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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May 14 2020            Nº 350

Editorial: 

This past Monday, 51% of Spain came out of strict lockdown for a slightly easier model, which, among other permissions, allowed us to congregate in small groups of under ten, socially distanced, around the doors of those bars which had opened for the occasion. The idea that tables would be two metres distant and potential customers wouldn’t pass within the exclusion zone on the way to their own modest bacchanalia was as absurd as were the crowds of people that engulfed certain terraces and kiosks. 

Now, it’s been hard for those living in the city, or in small and crowded apartments, and the opportunity for a beer, a tapa and a chinwag with friends proved hard to resist. By Tuesday, the news was full of joints that had been closed down by the police and the customers sent ignominiously home (Bilbao, Santander, Vitoria, Seville, Almería and so on).

Then came the news of the overflowing Murcia bus and the crammed flight to Palma de Mallorca. Social distancing? Not ’arf!

Not all of Spain ascended to Phase One, and there was plenty of criticism from the regions that didn’t. In Andalucía, most of us made the grade, but the two provinces of Granada and Málaga (yes, and the Costa del Sol) remained (apparently) for at least two more weeks in the lower division, and the president of the Junta de Andalucía was suitably scathing on his regional TV about the irrational discrimination from Madrid. 

In Madrid, another Zone Zero region, they celebrated their relegation over the weekend with a reported 400 illegal home-fiestas and 97 botellones (wiki). 

Finally, we learned that the Nation’s Vox supporters are asked to drive around in their cars (with, one can only hope, their windows up) this coming Saturday May 23rd waving their suitably gloved-fists in the air to demonstrate against the ‘social-communist government’ for its hopeless handling of the whole shebang. Probably honking their horns, too. 

All in all, the serious message about taking care neither to spread nor to catch the virus appears to be falling partly on deaf ears. 

……

Housing:

Airbnb’s loss is not all bad news, says The Guardian here, ‘…while hosts, as they are known, are wringing their hands over the collapse of the travel industry and their loss of income, many city authorities are rubbing theirs at the prospect of thousands of holiday lets returning to the traditional rental market. Cities complain that the highly profitable holiday lets have driven up rents and forced out residents with the knock-on effect that local businesses no longer have a community to serve…’. Barcelona and Madrid in particular… From Wolf Street here: ‘With many of the world’s most popular tourist destinations locked down, and many flights cancelled, making international tourism all but impossible, the world’s biggest disruptor of global tourism, Airbnb, faces a starkly different market reality. As of mid-April, new bookings on the company’s portal had plunged 85% year over year while cancellation rates were around 90%, according to AirDNA, an online rental analytics firm…’. 

‘Two-thirds of all Spaniards live in apartments. What shaped the housing market and, amid lockdown, are people looking at their homes in a new light?’. Essay from BBC World here

From Idealista here, we read ‘…Coinciding with the beginning of the lockdown and the decree of the State of Alarm, the sale of houses fell 37.5% year-on-year in the third month of 2020, while the formalization of mortgage loans fell 28%. There were also falls in the average price of homes sold, which remains below €1,400 per m2 after falling 2.2%…’.

‘The president of the General Council of the Official Colleges of Real Estate Agents of Spain Gerard Duelo says in an interview with ElDiario.es here: «The real estate sector will return to 80% of its activity before the pandemic in a year from now». Duelo believes that the agents that will now disappear from the market are simply the «intruders» who are looking for opportunistic businesses’. ABC has a more positive story to contradict the above (and their own expert) here: ‘»Housing will not suffer general price falls». Given the collapse of tourism, Juan Antonio Gómez-Pintado, president of the employers’ association of promoters APCE, believes that construction can «become a generator of employment»’. 

……

Tourism:

‘The Government imposes a 14-day quarantine on foreigners and extends controls at internal borders’. The headline comes from La Vanguardia here. ‘Access to national territory is only allowed to Spanish citizens, residents in Spain, cross-border workers and those who prove causes of ‘force majeure’ ‘, the article says. ‘…Spain adopts these measures without prejudice to what the EU may end up deciding over international travel, something essential for the possible revival of the tourism sector, and which the member countries will discuss at a meeting scheduled for later this week…’.

‘Spain’s international tourism market is ‘dead’ for summer 2020, claims the vice president of Andalucía – but there are glimmers of hope. Back in the UK, Brits have been warned that holidays abroad this summer are ‘very likely’ to be cancelled. Health Secretary Matt Hancock broke the potentially devastating news during an appearance on ITV’s This Morning on Tuesday. “We haven’t made a final decision… but it is unlikely that big, lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer…’. The Olive Press here

El Comercio tells us how the bars and restaurants need to be prepared for customers. 

According to El Mundo, locales (bars, restaurants, hotels, tourist lets and so on) will need to earn and post a sign of guarantee called (in impeccable English) ‘»Safe Tourism Certified»’. The article says ‘…One of the things that most worries the tourist sector is that international visitors, once the movement restriction is lifted and they can again fly to Spain, won’t return for fear of infection, since Spain is one of the countries most affected by the pandemic. Other countries already have this certificate, such as Portugal, which has the «Clean & Safe» seal. The Tourist Ministry has not wanted to use the phrase «Covid free» (although some hotels were calling for it) because, according to close sources, «nobody can assure and guarantee 100% to a client that a space is free of risk… «. Indeed. 

La Vanguardia tells us how tourism is going to be in the future, and what to pack. 

The Local asks here ‘How will tourism in France, Spain and Italy survive the virus?’ Although, come to think of it, the first word of the headline may be largely redundant. 

Preferente, a tourism news-site, is fed up to the back teeth. ‘Do some of the government want to trash the industry for good?’ The item says: ‘…A part of the Government has expressed itself openly along this line. We start with the second vice president, Pablo Iglesias, who advocates reducing the weight of Tourism to bet on other sectors with little capacity to generate employment such as renewables. Then there’s the fourth vice president, Teresa Ribera, who has told the leisure sector that if they don’t like what they hear, then they don’t have to open. They are not the only ones in the cabinet chaired by Pedro Sánchez who are hostile to our industry. The Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, tells citizens not to book this summer’s vacation, while over at Labour, Yolanda Díaz has even said that this year there would be no trips anywhere until Christmas…’. 

Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight writes ‘Mallorca hoteliers lobby government for permission to convert hotels to residential projects as tourism collapses’. 

From The Express here (our friend the British Tourist having visited Spain and safely passed the two weeks quarantine) ‘Coronavirus crisis: UK arrivals will be forced to quarantine for two weeks’. 

·As Ron Moody’s Fagin sings, ‘I think I’d better think it out again’

……

Finance:

‘Unidas Podemos proposes new tax on super-rich for coronavirus recovery effort. The proposal is reported in El País in English here. ‘…The party has estimated that the new tax will raise €11,000 million, or 1% of Spain’s GDP, which is the equivalent of a third of Spain’s deficit in 2019, and more than double what the government spent on health last year…’. 

……

Politics:

‘The Government wants to extend the state of alarm for 50 more days from May 24th, running until the end of the de-escalation’. The story is at 20 Minutos here. Needless to say, they’ll have a battle on their hands, although Ciudadanos seems to be on board. 

«Our priority and our ideology is to save lives» says President Sánchez in a Saturday meeting with the press as reported by La Vanguardia here. ‘…»We have never wanted to politicize this health emergency, we have never done it, we have not entered into any discussion or diatribe with the autonomous communities, although we may have different opinions on how to do one thing or the other,» Sánchez argued. «It is important to be aware that we have to focus all our energies on curbing the common enemy that we face, regardless of the ideology that we each have or any political project that we may hold for our country, which is the Covid-19».

How the right wing union in Spain is currently sundered, with El Huff Post here. Público takes it a step further: ‘The far-right needs a consolidated leader’. 

……

Catalonia:

Well, of all things! Thanks to a squabble between the two nationalist parties, the town hall of Badelona has gone (or rather, returned) to the erstwhile hard-line PP candidate for the Generalitat de Catalunya, Xavier Garcia Albiol. The story is at El Huff Post here

The area of Barcelona known as El Raval (wiki) – and to many as ‘Chinatown’, where the black market is king – is currently in a state of economic collapse says El Periódico here

……

Gibraltar:

‘Discussions between Gibraltar and Spain about returning normality to border flow are ongoing, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo confirmed on Monday, as he underscored the importance of reciprocal measures for arrivals either side of the border. This comes as both Gibraltar and Spain continue their respective routes out of lockdown restrictions with measures easing on both sides in the coming days and weeks…’. The Gibraltar Chronicle reports here

……

Europe:

 “If every constitutional court of every member state starts giving its own interpretation of what Europe can and cannot do, it’s the beginning of the end,” proclaimed liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt last week. The beginning of the end of the EU? Even by Verhofstadt’s usual punchy standards, well, this was quite punchy. His comments followed the explosive decision by the German Constitutional Court, which ruled that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had acted outside its mandate in allowing the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing measures…’. Item from Euronews here

……

The Coronavirus:

‘The director of the Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, warned again about the urgent need to «not let your guard down» in the fight against the coronavirus despite the first relief measures that have been made public by the Government, such as outings for minors or walks and sports for adults. The doctor is clear: «Our health professionals will not endure a second crisis like this one «…’. The item comes from Tiempo de Canarias here

From The ABC here: ‘The government prohibits sales in physical stores to avoid crowds. The measure published in the BOE (State Bulletin) allows discounts on online sales’. Specific discounts are still OK, says a later article at El País.  

The Spanish military anticipates two more waves of the coronavirus before the end of next year. VozPópuli reports here

The Town hall of Mojácar (Almería) has pulled a crafty one. They have ‘…established two nuclei of population, Mojácar pueblo and Mojácar playa. Both, being under 5,000 inhabitants, can enjoy outside activities from 6.00am to 11.00pm’. Diario de Almería here (for Goodness sake, don’t tell the Government). 

Andalucía: ‘The regional government has approved a plan of urgent measures to ensure safety and hygiene on beaches in Andalucía to protect bathers from Covid-19. The proposal involves reducing the normal number of people on beaches to between 40% and 50%, ensuring a distance of two and a half metres between sunbathers…’. Sur in English here

A joke we saw on Facebook: ‘Dear Epidemiologists, we feel for you. 

Love, Climate Scientists’

Ev’body must stay home. YouTube video (and Bob Dylan parody) here.

……

Media: 

For those who enjoy a good piece of fake-news, Mine has collected some bulos from the pandemic that show up on WhatsApp and Facebook. That Californian doctor video? The government censorship video? Fumigation of Valencia by helicopter? Bill Gates’ fiendish plan for world domination? They are all here. 

Another useful site for fake news is at La Vanguardia ‘Europe Fact Checking’ here (thanks to Jake for the tip). 

……

Ecology: 

Monfragúe, (photos and video). ‘This is how abandoned the most important natural space in Extremadura has become’. From 7 Días Extremadura here

The village of Faraján in Málaga (Wiki) has purchased over 5,000 euros worth of a type of parasitic wasp that attacks the Chinese chestnut wasp in an effort to control the plague of these worthies by using biological rather than pharmaceutical warfare. The Olive Press reports here

Baby wipes – moist towelettes that are popular in the home, are less so in the sewers, where they fail to disintegrate and clog in enormous and horrifying ‘fatbergs’. Público reports here on the problem in Spain.

……

Various:

The president of the Madrid Region is in the news (and the jokes pages) these days. Isabel Díaz Ayuso has been recommending pizza as a nutritional food source for poor Madrid school-kids, she has posed as a virginal lady in black on an El Mundo front page (the two stories morphing into a La Virgin del Pepperoni joke), and, more important, she has been accused of residing in a €6,000 a month pad which belongs to a hotelier with business interests in the city and who allegedly lets her stay there rent-free.

These days, several of Spain’s wealthiest are contributing (grandly or modestly) to their co-citizens in various ways. Here at the ABC, we read about the Valencian supermarket king: ‘Juan Roig renounces his Mercadona salary and benefits and allocates 70 million euros to Spanish society’. Roig and his wife have been very active over the past decade in philanthropic causes. 

An unpleasant fellow nicknamed ‘Billy el Niño’ has died of complications from the coronavirus. The unlamented Billy, real name Antonio González Pacheco (wiki), was a secret policeman during the Franco years and was noted for his skills in ‘interrogation’.  A short video here reveals the torture manual employed by Franco’s goons. 

The coronavirus might be the straw that breaks the corrida’s back, says Reuters here

The first cinema to reopen, says El Mundo here, is a drive-in cinema located in Denia, Alicante. 

Some armchair train-rides (videos) here.

……

See Spain:

The passion of flamenco echoes through Andalucía. Take a journey into Spain in the short prize-winning film of Brandon Li on YouTube here.  

……

Letters:

The story in last week’s EWN titled ‘Business over Tapas Is Finished Across Spain’s Costa del Sol & Costa Blanca Says International Businessman’:

It just shows what rubbish appears in the Local Brit Press these days.

Best wishes, Robin

……

Finally:

UPDATE TO THE NEW RULES

If you’re aged between 23 and 49, and a car owner you can exercise between 7.00am and 9.00am if you keep the engine running while listening to the car radio. Red cars will be prohibited on Tuesdays until June 1st any other colour cars can travel on some roads. Check local news for road regulations. Be aware that tolls on the AP-7 will be half price on alternate days but double on Sundays, but only after 11.30am.

Some bars will open on Monday, some may not. Dogs will be accepted as usual except Labradors and all other dogs over the age of 7½ years. Blind dogs will still be accepted but may need help ordering drinks. Old Peseta notes will be accepted on Thursdays but only in some locations, please check with your town hall on Mondays between 1.00pm and 2.00pm for details.

Supermarkets will be open 9am to 6pm on alternate days, 6am to 9pm on other days except Fridays when they will be open at 8.30am until 8.45am for people aged 53 – 94 after which they will close and re-open again at 9.55am. You must shop at your nearest supermarket unless you own a motorbike in which case you may shop at any supermarket less than 18.25km from your house except on Tuesdays when you may shop up to 18.75km from your house.

You can travel with more than one person in the car if your pets are strapped to the roof rack and wearing a mask. If you don’t have a pet you may use a person over 73 years of age, but only on Wednesday between 4.30pm and 6.15pm. You can have a takeaway delivered but you can’t take away a takeaway unless it is a pizza with pineapple and then only on Saturdays between 5.30pm and 9.45pm.

Cyclists are now banned but this has been appealed and a decision was scheduled to be made in the Supreme Court on the 25th of May. However as this is a national holiday in Venezuela a new date will be announced in due course.

All disability scooters have to be adapted to mow lawns or clean pavements, except for two-seater scooters which may be used as taxis on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but not before 9.30am.

Recycling bins will be closed on Thursdays unless they have a capacity of more than 6m3 in which case they will be closed on Fridays except for Friday 21 May when they will close the following Tuesday.

Play-parks will remain closed except for Mondays when play-parks with less than 4 swings can open between 10am and 12.40pm when children under 9 years of age can use them accompanied by at least one great grandparent who must wear a hat, but not a fedora.

(Thanks to John)

Enviado por José Antonio Sierra