrid and 13% in the Balearic Islands, which include Majorca, Fotocasa said Wednesday in an emailed statement. On a national level, appreciation was 5.8% versus a year earlier, or 6% as calculated by rival website Idealista…’. Item from Bloomberg here. 

Planning: The new legal measures for housing adopted by the Junta De Andalucía are explained at the foot of this bulletin.



‘Spain sees tourist arrivals hitting fresh record this summer’ Headline from US News. 

British tour-operators are booking hotel-rooms without balconies to help avoid ‘accidents’, says Público (here) quoting The Mirror here (‘Boozy British tourists are being kept away from rooms abroad with death-trap balconies…’). 

Why fiestas are good for business… ‘Beer consumption in Pamplona quadruples over the nine-day-long fiestas’. Item from El Español here.

If tourism were a country, it would be the world’s third highest contaminator says here. 



A project for a ‘self-sufficient tri-lingual health-centre and clinic’ designed for seniors is now under study for the largely empty mining village of Rodalquilar in the Cabo de Gata, Almería. More on this as we receive notification. 



The ‘revolving doors’ of high-value politicians getting a cushy job in the private sector strikes again as the ‘CEOE (Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations) signs the ex-Employment Minister of the PP Fátima Báñez. Her appointment and the exact position she will occupy in the employers’ confederation will be announced in September’. VozPópuli has the story here. 

‘Brussels raises the growth forecast for Spain to 2.3%. The European Commission does not find that the recent rise in the minimum wage has had any negative effect on the labour market, which is performing better than expected’, says El País here.

‘Chaos ensues with new laws on Spanish mortgage loans, writes Lawbird’s Antonio Flores at The Olive Press here. 

‘Andalucía, now a tier one region for low taxation in Spain’: by Lawyer Raymundo Larraín at Spanish Property Insight here.

From The Costa Blanca News here: ‘The UK government has refused to take action over double taxation which is hitting British pensioners living in Spain. Since the Double Taxation Convention with the UK became law in 2014, the Spanish tax office stands accused of ignoring an agreement that was designed to prevent monies being deducted by both states on the same income. Tens of thousands of retired Britons are believed to be affected by this pension cash grab. Costa Blanca News contacted HM Revenue and Customs this week to ask if the UK would take up the issue with Spain and ensure that the convention is upheld. However, a spokeswoman for HMRC stated: “As the Double Taxation Convention legislation is in place, the best way forward to rectify these issues would be to take them up locally.”…’. 



‘In Spain, political gridlock increases likelihood of fresh elections – again. With less than two weeks to go until the investiture vote, the Socialist Party is no closer to a deal as negotiations with the leftist Unidas Podemos remain at an impasse’. El País in English reports here. Indeed, Antonio Garamendi, the head of the employers’ CEOE, is in favour of fresh elections in November saying “Maybe it’s better to wait until November to have a calmer country, than to have a more unstable country in the short term” notes VozPópuli here. Despite this generous opinion from the titans of industry, the likelihood is that fresh elections would bring more seats to the PSOE, according to the latest poll, from Público here – with their headline ‘The Left taking twenty-one more seats than the Right’(actually, the PSOE would rise by 11 to 134 and UP would fall by 7. Vox would collapse with the loss of 10. PP and C’s would go up by 5 and 6 respectively). 

While town halls can only have an election every four years, national and regional election dates are more flexible. Now, with the remarkable debate in the Madrid region on Wednesday where no candidate was put forward (El País here), it would appear to mean fresh regional elections in the Comunidad de Madrid for September. The lack of support for the PP’s presumptive Isabel Díaz Ayuso came after Vox decided against giving its twelve deputies to the deal. 

Ciudadanos have lost a couple more regional leaders, including one of their co-founders Xavier Pericay based in the Balearic Islands (here) and, less seriously, their coordinator in Lorca (Murcia) Irene María Ruiz (here). Both complain of C’s ‘loss of way’. 

Much is being made of new mayors promptly increasing their wages, but none match the cupidity of the PP mayor of Pilar de la Horadada (Alicante) who increased his stipend by 160%. has the story here. In reality, it’s not how much you earn in politics so much as how much you make.



A strong complaint against the judge of the ERE Andalusian corruption scandal: “Your intention is to paralyze and void the case”. The head of the anti-corruption agency Judge Alejandro Luzón is adamant, says El Español here. María Ángeles Núñez Bolaños, the judge who took over the case of the ERE in July 2015 after the departure of Mercedes Alaya, is carrying out a “progressive emptying of the case after agreeing to exclude the positions of the Junta de Andalucía of the pieces that make up that procedure”, says the chief anti-corruption prosecutor in a 110-page disciplinary complaint filed against the magistrate…’. 

Business Insider provides a countdown on which EU countries, per capita, avoid paying the most in taxes (Italy is the worst).

‘Imagine paying up to 120 pounds for travel insurance, with the assurance that health care is included in the price. But one man’s escape to Spain is twisted by a heart attack, and his surprise is great when he discovers that he has actually paid for the eEuropean health card (universal and free) and not for the private policy promised. ..’. A recent case involving the death of the client Martin Blake in Lanzarote ‘…has served to illustrate a massive fraud by fifteen British insurers who are allegedly ‘reselling’ the European healthcare card to their clients to make them believe they will have health care if they are indisposed. In practice, private hospitals are forced to refer English tourists to public health because their insurance policy is the result of deception…’. El Confidencial lists the fifteen insurers: Travel Insurance 4 Medical, Insure For, Ok to Travel, Insure Pink, Staysure, Suretravel Citybond, Covered 2 Go, Good to Go, All Clear Traveler, Alpha Travel, ERV Medi-Care, Leisurecare Multi-traveller X5, World First Traveller and Get Going Travel Insurance. El Mundo also carries the story here. 



A Málaga youth must spend two years in prison and pay 180,000€ after catching a fleeing purse-snatcher (a drug-addict wanted by the police) and accidentally killing him during the struggle over the purse while the shocked owner looked on. Alfredo Herrera Rueda’s lawyer says that sometimes ‘the law must sometimes look the other way’. Indeed. 

From El País here: ‘The law that regulates the activity of ‘high office’ says that its exercise should be based on «transparency and responsibility», but 100 people in high positions are known to have refused to disclose their assets between 2015 and 2018. In addition, applying that principle has led to a legal battle between the Office of Conflicts of Interest and the Transparency and Good Governance Council. Both are part of the Ministry of Territorial Policy, but they defend opposing positions in the courts…’. Murky stuff. 



Ah, politics. From El Mundo here: ‘The sudden Europeanism of Jeremy Corbyn. The leader of the Labour Party now demands a second referendum and announces his support for the permanence of the UK in the European Union. Ambiguity about Brexit has taken its toll on his party, which falls to fourth place in intention to vote…’. 

From The Sur in English comes: ‘Brexit isn’t diminishing the UK’s commitment to investing in Spain. Direct British investment in Andalucía reached 117.7 million euros in 2018, with the agrifood and real estate sectors the main beneficiaries…’. 



‘A majority of Spaniards would prefer a coalition government of PSOE and Podemos, according to the CIS’ says the left-wing here. ‘The CIS says that a majority of Spaniards would prefer a coalition government of PSOE and Ciudadanos’, says the right-wing El Español here (on the same day!). The CIS is the main pollster in Spain. 

El País looks at the ways advertising (or ‘marketing’) have changed and are still changing today. There are 12,835 million euros to play for in Spain in advertising circles, and more of it is going to the Internet (and, unfortunately, to intrusive telephone pitches). Of the top ten advertisers, only one, Linea Directa, advertises in the English-language media here. 

David Jiménez was the editor of El Mundo. He has now written a book called El Director about the acute political and corporate manipulation in the media today. Here he is interviewed in a fascinating article in La Soga: ‘…A media-outlet or a journalist is not there to massage readers’ ideas or to reaffirm an ideology or a political position; they are not for the reader to go home saying: «Great, my ideas are correct because my newspaper says the same thing». And I, one of the things that I tried to do in the newspaper when I was director, was precisely to confront the readers with things that I knew that, maybe, they would not agree with or that they would not like, but that they were truths that they should know. Because in the end, journalism has a responsibility and it is not only about informing people about one knows they will like, but also about what is relevant. And that in these times of social pressure through the Internet, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, implies a courage that is more necessary than ever…’. 

Lenox’ own newspaper experiences (and manipulations) at Spanish Shilling here.



From Forbes comes: ‘Fines for motorists entering central Madrid have been reinstated by a judge, a week after a low emission zone policy had been suspended. The new conservative mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, had shelved a clean-air initiative known as Madrid Central, but following a spike in air pollution a court has reimposed the restrictions on motor traffic. The City of Madrid’s imposition of a “low-emission zone” last Christmas also resulted in increased takings for shops and restaurants because people found it more pleasurable to visit Central Madrid thanks to restrictions on motor traffic…’. Meanwhile, ‘The only station that measures pollution within Madrid Central has stopped offering data. The PSOE denounces this information blackout by the City Council of the capital, which attributes it to a technical failure’ says the Cadena Ser here. 

Several beaches have recently been briefly closed in Valencia after ‘high fecal content was found’ (here). Now, says 20 Minutos, ‘Valencian hoteliers are demanding the authorities to discover from where the discharges that are causing the beaches closures are located’. 

Iberdrola produced 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, making it the seventh largest contaminator in Spain last year. The IBEX35 company has hardly reduced its emissions compared to 2017, where Iberdrola sent 3.90 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Surprising, therefore, that being one of the ten most polluting companies in the country, the power company has just denounced on Twitter the climate crisis and the damaging effects of climate change…’. Spanish Revolution leads the charge here. 



From RT here: ‘A Canadian journalist uncovers the millionaire traffic business of migrants crossing from Morocco to Spain. Lauren Southern says in her latest documentary ‘Borderless‘ that a criminal network bribes authorities to look the other way as they move migrants from Morocco to Spain. In the film, Southern interviews a member of these groups, who talk about the profits generated by this clandestine business…’. With video and there is a trailer in English here.  

‘Spain’s Ministry of Development has threatened a Spanish NGO with fines of ‘€900,000’ if it rescues migrants from the Mediterranean. A letter hit the captain of the Open Arms rescue ship with orders to desist from ‘search and rescue operations’. The letter threatened fines of ‘€300,000’, or face an order back to a Spanish port where the boat would be ‘paralysed’. An item from The Olive Press here.

Spain’s safest (and least safe) cities are listed by El Mundo here. Last year, Spain registered 45.61 complaints per 1,000 citizens, making it the third safest country in Europe. The safest Spanish cities are Gijón (at 27.48 per 1000) and Logroño (28.56), with Barcelona (119.85) and Marbella (80.40) at the other end of the scale.  

The local press in Almería talks of almost daily marijuana busts. High demand and great growing conditions. From La Voz de Almería comes an editorial based on the confessions of a local ‘narco’: ‘We can’t allow our province to become a huge marijuana plantation’. 

‘Winning a prize for achieving the best results in your school year is certainly something to show off about. And Lia, who lives in Seville, has every reason to feel proud of the award she was given this week at the city’s Torreblanca high school. Now imagine that at the start of the school year, you didn’t even speak the language of the country where you went to class – not one word. That makes your achievement outstanding…’. The item comes from Think Spain here. The story also appears at Europa Press: ‘My message to refugee children: don’t give up!’ says Lia. 

Positions at the university, with El País here: ‘Seven of the 31 opponents with intellectual disabilities who were examined on June 30 to apply for the administrative assistant positions at the University of Seville will challenge the examination due to its complexity and because it does not adapt to current regulations for this group. The university, on the contrary, assures that the cognitive adaptation of the examination was correct and that it even formed a specific work group. Of the 233 places offered by the university, seventeen are for the disabled and five of these are for the intellectually disabled…’. It’s lucky enough they can vote. 

This year is the 40th anniversary of the annual invitation to Sahrawi children to spend summer holidays with Spanish families. Originally organised by the Partido Comunista de España, these breaks for the children from the old Spanish Sahara allow them to receive medical attention (rickets is a problem) as well as some education and relaxation. To date, 100,000 children have benefitted from the program. Cuarto Poder tells the story here. 

Garrucha (Almería): A shock for the owners after the sales branch of a bank cleaned out their apartment, tossed all their possessions, changed the locks and put a For Sale on the door… of, ah, the wrong property. The Madrid family are understandably distraught to lose all their ‘stuff’. The story here. 

For those who know Mojácar – the town hall has invited archaeologists to excavate Old Mojácar, the pyramid-shaped hill in the valley below. Spanish Shilling says it’s a shame. 


See Spain:

Molly’s ‘Must see Málaga’ is at Piccavey here. 



Following from your note about the UN recognising Spain as the colonial authority in the Western Sahara (here), this Wiki piece looks at the Sahrawi people ‘…The area today referred to as Western Sahara remains, according to the United Nations, one of the world’s last remaining major non-self-governing territories. Morocco controls most of the territory as its Southern Provinces, but the legality of this is not internationally recognized by any country and is disputed militarily by the Polisario Front, an Algerian-backed movement claiming independence for the territory as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Since 1991, there has been a cease-fire between Morocco and Polisario, but disturbances in Moroccan-held territories as well as the ongoing dispute over the legal status of the territory guarantees continued United Nations involvement and occasional international attention to the issue….’. CPM



‘Ten Spanish hits you won’t be able to escape this summer. With the success of artists such as Rosalía, J Balvin and Luis Fonsi, Latin music isn’t just confined to the Spanish-speaking world. Whether you’re hitting the bars in Spain or partying at home, these are ten hits that may just get you up on your feet and boogieing the summer nights away.’…’. An item from The Local here. Here’s Rosalia with Con Altura on YouTube. 


AUAN explains the new legal measures adopted by the Junta De Andalucía to British Residents


British residents from the towns of Zurgena and Arboleas, in the Valle del Almanzora in Almeria, met last week in Arboleas with the lawyer for AUAN, Gerardo Vázquez, in which he explained the measures being taken by the Junta de Andalucía, to put an end to their planning nightmare. Also present in the meeting was Maura Hillen, the president of AUAN, a veteran of these planning struggles, whose work for the protection of the British citizens has been recognised by the British government. 

During the meeting, Sr. Vázquez explained the importance of the recent instruction, 6/2019, from the General Directorate of Urban Planning in the Junta de Andalucía. This instruction is aimed at allowing a way out for irregular houses already included in an unexecuted town plan, normally on unconsolidated urban land, via a permit known as an “AFO”. Curiously the AFO is already permitted for houses that have a greater environmental impact, that is to say those situated in a rural location and not destined to be incorporated into a municipal plan.

This measure is due to be followed by a Decree that, it is hoped, will be approved in the coming weeks, that is expected to extend the AFO to houses situated on urbanisations, known as asentamientos, that have yet to be incorporated into a town plan.

Sr. Vázquez explained the great personal satisfaction that he felt when he helped to put an end to the planning nightmare suffered by people from other countries who came here to buy a house and who were let down. Sr. Vázquez mentioned, to give a single example, that just a few days ago a British family in their eighties had at last been able to use an AFO to obtain the deeds for their house after a wait of 17 years. He explained how they had told him. “17 years ago, we went to the notary to register our house. After a delay, where we could see some nervousness, we were told that there was a little problem and we would have to wait a few days… from that day to this we have spent 17 years of worry and anguish until at last we have now been able to register our house with an AFO”.

It is expected the Britons, who can now benefit from the change in criteria from the Junta, will begin to submit requests for an AFO in the coming days. Maura Hillen, confirmed this saying “That’s right. Those affected are looking at this possibility with great hope, and we are recommending that they take up this opportunity and begin to act”. She added, “From AUAN we hope that the affected town halls will apply the law correctly and appropriately in a manner that respects the rights of citizens, using the new tools that the Junta has given them, and we will be vigilant that they do so”.



Enviado por José Antonio Sierra