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Spanish news weekly round-up, 6th June 2014
Royal abdication dominates the news, economic indicators produce consumer confidence and graffiti artists are ensnared by a cunning Town Hall in Madrid
The abdication of King Juan Carlos after nearly forty years on the throne occupied most of the country’s attention in the early part of this week, with respect for the role he has played in establishing democracy in Spain being tempered by doubts in some quarters over the usefulness of the monarchy in the 21st century. All over the country peaceful demonstrators took to the streets calling for a referendum on the issue, but even if the republicans are successful in the long run for the time being the coronation of Felipe VI will take place on 19th June.
With the eyes of the nation focused firmly on Juan Carlos and Felipe, this would have been an ideal week for the government to pass controversial or unpopular legislation, but if they have done so then it has gone unnoticed! Instead there is the likelihood that income tax rates will be cut next year, although the exact details of the way in which this will be done has not yet been made clear.
Its been a fairly positive week in terms of economic indicators, with a sharp increase in consumer confidence, and the unemployment figures for the month of May were a significant step in the right direction, the jobless total falling by over 300,000 over the last twelve months. What’s more, the government’s scrappage deals on used cars for those purchasing new ones appear to have set the country’s automobile sector back on its feet, although despite this another edition of the PIVE deals is to come into operation with immediate effect. (This means discounts of 2000 euros for the purchase of a new car if chopping in an old one).
Two ongoing stories have continued to feature in the news this week: one is that of Luis Bárcenas, the former PP party treasurer, who has now spent almost a year in prison while the charges against him are being investigated, and this week his allegations concerning other leading figures both inside and outside the party were given more credibility as he provided evidence that some of those alleged to have been given cash made visitis to bank safety deposits on the same day. Another issue which still makes the headlines is the investigation into the causes of the disastrous train crash last summer near Santiago de Compostela, and the latest report completed seems to suggest that the driver’s failure to slow down may be due to his being distracted by a phone call from the controller, as well as excess speed, the exhaustive reports and investigations finally seeming to confirm the theory suggested when the accident happened. This places the whole question of responsibility back in the hands of the driver, distraction appearing to have caused a loss of concentration and meaning that he failed to apply the brakes and slow down the train in time.
Also in Galicia, the regional government is being caught between the need to protect the area’s population of wolves and the obligation to pay compensation to farmers whose livestock have been attacked, while further east along the north coast of Spain four men were arrested for planting and maintaining an oak forest to commemorate and dignify members of ETA who died as a result of their terrorist activities.
The forces of law and order were busy across the country on Wednesday and Thursday as they raided homes and commercial premises in thirty provinces to dismantle organizations which have been tampering with sub-standard diesel fuel to sell it on as A-grade diesel for use in cars at petrol stations. Over one hundred arrests have so far been made, and the possibility of more has not yet been ruled out. By Friday morning the estimated tax fraud in this scam selling on cheaper diesel grades has risen to an estimated 5.5 million euros and thousands of us will have put fuel in our tanks which is not what it purported to be.
Away from the mainland, residents, ecologists and politicians in the Canary Islands are up in arms over the fuel prospecting which is to be allowed to start 60 kilometres from the archipelago, and in the Balearics a German man was sentenced for a crime committed in 2012, when he was arrested as he sat calmly watching the house from which he had just been evicted burn to the ground, having doused it with gasoline and set fire to it with a lighter.
Other items to have featured this week are the havoc caused by a rampaging cow in Santander and the weather: a hotter summer than usual is on the cards for the east of the country, and in the longer term a study made in Andalucía suggests that due to rising temperatures and the loss of climatic diversity long-term planning will be needed to guarantee the water supply and ensure that agriculture survives over the next hundred years.
Pride of place, though, has to go to the Town Hall of Brunete in the region of Madrid. By implementing a cunning plan involving a competition for graffiti “artists” they have managed to get the artists themselves to clean up their own paintings. This comes on the back of a successful clean-up campaign in which dog-dirt was delivered to the doors of owners guilty of leaving their pets’ mess in the streets and parks of the town.
If only such creativity and common sense were to be found at all levels of government!
Spanish property news
In a week when little has been published in the way of hard data regarding the real estate market in Spain, ratings agency Fitch have published a report in which they say that the end of the slump is nigh, or has been reached, in the “peripheral Eurozone mortgage markets” (Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece). In the case of Spain the analysts conclude that the very bottom of the slump in prices will be reached early next year, but of course Spain is a big country and there could be considerable variation from region to region within the country.
Elsewhere, another positive sign regarding the possible revival of the construction sector in the Costa Blanca has been detected: in the municipality of Orihuela, in the southern Costa Blanca, building licences have been awarded for seven projects containing a total of 167 new homes. A few years ago this would hardly have been an item worthy of national significance, but at the moment it backs up the feeling that Alicante may be one of the first provinces where the market bottoms out and begins an upward trend.
Elsewhere, much of the attention in the property market this week has centred on Sareb, Spain’s “bad bank”. The task facing Sareb when it was created was a tough one to say the least: to sell off properties which the contributing banks hadn’t been able to sell at competitive but profitable prices in a falling market.
There have been a few signs recently that this is proving even harder than was at first thought. Sales figures have been acceptable but not as high as those recorded by other banks selling off their own properties, and it may be that the pressure is beginning to get to Sareb president Belén Romana. She is reported to have threatened to cut the asking prices on Sareb’s property portfolio, potentially throwing the market into a further price slump, as she is upset that participating banks are selling off their own assets rather than Sareb’s. In reality of course, they could hardly be expected to do otherwise, no matter how high the commissions offered by Sareb!
The pressure on Sra Romana will not have been eased by the fact that she was the target for an “escrache” protest by anti-eviction protesters last Friday. Sareb is not normally responsible for evictions, and it’s unfortunate that the “bad bank” tag should be so easily misunderstood by some groups: in this case it seems that some people may automatically be assuming that “bad” means “evil”!
At least Sareb has managed to complete its first sale of a portfolio of buildable land, offloading assets with a book value of 80 million euros. Unfortunately the discount made on this value has not been made public.
Region of Murcia news round-up, 6th June 2014 www.murciatoday.com
The news throughout Spain this week has been dominated by the abdication of King Juan Carlos, and in the Region of Murcia as in the rest of the country this sparked off demonstrations calling for a referendum concerning whether the monarchy ought to be scrapped.
IU councillors have draped a Republican flag on one of the balconies of the Town Hall in Murcia, despite instructions from the Mayor not to do so, and it may well be that in the long run these calls are heeded and Spain becomes a Republic for the third time in its history. For the moment, though, the succession is going smoothly and the coronation of Felipe VI will take place on 19th June without a Holy Mass.
From Tuesday onwards the Spanish language press in Murcia has been filled almost from front to back with coverage of the abdication and eulogies to Juan Carlos and his huge contribution to the establishment of democracy in Spain after the death of Franco, and while this could be due to strongly royalist tendencies among Murcia’s journalists it may also be related to a distinct lack of other striking stories during the week.
Elsewhere, though, it really has been a quiet week: the jobless total in the Region has fallen by almost ten per cent over the last twelve months, and in the continuing saga of the new Region of Murcia International Airport at Corvera the latest news is that Aena will continue to demand compensation if nearby San Javier airport is closed down. This could further damage the chances of the government’s scheme to get the new airport up and running by gaining approval for the loan which would make it possible from the EU Commission in Brussels.
The weather has started to hint that summer is with us this week, and on Wednesday the temperature reached an unpleasant 38ºC in the regional capital. If the state meteorological agency are to be believed a hotter summer than usual could well lie in front of us, so make sure the air conditioning’s in full working order at home and in the car!
In the world of nature, good news for Murcia’s cherries– this relatively new crop is gaining ground in many areas of the Region – but very bad news for the Barbary sheep of the Sierra Espuña ( the arrui): a systematic cull will reduce their numbers, and those remaining will be confined to very limited areas in order to protect crops adjacent to the regional park.
In La Manga the dangers of gardening were brought to the fore when an unfortunate 80-year-old Swiss amateur gardener was found dead suspended in the harness he had been using to cut back a palm tree, and the British Embassy have issued a reminder to all expats that if they need to renew their passports they must allow extra time as applications are now being processed back in the UK, not Madrid.
And as theres a doleful lack of news in Murcia this week worth reporting, we may as well throw in an additional reminder that if you have visitors coming over this summer, now is the time to make sure they have travel insurance and up to date EHIC cards: a visit to the doctor if they haven´t will wipe a clear 100 euros out of their holiday spending money before they even start.
Region of Valencia news round-up, 6th June 2014
The news throughout Spain this week has been dominated by the abdication of King Juan Carlos, and in the Comunitat Valenciana as in the rest of the country this sparked off demonstrations calling for the monarchy to be scrapped. However, there have also been other interesting and important issues in the region over the last few days.
Among these are various related to the economy. Economic indicators continue to confirm that the region is emerging from the years of crisis – unemployment is falling significantly at last, especially in the province of Alicante, and there are even signs that the construction sector is becoming active again in the south of the Costa Blanca.
However, no-one should be fooled into thinking that Valencia is out of the woods yet. The regional government is still so short of cash that it has failed to pay the amounts due to dispensing chemists for two months in a row, new car sales in the month of May failed to match the increase reported across the country as a whole, and the recent closure of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Alicante continues to attract attention as it transpires that the way in which the workers’ strike was handled by the company was far from legal in some aspects.
In addition, Ikea bosses will not be happy that the new store which opens in Valencia in just eleven days’ time will, for the moment at least, not be allowed to open to the public on Sundays as was originally planned. At a more local level, the future of the weekly Orihuela market on Tuesdays may be in doubt, as disgruntled traders have failed to meet the deadline to clear their outstanding licence payments, apparently because there is not enough business to make it worth their while continuing at the market’s current location.
Another sector of the economy, agriculture, is in dire straits at the moment. So far this year only 12% of the normal amount of rain has fallen in the province of Alicante, and many crops have already been wiped out despite last weekend’s showers as the drought continues. The risk of wildfires is still high, and another one broke out in Playa Flamenca on Saturday.
The mainstay of the economy in the province of Alicante is tourism, and this week has seen the renewal of Qualitur recognition for 38 beaches in 11 municipalities. 24 of these beaches are in Pilar de la Horadada, Torrevieja and Orihuela, where the Town Hall has managed to enlist the help of the private sector in carrying out important improvements to the coastal tourist area.
This innovative approach to public works in Orihuela is also reflected by a scheme to offer temporary contracts to 99 unemployed agriculturalists, who will be put to work cleaning up many of the local parks and green areas.
The big news in Orihuela, though, is that the population has suddenly been reduced by 8,000, due to a review of the municipal Padrón which revealed that many of those officially inscribed no longer live there. A large percentage of these are reported to be British, and as a result Orihuela may lose the distinction of having the largest population of Britons in the whole of Spain. It seems fairly certain, though, that it won’t be overtaken by Torrevieja, where one in seven are to be removed from the Padrón for similar reasons. In other words, Torrevieja has lost 15,000 inhabitants at a stroke, with serious consequences in terms of central government budget subsidies.
Elsewhere, the row goes on in Alicante over re-naming streets to eliminate references to Franco’s dictatorship, and a minor earthquake in Castellón ensured that the issue of the Castor Project offshore gas storage facility remains uppermost in the minds of the local population.
Among lawbreakers featured in the news this week were fence thieves in Xàtiva (yes, people who were caught stealing a fence), a couple who stole ten euros’ worth of vegetables from a plot in Castellón and were handed a twelve-month prison sentence for their crime, and the drunk driver in San Miguel de Salinas who had to be escorted to the police station on foot as the Policía Local do not currently have a patrol car at their disposal.
Finally, while 23,000 people have been wiped from the municipal register in Torrevieja and Orihuela, the population of the Costa Blanca has been temporarily increased to the tune of one mega-star, with Joan Collins filming episodes of the new series of “Benidorm”. As yet she has not suggested that a permanent move from her home in Beverley Hills is in the offing…but with 10 million viewers of the hit TV comedy series, Benidorm will continue to benefit from the publicity given to the Alicante province for the forseeable future.
This week currency exchange rates have hit a 16 month best for those changing money from sterling to euros, making Spanish property even better value and giving those who transfer their pensions across to Spain more for their money. If you still use a bank to transfer money, ask for a quote to use a money transfer service, youll be amazed how much more you get for your pounds using this method!
Click for this weeks currency round up showing the exchange rate between Sterling and the Euro.
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