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Spain today

Business over Tapas Nº 535

Business over Tapas Nº 535

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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Editorial:

I have been reading a book by Laurie Lee, who left the UK at the age of 19 to walk across Spain from Vigo to Almuñecar, a town outside Málaga, back in 1935. All he had with him was a violin, and he lived by begging for his keep.

A peseta, a piece of fruit, a glass of brandy (it was cheap in those days), anything for a merry tune from his fiddle. He managed the trick and wrote his ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’, a book which ends with his rescue by a British naval vessel out of Gibraltar just as the uprising by the Nationalists starts in July 1936: the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

But we were talking about begging. Laurie Lee would play the tunes that worked the best with his audience, and knew to leave a few copper pennies in his open cap pour encourager les autres. He hadn’t caught on to the idea of looking sad and tragic, nor sitting slumped outside a supermarket, nor indeed of having a doggy to hand to awaken the charity of – at least – the British passers-by.

I look at these wretches today – they are the same ones, at the same exits to the same food-stores until death they do part – and think, if that was me sat on a cushion, staring tragically at my coppers in a plastic box, would they, passing by in my place, leave me a few pennies out of charity? Probably not.

But how to increase the yield? One American I knew told me he would wear a suit when begging, after all, how can you give a small coin to a panhandler dressed like a bank manager?

Another thing for beggars to know – never whip out an iPhone for a bit of quiet surfing. It sends the wrong message to the punters.

My late wife would say that she would only give to those beggars who were doing something. Like standing on their head or playing an instrument (happily, she never saw that Romanian who used to perform ‘Spanish Eyes’ over and over again, being the only tune he’d ever learned to play on the accordion).

Did you ever see the routine with a goat, a step-ladder, a trumpet player and a gypsy? Now that’s worth a few coins I reckon.

My favourite beggar of all is El Llorón, a man who lurks near the Granada cathedral and can turn on the water-works at will. This weeping fellow fires off a series of mournful shrieks as he thrusts his cap at you, evidently far too upset to give you the reason why, and then he joins his mates for a smoke and a laugh around the corner.

Most tiresome are the gypsy ladies – we are still in Granada – who pin a cutting of rosemary onto your shirt ‘for luck’ and then attempt to charge you for the trick.

In the resorts, most of the beggars appear to be Eastern-European. At least, in my local supermarket, each and every exit has its very own pordiosero (and for all I know, there’s one stationed outside the lavatory window).

‘How is Piotr doing over there in Spain?’

‘Yes, he has found a secure position in one of their food-stores’.

I’m sure most of them are nice, except for that bad-tempered fat lady who always shrieks invective at me from her cushion when I pass her.

But I think I have more time for the tramps; although, come to think of it, I rarely see more of them than just the occasional glimpse of their legs sticking out of a full and indubitably ripe container.

I saw one of our beggars at the check-out the other day, buying three beers with a handful of one and two cent coins which were solemnly counted out by both him and the sales-girl. That fellow’s been sitting outside the door in the same patch for years; I mean, for all I know by now he’s on the town hall’s padrón. Perhaps he’s generally too drunk to stand.

I was next in the queue behind him looking impatient and going ‘tut tut’, while er, holding a six-pack and a bottle of vodka.

The writer Laurie Lee later went back to Spain, crossing over the Pyrenees in 1937 to join the International Brigades and fight on the Republican side. And yes, he took his violin with him.

Sad to say, most of those who live through begging these days don’t appear to have the same urge to give anything back.

Housing:

elDiario.es brings us ‘A shanty town next to luxury villas as a snapshot of the Canarian reality behind tourism. Inequality ‘bathes’ each tourist enclave of the Islands with images like that of El Pajar, in the south of Gran Canaria, where substandard housing and hotel resorts are standing practically back-to-back. Experts highlight how the sector “uses common goods for private purposes”, which excludes the local population’.

From The Majorca Daily Bulletin here: ‘Thousands of properties in legal limbo may receive a Balearic government amnesty. There was a time when mayors encouraged building without a licence’.

From The Olive Press here: ‘Is the north of Spain the next property goldmine? Figures from February show sales in Galicia and Navarra are soaring – while Andalucía and the Canaries suffered a year-on-year decrease. Northern Spain led an important turn around for February property sales in the country- after a year of monthly declines in real estate deals. The National Institute of Statistics (INE) revealed on Monday that there was a 5.8% increase in February compared to a year earlier, reversing a trend of sales falls…’

Málaga Hoy says that nine out of ten homes sold on the Costa del Sol are to foreign buyers.

The EWN trumpets the virtues of buying a property without visiting it first by a system called ‘Teleproperty’. We read ‘This innovative approach facilitates property transactions, offering convenience and accessibility to buyers irrespective of geographical barriers’ (Good luck with that).

Tourism:

What do we have here? ‘Canary Islands plead with British holidaymakers not to cancel trips despite surge in anti-tourism protests’. The story at LBC here. ‘…The regional tourism chief Jessica de León has stressed that the islands are still open for business. Ms de León acknowledged the frustrations of locals over matters such as a lack of housing but added it was “unfair to blame tourism”. Meanwhile, the Canary Islands president Fernando Clavijo suggested that some of the sentiments expressed by locals “smack of turismofobia. People who come here to visit and spend their money must not be criticised or insulted. We are playing with our main source of income,” Mr Clavijo said…’ La Cadena Ser meanwhile publishes a list of destinations where (at least, ‘according to the British press’) ‘tourists won’t be entirely welcome this summer’. On Saturday, the Canary Islands erupted in a protest against the high numbers of visitors to the islands. The Guardian says that ‘…The protests, which are taking place under the banner “Canarias tiene un límite” – The Canaries have a limit – are backed by environmental groups including Greenpeace, WWF, Ecologists in Action, Friends of the Earth and SEO/Birdlife. “We’ve reached the point where the balance between the use of resources and the welfare of the population here has broken down, especially over the past year,” said Víctor Martín, a spokesperson for the collective Canarias se Agota – The Canaries Have Had Enough – which helped to coordinate protests on Saturday across the eight islands…’ La Sexta says ‘…It is «the chronicle of an announced collapse», in the words of Eustaquio Villalba, spokesperson for the Asociación Tinerfeña de Amigos de la Naturaleza which complains that the Canary Islands receive tourists beyond their possibilities and warn that «the islands have a limit»: «The number of tourists has to adapt to the capacity of our territories,» he insists as «huge public works are being promoted and with many more tourist developments planned»…’ The local newspaper Gazette Life reported that ‘Thousands of people assembled in Arrecife on Saturday to join the demonstrations against mass tourism that took place on all eight Canary Islands, as well as in Madrid, London and Berlin’.

Some Airbnb homes are owned by ordinary folk hoping to make a bit of pin money. Others might put out the same image, but are in reality something else. In Madrid and elsewhere, Fran y Marta (and their baby) run over 300 homes, while in Seville, Nacho has 161 homes for rent.

Over in Catalonia, Airbnb is asking its clients not to advertise a swimming pool in their promotions in case the pool is declared unusable by the Generalitat. El Huff Post explains.

Finance:

From El Mundo here: ‘Spain’s Public Debt rose by 19,549 million euros in February compared to the previous month (+1.2%), reaching 1,602,662 million euros, a new historical maximum, according to data published this Monday by the Bank of Spain’.

From The Fish Site here: ‘Spanish insect producer opens a Galician facility. Bioflytech has started the production of insect meal and insect oil from black soldier fly larvae at its new facility in Palas de Rei, Galicia’. We read that ‘The start-up is the first Spanish company to obtain authorisation to produce, transform and market insect-based products and is aiming to sell the protein as an ingredient for the aquafeed and pet food markets. Meanwhile the insect fat will be sold for pig feed, as well as for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry, which uses it in the creation of soaps and moisturisers. Finally the waste products, known as frass, will be sold as fertiliser…’

Politics: 

Euractiv reports that ‘Spain could unilaterally recognise Palestinian statehood within weeks, regardless of whether other EU countries join Madrid in this decision’.

‘Israel continues its offensive against the Spanish Government and a minister describes Sánchez as a president without a “moral compass”. The Minister for Diaspora Affairs and Combating Anti-Semitism, Amichai Chikli, considers that the President of the Spanish Government is an “extremely weak leader” due to his position regarding the Gaza war and Iran’s recent attack against Israel’. The item comes from elDiario.es here.

From 20Minutos on the Basque election results: ‘The PNV manages to retain the Basque Government in alliance with the PSOE but EH Bildu ties in seats with a historic result’.

The division between the far left and the far left continues, to the evident disadvantage towards both of them. Podemos is now out of the Basque parliament (it lost all its six seats), while Sumar arrives with one seat. The ineffable animalist party Pacma (Bixcocho for President) got no seats as usual.

20Minutos asks – where are there still Podemos deputies? They have nothing to show from either Galicia or Euskadi, and now comes the Catalonian elections (where they currently have eight). A map shows the reduced spread of the party today.

Catalonia elections May 12:

The latest poll gives the PSOE (PSC) a decent lead with an estimated 38 seats (out of 135). The Puigdemont per Catalunya is running second with 33, Esquerra Republicana with 27 and the PP with 13. Campaigning starts this Friday. The info and graphic is at As here.

Gibraltar:

The Gibraltar Chronicle says ‘The European Parliament on Tuesday opposed the European Commission’s decision to remove Gibraltar from its list of high-risk countries with “strategic deficiencies” in mechanisms to counter money laundering and terrorist financing’.

……

Europe:

What happened in Portugal with President Costa who abruptly resigned last November? ‘A Portuguese court dismantles the judicial operation that caused the resignation of António Costa. The Prosecutor’s Office receives a second setback from the judges, who accuse it of “ineptitude” in the investigation of the case that led to the fall of the socialist Government’. The headline comes from El País here. The emptiness of the Operación Influencer (Wiki) – it sounds like a case of Lusitanian Lawfare – gives wings to Costa having a chance for a job in Brussels.

Infobae says the Spanish won’t bite. ‘War drums are sounding in Europe, but the Spaniards don’t hear them. The inhabitants of Spain are the least concerned about the defence and security of the continent among all European citizens, according to an EU study. The Government has redoubled its efforts to explain to society the need to increase military spending’. “Investing in defence is investing in peace” says the minister Margarita Robles, but no one is convinced.

From Condé Nast Traveller here: What summer travel to Europe will look like this year. Unpredictable climate and overcrowded sites are changing how we travel in summer’.

‘Fake signs and hunger strikes: What’s behind Europe’s backlash against over-tourism?’ Item from EuroNews here.

France obliges shops to inform clients of any product guilty of shrinkflation (smaller size, same price). A good idea!

We might have hoped that this one worked its way out: ‘The EU & UK to make it easier for their young citizens to study, work & live in each other’s territories again’. The story is at SVI here. From LBC here, ‘Brussels offers the UK a free movement deal that would give young Britons the right to live in the EU’. But, alas…

Here’s the answer from London: ‘UK rejects EU free movement for young people offer’.

Health:

From El Español here: ‘The system that cools buildings without using air conditioning: it lowers the temperature several degrees without wasting energy. British architects have developed TerraCool, a design that takes advantage of the properties of terracotta for evaporative cooling’. Historically, the old sweating botijo cools the water within, but does it cool the air without? An article at Atlas Obscura (in English) from 2019 on ‘The Art, Science, and Allure of Spain’s Water-Cooling Jugs’ is here.

From El País here: ‘A judge paralyzes the launch of a generic that was going to save 380,000 euros a day for the Spanish public health system. The pharmaceutical company Teva was due to distribute apixaban, a common anticoagulant, after the favourable ruling of a court in Barcelona, but another court in Madrid has prevented it after an appeal by the company that has the patent’.

Corruption:

More trouble for the President of the Madrid Region Isabel Díaz Ayuso, as her brother is once again under investigation for taking high commissions over the face-masks sales. Her boyfriend also remains in the news for similar – and fresh – activities. The Senate and the Cortes are both running commissions into the bribery and corruption during the pandemic, where the understandable urge to acquire face-masks as quickly as possible meant that some corners were cut.

From El Huff Post here. ‘Koldo García refuses to answer any questions in the Senate hearings about his commissions taken during the pandemic. Ábalos’ ex-advisor justifies that «he has to respond to the courts first» before answering to the politicians’.

Courts:

‘The spreader of fake-news Pilar Baselga, a regular in the far-right media and circles, availed herself last week of her right to not testify before the judge investigating the falsehood she launched in November 2022, when she said that Begoña Gómez, the wife of Pedro Sánchez, is a transsexual and was part of a drug trafficking network. As elDiario.es has learned from sources familiar with the statement before a Madrid magistrate, Baselga has now preferred to remain silent…’ Nevertheless, and despite the above, Manos Limpias (a far-right Christian agitator group) has successfully managed to find a judge able to launch an inquiry into Begoña Gómez for corruption. Pedro Sánchez said in the Cortes on Wednesday that “Despite the news that I have just received, despite everything, I continue to believe in the justice-system of my country”.

Media:

We have looked at institutional advertising and how it might be sent to the friendly and sympathetic media over any opposition outlets, but now we find that there are also micro-contracts which – in the case of Castilla y León – are aimed once again at the friendlies, in this case, Estado de Alarma, OkDiario, The Objective, El Debate, Periodista Digital, Libertad Digital and EsRadio to the tune of 1.6 million euros in the last two years. These are simple banners, paid-for articles, fake-news items, radio adverts, news forums and so on.

The ECD sends out its daily news to subscribers. On Wednesday, the first item is the new pizza flavours at Carrefour. Later, between ‘The courts allowing the head of the Mocro Maffia to escape’ and ‘Feijóo won’t be joining in the first day of the Catalonian campaign’, we have an item titled ‘The new tool-box from Lidl is selling well’.

Some articles are just bone-silly. Take El Español and its piece called ‘Goodbye to cherries: these are the people in Spain who should eliminate them from their diet’. The article then tells us that it’s now their season, how scrumptious cherries are and how good they are for you. But wait, I’m in doubt now, after that headline… Paragraph Nine (!) finally says, don’t eat them if you are allergic to them, and don’t eat too many of them if you have a queasy stomach or dodgy kidneys. Talk about time-wasting ‘click-bait’.

Ecology:

Europe is warming twice as much as the rest of the planet due to events in the Arctic and the recent heat waves, according to a report at La Vanguardia here.

Concern grows over the increasing scarcity of the Pyrenean desman (wiki), a kind of small semiaquatic insectivorous vole which Xataca calls ‘the Spanish platypus’.  More pictures of this soggy-looking creature are here.

Various:

Sometimes, we see some laughing faces posted on a serious item about the environment on Facebook. How could they be so cynical, we wonder? From 20Minutos, we find ‘29% of Spaniards are climate deniers and more than 50% doubt the future of the electric car. Furthermore, they would not close the existing nuclear plants but rather open more of them’. ForoCoches also expresses concern that Spaniards generally don’t trust electric cars.

From Infobae here: ‘The Ibiza chef who has been living in his car for three years because he cannot pay rent on the island’.

El Español considers a book on graffiti called ‘Guía del arte urbano de Madrid’ (Editorial Anay) by Javier Abarca here. The author has a higher opinion of this street art than most of the rest of us do.

‘Originally published in the April 9 1951 issue of Life magazine, W. Eugene Smith‘s photo essay, “Spanish Village,” has been lauded for more than six decades as the most moving photographic portrait ever made of daily life in rural Spain during the rule of dictator Francisco Franco…’. From Life here. Some marvellous photographs in black and white.

See Spain:

The stone house of Alcolea de Pinar (Guadalajara) is an oddity indeed. In 1907, Lino Bueno asked the town hall to give him some land to build a house. For fun, they gave him a large rock located on the edge of the village. He spent the rest of his life hollowing it out with his pick and shovel. Alfonso XIII was so impressed he came to visit the home and give Lino a gong, says La Tribuna de Guadalajara here. The house is now open to the public.

Fascinating Spain looks at ‘The Alpujarra of Granada, a treasure in Sierra Nevada’ here.

(Did we do this one before?) ‘Urueña (Valladolid): this is the town in Spain with the most bookstores per inhabitant. This town is one of the most beautiful in Spain, it has 188 inhabitants, 12 bookstores and 5 museums’. The story at El Confidencial here.

Letters:

On being obliged by economic reasons to live outside the city where you work.

Thanks Lenox. It could lead to a return to the empty villages, and workers commuting to and from the coast. An enterprising mayor or mayoress could subsidise a shuttle service to and from the coastal areas and boost the numbers of inhabitants all year round.

The return legs could be used to attract alternative tourists further inland and take them back to their hotels afterwards.

All the best, Andy

On Turismofobia:

Just wondered whether the following resonates with anyone else as this is our first-hand version of ‘turismofobia’.

We are a British couple bought an apartment in Carvajal between Benalmadena and Fuengirola in 2004 – well, it was half built then but we didn’t complete until June ‘07 – you know how it is in Spain.

We bought on a small low rise development with two communal pools available, one of which was situated in front of our block.

Between 2007 and the summer of 2012 we spent most of our teacher holidays in the apartment before moving over permanently in Aug ‘12.

We had been very much looking forward to our new life and immersing ourselves in Spanish culture, language etc as my hubby and I both have/had a European parent and a British parent and I actually taught MFL. We had been ‘told’ that the development would be quite residential and hoped to make friends of our neighbours who we assumed would be mainly Spanish.

However, it became apparent quite early on that most of the properties were actually owned for holiday lets by many faceless owners who we would never see let alone get to know. Yes, from late October till early spring we pretty much had the place to ourselves and the pool was empty and pretty to look at but from early spring onwards it became a kind of living hell!!

I actually had a teaching job, albeit part time but I had to go to bed at a reasonable hour and get up for school in the morning – what I didn’t factor in was holiday makers deciding to try and break into the pool for a midnight or early hours swim usually after a heavy drinking session and making all sorts of racket!!

In the early days of the community the inaugural president did lock up both pools with a padlock at 9pm every evening but he then started to get so much abuse from ‘lovely tourists’ that he stepped down from his locking up duties. By then the tourists were climbing over the peripheral fence and getting in anyway.

An entry card system was then introduced but again was abused – people just held the gate open for others and still went in out of hours.

Another issue linked to the pool misuse was the fact that many holiday let owners were in fact defaulting on their community fees but still being allowed to let their properties and their ‘tenants’ were clearly still using and abusing the facilities not to mention the rest of us picking up the bill for the privilege. Even the collection of basura has to be paid for when you’re on holiday- who’d have thought it!

Anyway, it all became too much for me and much as my hubby and I really had planned to spend the rest of our lives in Spain we made the decision to return to the U.K. in 2015 so actually spent less than 3 years full time in Spain.

Maybe our community itself was to blame? Maybe it wasn’t run very well? Maybe we were very naive in our expectations?

We had holidayed on the Costa for a few years before buying and are well aware that the Costa del Sol is an outdoor lifestyle area for much of the year and that this part of Spain in particular can be quite loud. We did choose to be close to the coast rather than inland as we wanted the ease and choice of facilities and transport links – our development was a short walk from Carvajal train station which linked us directly to Málaga city and airport. We did enjoy having a choice of shops, bars and restaurants on our doorstep so to speak. As the local sunbed guys and business owners would often say to us “los turistas son un mal necesario” and we totally understood that and accepted that we would have to share our space so to speak during high season in particular.

We just assumed however that it wouldn’t be too much to ask to be able to enjoy our own balcony in the evening without some horrendous pool noise and likewise a decent night’s sleep.

Unfortunately we didn’t have the funds for a villa or detached property and our apartment itself was absolutely lovely!

As a Brit though I just have the feeling that maybe we’re not that well suited to communal living as we are still principally a house owning/ renting nationality unlike many other European countries where apartment living is the norm – or maybe it was just us and we were just unlucky…

Carvajal7

One attachment, scanned by Gmail’: why then, do we have problems with this mailer? I’ve written to Google, who will no doubt be pondering their answer.

To preserve my sanity, I’m running a weekly BoT backup here.

Lenox

Finally:

This one is nice – Chambao is a flamenco-electronic band originally from Málaga, performing Más Na on YouTube here.

 

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