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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 October 8 2020            Nº 369

Editorial: 

Never far from the news are the endless new rules, suggestions, fines and misery designed to either make driving less of a pleasure, or more of a bother. 

The latest idea to cheer up the long-suffering motorist, this time from the chief prosecutor from Salamanca Juan José Pereña, who in our opinion needs to take a long vacation (perhaps in a old open-topped Cadillac), is to oblige drivers over the age of seventy to display a large ‘M’ (for mature) in the back window of their vehicle. 

Fifty years ago, they would have had an equally large ‘L’ sticky-taped to the same window. Now my stepson, recently ascended to the ranks of Spanish road-users, obliges the entire family to circulate in our elderly roadster with the ‘L’ prominently displayed and, while the sign will be removed long before we must place an ‘M’ in its place (in our case, in a couple of years), it seems a small progression in half a century for the average motorist: the modest climb from ‘L’ to ‘M’. 

Perhaps other segments of society should also be invited to drive with a scarlet letter to warn other motorists of their presence. A ‘B’ for borracho might be useful, or a ‘G’ for an imported British car with the steering wheel on the right (G here being short for guiri). 

In general, the man to watch is the traffic czar Pere Navarro from the DGT who has brought us many interesting rules over the years. He is an expert in traffic safety and is generally followed slavishly by legislators. It was he who came up with the orange psychedelic pyjama-top to be worn by irritated drivers standing on the side of the road next to their broken-down car, or otherwise kept in the boot along with the safety triangles (or in some cases – the law is generous on this point – tastefully draped over the back of the front seats in the cheaper models).  Pere Navarro it was who threatens us with four points if we take a call on the phone while driving (it’s all right for him, he’s got a chauffeur). Pere too, who now wants the alcohol driving-limit to be lowered (again!) – as if to suggest that Spanish livers these days simply aren’t what they used to be. 

Times change, there are more cars on the road, and we shouldn’t drive drunk. But if we are going to drive, then let us get on with it. The problems don’t come from old coots driving along at a low speed peering blackly through the windscreen, simply because they don’t. Mature drivers drive well, and are careful. They’ve had fifty years of experience.

As to this suggestion of an ‘M’ in the window, the Minister of the Interior, a sensible fellow called Fernando Grande-Marlaska, quickly said ‘forget it’. 

……

Housing:

‘Fear of another possible confinement triggers the search for rural houses from where to telework’ says Salamanca 24 here. Some articles – here’s one in Infobae – are concerned about the increase in home energy consumption due to extra use. The ley de teletrabajo, recently signed into law (beginning on October 13), obliges the employer to provide a document – to be signed by both parties, which details the obligations of both. The details are at Grupo 2000 here

‘The price of residential property in Spain sagged 2.4% in the third quarter compared with the same period last year, online property portal Fotocasa said on Tuesday, as a second wave of coronavirus contagion froze a timid economic recovery. Beyond the year-on-year decline, prices fell 1.7% in September compared to August and 1.5% in the third quarter compared to the second, Fotocasa said in a statement…’. As reported by Reuters here

El Economista is even more bearish – ‘House prices are already falling by more than 8% in several places in Spain’. Particularly along the Mediterranean coast, it says. 

‘How To Buy A Spanish Property As A Foreigner’. The piece from the Maryland Reporter appears to be directed towards British buyers. 

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Tourism:

El Economista brings us ‘The graphic that reveals the real impact of the collapse of tourism in Spain compared to other countries’. In fact, the graphic shows Spain’s visitors balanced against Spanish tourists abroad. Tourism in 2018 accounted for 12.3% of Spain’s GDP. 

More on the tourist discounts for Andalucía residents. 

Who? It says:  ‘All people who have are on the padrón in Andalucía (Spaniards, community members and foreigners with legal residence)…’

A long and interesting article about Spain’s Parador Hotels is at Eye on Spain here. It includes the ‘top ten’ as chosen by visitors. 

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Seniors:

‘Spanish seniors on the coronavirus pandemic: ‘If the virus doesn’t kill us, sadness will’

A suspended social life, fear of going out and difficulties with the new technology are exacerbating the loneliness felt by the elderly, who account for 20% of the population of Spain’. From El País in English here.

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Finance:

‘President Sánchez declares the end of austerity and approves the largest expenditure in history. The Ministry of Finance raises the previous limit by more than 50%, to 196,000 million, and accepts for the first time 18,396 million in Social Security deficit to streamline its management’. La Información here. The news-site says ‘The initiative is an «important step» in the midst of the pandemic to try to make economic and employment recovery as fast as possible and to, according to the coalition government, «combat inequality.» This spending ceiling lays the foundations for the imminent General State Budgets, which will be «expansive», according to the economic area led by Nadia Calviño…’. La Vanguardia says ‘Sánchez proposes to create 800,000 jobs in three years with the recovery plan’. El Mundo is less enthusiastic. With the headline ‘The Government hikes the total spending ceiling for next year by 53% while auguring the economic collapse to 11%’. It says ‘The Government will raise the total spending ceiling for 2021 to 196,097 million, which will be the highest figure ever recorded in the country and a spectacular increase of 53% compared to last year. And it will do so a year after the economy has suffered its greatest collapse in peacetime and which, according to official estimates that have also been published today, will rise to 11.2%. Two milestones that will go down in the economic and social history books of the country and that are directly marked by the coronavirus pandemic…’.  

Autónomos:  ‘Spain planning change in Social Security contributions for freelancers.

The self-employed could soon pay according to their real income, rather than a fixed monthly amount regardless of how much they make’. From El País in English here. More on this at La Ser, which begins by saying (rather sinister, since most autónomos reckon they pay a lot for very little) ‘Social Security and the Tax Agency have begun to compare their respective databases and have found considerable discrepancies between what self-employed workers earn and what they pay. According to Social Security data, 85% of the self-employed declare that they earn the minimum base ––944.4 euros per month–– and only 14% choose to contribute (cotizar) more than the minimum…’.

If you have paid ‘el mínimo’ as an autónomo during your working life, Merca2 writes here on what your retirement pension will look like. 

Hacienda will take advantage of Brexit to demand up to better than triple taxes from British citizens who own rental properties in Spain. The Tax Agency is already preparing to change the status of British citizens, whom it will treat as «non-EU» as of January 1, 2021. The measure implies strong increases in the Non-Resident Income Tax (IRNR)’. The report in El Economista says ‘Spanish tax legislation establishes differences in this tax between community citizens of the European Union and those of the rest of the world, with a tax of 19% on net income for Europeans and another of 24% on gross income for foreigners…’. We ‘foreigners’, it seems, won’t be able to claim on repairs, community fees, mortgages, town hall taxes and so on with our rented properties. Brussels has said that it is against this discrimination and threatens to fine the Spanish Government. 

The Banco de Sabadell is considering a fusion with the BBVA and Kutxabank, goes the thinking at El Confidencial here. Unicaja is talking with Liberbank with the idea of a mass fusion of all the cajas – savings banks, says El Economista here. Is this the end of the cajas de ahorro? – a short VoxPópuli video here

La Vanguardia has ‘Three reasons why your (local) bank might block your account’ here

More on the British banks and possible account-closures for expats comes, with a useful graphic, from Money Saving Expert here.

…and then there’s this: ‘Important notice from the Labour Inspectorate to companies regarding the communications they make through electronic means with their templates (emails, Whatsapps…). Sending emails outside working hours may violate the right to digital disconnection of employees, which would be considered a serious violation of labour regulations, punishable by fines of between 626 and 6,250 euros…’.From  Cinco Días here

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Politics:

Regarding the out-of-date CGPJ (thanks to PP intransigence) from elDiario.es here: ‘The PSOE is already working on a legal change to be able to renew the Judicial Power without the PP. Pablo Casado’s party rules out unlocking the appointment of a new CGPJ as long as Sánchez does not break with Iglesias: «The PP is not going to enter into games» he says (the game being that, without the UP, the PSOE would be in a minority). La Vanguardia says ‘Green light for war! Pedro Sánchez finally announced on Friday his decision to activate a legislative reform to bypass the blockade engineered by the Popular Party to prevent the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) chaired by magistrate Carlos Lesmes and whose mandate expired almost two years ago, in December 2018…’. 

The president of the CGPJ the conservative judge Carlos Lesmes, has particularly irritated the current Government (here).

The conservative ABC has a poll (Gad3) on voting intentions. Here, the PSOE remains constant at around 27.5%, the PP is at 24% (down slightly since July), Vox is up on July figures to a current 14.5%, UP at 11.3% and C’s at 3.5%. 

The Corner swings in here on the forthcoming Budget: ‘At the beginning of October, even after the ordinary deadlines have expired, Pedro Sánchez’ s government aspires and hopes to obtain a minimum political agreement allowing for the approval of the 2021 Budget, without which it could not survive. The decisive numbers are not those of the budgetary items (about which almost nothing is known) but those of the parliamentary votes sufficient to approve the law, with the rectifications imposed by the executive’s temporary allies…’. 

Vox’ moción de censura will be showing up in Parliament soon, and the other parties are preparing their strategies to resist (or play down) the far-right’s ‘hate speech’, says Público here. While the motion of confidence is bound to fail, it gives Santiago Abascal and his party the chance to say what they feel about the Government, the regional independence parties, the current disrespect towards the Monarchy and indeed anything else which inflames the hearts of many ‘patriotic’ voters. VozPópuli quotes Ex-president José Maria Aznar as describing ‘…Vox’s motion of censure as «totally inappropriate» and «unfortunate». The former president of the Government assures that he would vote no. He also says that it is «doomed to failure» and will only serve to «consolidate» Sánchez and the fragmentation of the centre-right’.

The Minister for Equality Irene Montero ‘…announces the repeal of the 2015 reform of the abortion law’. She says ‘The goal is that all women have the right to decide about their own bodies’. More at La Vanguardia here.  

……

Catalonia:

‘The pro-independence speaker of Catalonia’s parliament has admitted that internal disunity and a failure to engage with all of Catalan society has hampered the secessionist cause, but believes separatist MPs could for the first time clinch more than 50% of the vote in the looming regional election. The wealthy region in north-east Spain is likely to hold a snap election early next year after its separatist president, Quim Torra, was barred from public office by the supreme court…’. From The Guardian here.

The likely election date for Catalonia is February 14th next year says El Periodico here.  

……

Europe:

Between two places – Verne (El País) looks at the lives of Spaniards living in the UK. A documentary called ‘Entre dos Tierras’ (here) meets a score of Spaniards living in London and there’s a trailer to the doc in the article.  

……

The Coronavirus:

With the lockdowns in various parts of Madrid, many madrileños took to their cars to escape for their second-homes in an ‘éxodo rural’ said La Vanguardia last weekend. One of the issues in Madrid is the early 10.00pm close-down of bars and restaurants: ‘Who dines at eight o’clock in Spain?’ from the same newspaper here.  

From El País in English here: ‘More than 5.2 million Spaniards are now under coronavirus mobility restrictions. Experts warn that the public should expect a cycle of these confinements, and that infection rates will remain high unless there is a repeat of March’s strict lockdown’. The latest data available from the same site is here

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Corruption:

As the Operación Kitchen is scheduled for a parliamentary commission (here), we read over at El Mundo that ‘Commissioner Enrique García Castaño, the former head of the Central Unit for Operational Support (UCAO) of the Police, began to collaborate with the investigation in January 2019 and told Judge Manuel García Castellón and the anti-corruption prosecutors about the existence of a spying apparatus on Luis Bárcenas (the ex-party treasurer). In his testimony back in March, García Castaño specified that both the President, Mariano Rajoy, and the former general secretary of the PP, María Dolores de Cospedal, «were aware» of the operation…’. From El Confidencial Digital here, the agent for the plotters in the Kitchen Operation, the Ex-commissar Villarejo, allegedly used to dine regularly with a Magistrate of the Supreme Court and Chairman of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court (Wiki) in a quiet restaurant outside Madrid. ‘The head of the police political brigade Eugenio Pino to the judge: «We have carried out operations that would make one’s hair stand on end. For the interest of Spain». Eldiario.es has the story (and the tape) here. ‘In all, the Kitchen Operation is interesting as it was an attempt by the PP to scotch another house scandal, the Gürtel Inquiry, by removing the evidence. 

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Courts:

The Caso Dina – a mobile phone stolen from Podemos MEP Dina Bousselham (apparently by the notorious ex-Commissar Villarejo) in 2015. Did Pablo Iglesias somehow participate?  ‘The judge of the National Court Manuel García Castellón has submitted a call to the Supreme Court to investigate the Vice President of the Government, Pablo Iglesias, for crimes of discovery and disclosure of secrets, aggravated by gender, computer damage and false accusation or report and / or simulation crime in relation to the theft of the mobile of his former adviser Dina Bouselham. Sources from Unidas Podemos explain to El HuffPost that they “do not give credit” to the judge’s request: “A few days ago the National Court demanded that García Castellón return the condition of injured person to Pablo Iglesias (here), and now the judge responds by asking the Supreme Court for him to be investigated”… More here and here. The PP (it took them three minutes apparently) immediately called for the resignation of Pablo Iglesias at El Español here.

The ex-IMF president Rodrigo Rato was quietly passed to ‘third grade’ semi-liberty last week. His remarkable portfolio of properties is published meanwhile by Cuatro here

……

Media: 

Causing future precedent… ‘A court denies a request not to report because «the media cannot be censored for publishing information of indisputable general interest»’. This comes from the Almería Press Association (FAPE) here

Amazon Prime Video España is to make a biographical series on the life of the multimillionaire recluse Amancio Ortega says El Español here.

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Ecology: 

El Boletín says that ‘40% of Spanish coastal municipalities are at risk of flooding due to over-building’. 

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Various:

‘The Last Macho. The Rise and Fall of Spain’s Former King Juan Carlos. After the end of the Franco era, King Juan Carlos I helped his country become wealthy and democratic. Today he is exiled, with his legacy clouded by possible connections to tax fraud. What happened?’. Item from Spiegel International here.

Pew Research (‘A nonpartisan American think tank based in Washington, D.C’ Wiki) runs an interesting study on ‘Public Views About Science in Spain’ here

La Vanguardia says that ‘Spain is the country in Europe ‘with the highest density’ of population. In Europe there are 33 areas of one square kilometre with more than 40,000 inhabitants … and 20 of these are located in España’. Most of Spain is under-populated, but the Spanish evidently like to live in large social clusters!

The Día de Pilar (also known as La Fiesta Nacional) falls on Monday October 12th – making it a long weekend. 

Spain likes its refranes, homely sayings which can prove a point or punctuate an argument. Condé Nast Traveler (castellano) has found a list of regional adages of interest here

Around 20% of the bars in Spain that closed in March have not reopened again. The Food Service Institute forecasts anticipate another 45,000 closures by the end of the year says Confidencial Digital here

‘One of the first things a politician does is to change the name of the streets’ Manuel Azaña 1937. Strambotic looks back to Azaña, President of the Second Republic.  Of course, as the same site recalls here, the Gran Vía in Madrid was at one time called the Avenida de la Unión Sovietica and another, the Avenida José Antonio. It also briefly enjoyed the names of Avenida de la CNT and Avenida de Rusia (the Republicans liked their name changes too). Local residents during the civil war called it Avenida de los obuses (Howitzer Avenue). Its original name of Gran Vía was regained in 1981.  Ah, nostalgia. 

The Majorca Daily Bulletin says that ‘New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has told an electoral debate that she admires the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

When asked if she could name International Leaders that she admired, Prime Minister Ardern didn’t hesitate for a second. “Of course I can, Pedro Sánchez, from Spain”…’.

‘Spain’s largest Roman villa found during roundabout works. Workmen digging up land alongside the main La Solana highway through Valdepeñas (Ciudad Real province, Castilla-La Mancha) literally stumbled upon a 1,500-square-metre Roman villa and giant wine-cellar which could be between 1,600 and 2,000 years old…’. From Think Spain here

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See Spain:

The Roman theatre of Cartago Nova, in the middle of downtown Cartagena, Murcia. Here

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Finally:

Nino Bravo with Libre (1972) on YouTube here

Enviado por José Antonio Sierra