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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Over here at Business over Tapas, we have often pointed out the difference (and benefit) to Spanish society between foreign tourists and foreign settlers. Most notably – the former receives enormous media attention, massive investment, endless promotions both at home and abroad, heavy institutional advertising and even a dedicated government ministry along with its regional equivalents. In several communities and resorts, the councillor for tourism is the second most visible politician in the government.
On the other hand, foreign settlers can fend for themselves.
But then, as Spain basks in the huge amount of money brought here by tourism (forgetting that a sizable chunk of this stays in the country of origin to pay agencies, airlines, insurers and so on), along comes something to put the cork in – maybe a pandemic like the one that has assailed the industry for the last two years.
If tourism dropped by 75% in 2021 over 2019 (the last halcyon year for tourism) then foreign residents either stayed the same (they couldn’t sell-up and leave, what with one thing or another) or even rose in numbers.
That’s of course not including those who took out Spanish nationality.
There are over six million foreigners resident in Spain at the present time – up from 4,850,000 at the beginning of 2019. That’s ten per cent of everyone. Some/many of those are immigrant workers, since the largest collectives are Romanian, Moroccan and Colombian, yet the fourth largest group of foreigners currently living in Spain are the British at 282,000 souls. Rather than try and figure out the number of foreign residents who are retired or live from funds from abroad (including a clutch of wealthy Americans, some rich Venezuelans, a few idle Chinese and a sprinkle of superannuated New Zealanders), but not Tommy who works at the campsite, we can only choose a wildly inaccurate number – say 500,000 – to contrast with the tourists, whose statistics thanks to the enormous machine dedicated to surveying them we know down to the last digit.
Figures suggest that the average age of this sub-group of half a million – that’s to say, those who live comfortably in Spain without employment – is around 61 years old, against tourists who are (I’m diving through the INE records) maybe 20 years younger.
Then of course, residents often take trips within Spain – not to all-inclusive hotels on the beach, full of fellow-Brits or Europeans, but to more expensive destinations, such as the Parador hotel chain or to fancy restaurants, or to areas away from the sol y playa; which makes them, in the eyes of the Spanish authorities (if only briefly), tourists.
So, if the money spent by the wealthier foreign settlers – let’s say 500,000 multiplied by a year’s worth of living – is contrasted by the amount spent by the tourists, then the residents are clearly a group to treasure. At 20,000€ a year (my guess, and we shall ignore the major investment of buying both a house and a car) that’s 10,000,000,000€ per year spent by the higher end of the resident foreigners in Spain. The average visitor, here for five days rather than 365, is going to be worth a lot less.
The official estimate of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic on the shortfall of tourist money lost to Spain is 160,000 million euros. Last year’s tourist income – 31.1 million foreigners visited – is figured at 34,800 million: nice money if you can get it.
But then, right after the Covid, along comes a war. The fourth wealthiest tourist to Spain per capita is the Russian one, and in 2019, 1.3 million of them came to visit, spending 2,000 million euros. How many Russians will be coming to visit this year? There are some estimates to suggest that the overall tourist numbers this year could be even lower than the last two years due to the war in the Ukraine.
Maybe next up, there’ll be a tourist bombing, or an earthquake, or something poisonous in the water. Maybe Portugal will drop its prices or Greece will give free ouzo to visitors. Tourists are just fine, they leave money and go away with a sunburn and a hangover. But they are finicky, and without any obligation or an emotional link to return.
But the residents will stay. They have an investment in Spain: their property.
Why can’t the authorities see this? There is so much more opportunity in this field.
(More on this next week)
‘Is Spain’s relative attractiveness on the up?’ Mark Stücklin of Spanish Property Insight shares his thoughts here.
‘Foreigners snapping up property in Mallorca. Most of the foreign property buyers are British’. The Mallorca Daily Bulletin says that figures across Spain have returned to pre-pandemic levels of property sales to foreign buyers: ‘…transactions carried out by foreigners accounted for 18.6% of all national sales, which is in line with the 2012-2019 average of 18.7%’. Almost 64,000 homes were bought by foreigners in 2021.
‘The BOE of October 27, 2021 establishes the obligations of documentary registration and information of natural or legal persons who carry out lodging and vehicle rental activities. This rule, which will come into force on April 27, substantially modifies the information that tourist companies have to register when they formalize a contract with a client…’ From this date, fresh and more invasive information will become necessary for renters, hotel customers and other temporary (or tourist) activities. El Español says that, beyond the full name, passport number or DNI – the stuff that is routinely handed in to the police – now one needs to reveal full name, sex, type of identity document and number, nationality, date of birth, place of habitual residence, full address, landline and mobile phone, email, number of travellers and the relationship between them. Furthermore, the contract details will be necessary: contract data, reference number and signatures; the contract particulars such as dates of entry and exit, details of the property and its address, number of rooms and if it has an internet connection; also the type of payment (cash, credit card, payment platform, transfer…), identification of the means of payment (type of card and number, IBAN bank account, mobile payment solution…), the owner and the card expiration date. There will be fines of up to 30,000€ for ignoring the new rules!
From La Vanguardia here (paywall removed): ‘Year after year, Spain is among the countries with the highest life expectancy: 79.59 years for men and 85.06 for women according to the latest data from the INE, corresponding to 2020. And it is also listed as one of the most aged in the world: one in five inhabitants is at least 65 years old. But is it a good country to grow old…?’ The answer, according to a study from Barcelona University, is that the standards of treatment and quality of life for seniors (over 65) in Spain comes in as 12th out of 28 European countries analysed. The best is Sweden, the worst is Croatia.
The Olive Press considers the loss in tourist revenue during the pandemic. Beyond this, there were also Brexit-related issues. The only bright spot for Spain was the lower but still providential income from national tourism over the last two miserable years. Tourist numbers are bound to return to 2019 levels by 2023 says the article.
From The Government website La Moncloa here: ‘The Social Security adds 6,788 foreign affiliates in March. In total, there are now 2,342,004 foreign workers registered, representing 11.73% of all Social Security affiliates. This is of the tenth consecutive month with an increase in the employment of this group. In the first quarter, 35,340 foreign affiliates have joined’ (Thanks to Antonio).
Poll: ‘Feijóo’s PP grows, overtaking the PSOE that’s down over three points. The arrival of the new leader of the Partido Popular relegates the socialists to second position and reduces Vox’s vote expectations despite the agreement in Castilla y León, while Unidas Podemos grows by one point’. The details at elDiario.es are here. (PP: 27.9%; PSOE: 27.2%; Vox: 17.6% and UP: 11.4%).
Yolanda Díaz (Wiki) is the Minister of Labour and Second Vice-President of Spain. She always comes up in the polls as the most popular party leader – despite leading the Izquierda Unida faction within Unidas Podemos. The reason for her popularity is that she has brought employment figures down and has largely eradicated trash work-contracts. The question is – what are her plans for the future and will she stay within – probably to lead – the UP candidature (perhaps under another name) in next year’s general elections.
The leader of the PP Alberto Núñez Feijóo didn’t come along to the opening of the new government in Castilla y León on Tuesday to lend his seal of approval on the new regional alliance between the PP and Vox. Also absent was the Andalucía leader Moreno Bonilla. Those present included Isabel Díaz Ayuso and Santiago Abascal. El Huff Post has the story here. As local Populares say (according to El Español here) ‘those who can’t see the synergy are probably in the wrong party’. We remember that the slightly ill-advised election merely replaced the PP’s junior partner, which had been Ciudadanos, with Vox.
The new president of Galicia – as Feijóo moves to Madrid – will be his second in command Alfonso Rueda says 20Minutos here, to follow a regional party congress in late May.
The journalist Miquel Ramos, an expert in far-right politics, is interviewed in El Huff Post here. The item is titled: ‘It’s a major and common mistake to think of the far-right and their supporters as simply stupid’.
elDiario.es looks at Ceuta politics here: ‘The great cohabitation of Ceuta, where the PP and PSOE work together to put an end to the extreme right. Populares and socialistas try for the second time in the autonomous city to lay a democratic cordon to isolate the “colonial” policies of Vox that pursue the “civil elimination” of part of the population’.
‘Catalan politicians denounce espionage as ‘a serious attack on democracy and fundamental rights’. Over 60 pro-independence leaders have been victims of (Israeli spy) Pegasus’ software allowing full access to messages and cameras remotely’ says Catalan News here. From The New Yorker here: ‘…Catalan MEP Jordi Solé’s phone had been infected with Pegasus, a spyware technology designed by NSO Group, an Israeli firm, which can extract the contents of a phone, giving access to its texts and photographs, or activate its camera and microphone to provide real-time surveillance—exposing, say, confidential meetings…’. CitizenLab raises the game with: ‘Extensive Mercenary Spyware Operation against Catalans Using Pegasus and Candiru’. The Minister of the Interior Fernando Grande-Marlaska denies any relation whatsoever with the Israeli spy-firm says Europa Press here, although the CNI (Spanish secret service) may use systems to eavesdrop with the appropriate judge’s signature says EuropaPress here. Público says the Spanish government bought the Pegasus program back in 2014 to spy on the Catalan Independent movement. ‘A democratic state does not spy on its citizens’ says a reporter in English here.
The Guardian reports on a ‘Mountain of trash: how Gibraltar was almost buried under a post-Brexit rubbish pile. As the territory grappled with post-EU paperwork, 6,000 tonnes of waste were left with nowhere else to go’. Previously, they had sent their trash to a sorting facility in Cádiz… Finally, we read, a short-term agreement has been reached with Madrid.
‘Heads up, Policia Nacional are challenging UK passport holders, crossing the frontier from Gibraltar, for proof of hotel/accommodation booking in Spain. Gibraltar residents, not holding the red ID card, are being refused entry into Spain’. (Found on Facebook)
Sánchez will travel to Kyiv in the coming days to meet with Zelenskyy says EFE here.
‘The British Europa Oil & Gas has just announced one of the largest oil discoveries in recent years. And it has done so very close to Spain, off the coast of Morocco, a hundred kilometres from the Canary Islands. The company has identified a significant volume of more than 1,000 million barrels of oil equivalent in the Agadir basin, in the Inzegane Permit’. An item from El Periódico de la Energía here.
‘The European network of corona-deniers: their modus operandi and links between Spain and Germany’. An article from Maldita here, in English. They are going to be casting about soon for a new conspiracy to get their teeth into…
We now don’t have to wear face-masks inside any more (but are welcome to continue to do so). Exceptions remain in public transport and health centres / hospitals and – as decided by management – in certain jobs. Sur in English notes that it’s been around 700 days of citizens being obliged to wear masks…
From elDiario.es daily email bulletin. ‘Remember: we are talking about the fact that the Madrid City Council spent 11 million, and 6 remained in the pockets of two “young but well-prepared” businessmen from the Madrid jet set’.
From El Huff Post here: Pedro Sánchez – ‘The most expensive tax is corruption’ he says, asking the new leader of the PP what he plans to do with the ongoing scandals in Madrid.
The Mayor of Madrid Martízez-Almeida on the mask scandal: ‘There is no doubt that the PSOE and Sánchez are behind this issue’.
‘Audios stolen from the Spanish soccer federation by hackers revealed Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué helped to negotiate a 24 million euros ($25.9 million) commission to take the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. The federation changed the format of the Super Cup in 2020, creating a “Final Four” and moving the competition to Saudi Arabia as part of a deal that was reportedly worth 40 million euros per tournament for the federation…’ Story here at The San Diego Union-Tribune (they often carry items about Spain for some reason).
From the far right El Confidencial Digital (ECD) the interesting question: ‘What do you think of the fact that the majority of Spaniards have called for a change of government and early elections?’ This specious poll gets a 93% ‘yes please’ vote from its readers.
The European Press Prize nominations for 2022 include a couple of items from Spain:
‘The Age of the Wolf’ (here) – in English.
‘Woman’s body, man’s medicine’ (here).
‘An Asian algae has occupied the Straits of Gibraltar and the blame is down to inept bureaucracy’ says El Confidencial here. The invasive brown Rugulopteryx okamurae (Wiki) has colonized the coasts of the Campo de Gibraltar, part of Málaga and threatens the entire Mediterranean. There are initiatives to collect and market it (it can be used as an ingredient in a picante sauce), but so far no permits have been issued and no official controls have as yet been sanctioned. In the waters off Barbate, says the article, the whole sea-floor is like a carpet. The article includes videos and photos of this plague.
The small virgin island of Alegranza lies north of Lanzarote in the Canary Isles. It’s around 10kms2 and is covered with garbage washed up from the ocean. Almost 98% of the rubbish found there is used plastic bottles which have floated over from North America.
Down at the stables in Almería, we have plenty of sparrows; however, this ubiquitous birdie is on the decline in Spanish cities says Muy Interesante here. Apart from the feral cats and the urban contamination, another threat comes from the invasive – and competitive – green South American parrot called la cotorra verde (we have some of those too, they screech a lot). As for the feral cats, some biologists are now recommending creating a number of cat-free areas in the major cities says 20Minutos, which sounds like a good idea. Madrid, for example, has 1,171 catalogued sites of feral cats. All eating the birdies and lizards that they find. The suggestion is to keep the felines out of the parks and areas near open water.
The animalist political group PACMA (Rover for President) has understandably denounced a recent hunting party where 450 animals were killed – including over 300 deer and boar – in a ‘macromonteria’ in a private estate in Córdoba, involving 73 hunters – who paid up to 1,000€ each for the adventure. The animals were previously bred by the estate. The story (and video) is at El Observador.
‘Wednesday: the price of electricity in Spain falls to its lowest in six months, thanks to renewable energies’. The story at Sur in English here. Well, there’s plenty of both wind and sun at the present time…
The Mijas (Málaga) donkey taxis are a regular subject in the English expat newspapers, and here the theme appears in Público: ‘The “chronic mistreatment” of the ‘burrotaxis‘ of Mijas: with hardly any time to rest, exhausted and unable to lie down; with ulcers and erosions in the skin, injuries and permanent deformations in their noses or vision problems being just some of the consequences of the exploitation of these animals for the tourists to enjoy’.
‘A Spanish company will build 1,300 electric vehicles in 2023 says Noticias de Navarra here. The company in question, NTDEnergy from Tudela, Navarra, will employ 90 people within the Lakota project, an electric car that folds for easy parking’. The eccentric vehicle is a bit like a La-Z-Boy couch that tips vertically. Very odd. They also make a small truck with wheels that can turn 90º on their axis for easy parking. With some videos.
Ctxt takes a look at political parties further to the right than Vox with Pablo Iglesias: ‘The extreme right is not a partisan phenomenon that begins and ends with Vox’, he writes. ‘Abascal’s party, which is basically a split from the PP, is just one piece of a much broader reactionary movement, well established in the leading countries of the world. The Spanish extreme right is not a party, it is an ideological movement with enormous weight in sectors of economic power, media power, the judiciary, the army, the police, the civil guard and amongst high officials. With these bases, no one can be surprised that it also has notable popular support…’
An Almería agriculture firm of fruit and veg has been denounced for improper treatment of its workers by several foreign unions, including the Landworkers Alliance, Uniterre, Interbrigadas and others. The details are at Público here.
Spare a thought for the ordinary Russians who live here in Spain. Not the oligarchs with their yachts but the ordinary ones, maybe retired or on a pension. There are 79,500 Russians living in Spain. In response to the invasion of the Ukraine, the banks in Spain have frozen their accounts – so their electric bills and other utilities get bounced says El Huff Post here.
Which is unfair and wrong.
During the Civil War, regions and even town halls had to print and deploy their own currency. A sort of credit slip perhaps. Some were printed on paper, or cardboard – or even on occasion on leather. The Basques made their own coins and banknotes here. From Navona Numismatics comes ‘Spanish Emergency Money issued during the Civil War’ (in English) here with lots of photos of unfamiliar-looking banknotes.
‘This Thing about Learning Spanish’. An article at Spanish Shilling here.
From Idealista News here: ‘The top 10 tourist mistakes in Spain. How do I not look like a tourist in Spain? This is our guide to the most common mistakes tourists make when visiting Spain so you can avoid them’. (Don’t wanna look like no tourist, me).
Bike-tourism: ‘The cycling route that has revived the ‘Spanish Lapland’: “There are towns where they had never seen a tourist”. The ‘Empty Mountains’ project, without public or private support, brings a thousand visitors a year to almost abandoned towns in Cuenca, Teruel and Guadalajara’. A report at El Mundo here.
Spanish Lapland – La Laponia Española – is explained in English at Montañas Vacias here: ‘There is a place in Spain with an area twice the size of Belgium, with a population density similar to Lapland or the Scottish Highlands, of only 7 inhabitants/km². It is the Spanish Lapland. This is how the Serranía Celtibérica is known, embracing territories belonging to 10 Spanish provinces (Teruel, Guadalajara, Cuenca, Soria, Zaragoza, Burgos, La Rioja, Segovia, Castellón and Valencia), and representing 13% of the total area of Spain…’
Molly at Piccavey brings us the story of how Columbus signed a deal with ‘the Catholic Kings’ Isabel y Fernando (wiki). He would receive royal support for his explorations across the Atlantic, and keep 10% of the value of his discoveries. The deal, known to History as ‘The Capitulations’, was signed in Santa Fé just outside Granada in 1492. But since we are talking about Santa Fé, let’s go and visit the town, and try its piononos (local sticky cakes).
From The Guardian here, a story of La España Fea: ‘For nearly two decades Andrés Rubio pored over photos of Spain’s magnificent cathedrals, delicate Moorish architecture and quaint cobblestone streets. But as the editor of newspaper El País’ travel supplement, what often caught his eye was what was hovering in the background: glimpses of towering mega-hotels, skeletal remains of half-built buildings or jarring blocks of apartment buildings. To him, the conclusion was inescapable – even if it clashed with the Spain that draws millions of tourists a year and is home to one of the world’s biggest collection of Unesco world heritage sites. “Spain is ugly,” he said. “It is very hard to say, but that’s how it is.” His controversial view is the backbone of a new book, España Fea, or Ugly Spain, that takes readers on a romp through what Rubio describes as an “unprecedented cultural catastrophe”…’
A jolly song from Luis Fonsi with Daddy Yankee called Despacito. Almost 8,000 million people have listed to this version on YouTube here! By the way – Adblocker (find it on Google or in your ‘apps’) gets rid of the adverts.