Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Russians Are Coming (2)

Featured in El Indalico: I've re-worked it a bit:

The cliché of all bona fide estate agents, ‘the green shoots of recovery’, is beginning to resound again along the costas as properties are being snapped up by foreigners. Paying usually in cash, the buyers have been doing their homework on the Internet and they are buying cheap discounted apartments by the hundreds. An estate agent I know says that sales have increased in the past year by a satisfying 200%, which probably means they sold one apartment in 2012, and so far in 2013, they’ve sold two.
This time, we are told that it’s the Russians who are buying. Another local agent has even learnt to say yavas lubloo to anyone wearing a shapka-ushanka – one of those fur-hats made from mammoth-hair. Although personally, I suspect the Russians will be pointing their wallets towards Marbella rather than Mojácar, and no doubt they will be paying in cash. The new offer of free visas and the entrance to the 26 countries who signed the Schengen Treaty, to any non-European who buys or invests a mere 500,000€ in Spain, has its undoubted  attractions. For both parties. To not put too fine a point on it, the Spanish Hacienda is hardly bothered by where the lolly comes from, as long as it’s coming. Mansions, heliports, large swimming pools and an unbreakable steel safe in the basement.
autobus rusoFor the more ordinary buyers from Omsk, one- or two-bedroomed apartments in the resort towns and estates of the Spanish coast are in demand, usually those going for under 100,000€, spaseebo.
Other nationalities too. The British are still shy, having seen too many ‘Paradise Lost’ TV shows and read too many articles about Len and Helen Prior, now cresting their sixth anniversary in Vera among the ruins of their home. But the Belgians, the Germans and the Scandinavians are all waking up to the perennial offer of good weather and cheap real estate that Spain is once again able to offer.
These homes being sold by the agents are doing the major banks little good however. The typical toxic promotions now held by the new ‘Spanish Bad Bank’, the Sareb, were built as apartment blocks in and around the country’s major cities. The Spanish, thanks to the extreme crisis, can not afford to buy them, while the foreigners simply don’t want them. Barrios on the edge of a bus line in Madrid or Seville will never be the haunts of Europeans or Russians, who would be as out of their depth in an all-Spanish environment as a group of Spanish jubilados who had all inexplicably moved to Glasgow.
Other foreigners are putting up their hands for apartments as well; but this time, they like the City. In Alicante, for example, Algerians are snapping up second homes. It’s just a twelve hour ferry to Oran. A notary in Alicante is on record as saying that some 25% of all house registrations under his pen have come from Algerians, while a local agency called Tecnocasa claims that well over half of its sales this year have gone to that particular market.
desde rusia con amorHowever, it’s the Russians who are buying the most. According to Masa International, Spain is seen in Moscow as the fashionable place to have a holiday home: in fact, there are now 250 agencies in that city who specialise in Spanish sales. While the Spanish have never quite understood why foreigners like ‘to stick together’, crafting Spanish towns and resorts as far as possible into mono-cultural conurbations, like the Germans with Mallorca or the British with their Fuengirola or Mojácar, it’s apparent that the Russians prefer either Marbella (the rich ones) or the Costa Dorada for the rest. The agency Europa Dom in Tarragona claims that 75% of all their sales are to Russian buyers.
All of this said, with green shoots in the newspapers and Russian language menus in the restaurants, one must not ignore the fact that the majority of homes bought in Spain this year are far removed from the Coast and have been quietly acquired by Spaniards...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another Reason to Live in Spain

I don't know what I like best about this Murcia gin, its cheap price or its abbreviation. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

In Search of a Job

Article in El Indálico from Ángel Medina

I read these days the good news that across the whole of the Spanish State, the number of unemployed fell by 72,800 people in the third quarter to a mere 5,904,700, and that the unemployment rate fell 0.28% from the second quarter of the year and now stands at 25.98% of the active population.

In addition, according to population survey (LFS) published by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), between July and September occupation increased by 39,500 people, until the number of those in work stood at 16,823,200: a remarkable achievement.

Well, I went to the employment office and the 5,904,700 unemployed has now risen to 5,904,701, because I signed up on the list of the paro, because I haven't had a job for a long time now, so I decided to sign up to help to lower the employment people's euphoria a bit and to contribute in bringing the percentages a small fraction nearer to the real numbers and the true situation of life which, as far as I can see, does not have any appearance of either improvement or much less a bonanza.

I had arranged by telephone an appointment with the local office of the INE and when I was called, a week later, I took myself there to join the ranks of the unemployed.

I was looked after by a surprisingly amiable lady who, after asking for my identity card and tinkering for a few minutes on her computer, said:

'So you want to join the unemployment list because you are looking for work, is that right?'

'That's right. I know that there aren't many openings, but...'

She cut across me. 'Here it says you have a Bachelor of Arts. Do you have other studies?'

'Yes. I graduated in “trade, political and economic science” as it was called 40 years ago, but the truth is that I don't know anything about this, since I've never practiced it'

'You will need to bring the graduation certificate if you want to put this qualification in your records'.

'Do you suppose', I asked, 'that this will earn me more opportunities? After all, I'm sixty-three years old'.

'Well, who knows?' She shrugged.

'OK, then just leave me as a Bachelor'.

'So what sort of work would you be looking for?'

'Well... I would be glad to find anything that I knew how to do. I've been three years without doing anything and I've spent the few savings that I had'.

'So what sort of work have you been doing?'

'Um... I have been twenty-five years in politics. I have been head of a press council, the private secretary of the mayor and a councillor. In fact, I've been a councillor for twelve years. Right now I have that privilege until the next municipal elections, but since I'm in the Opposition I only receive a State payment of attendance at plenary and information committees (two hundred euros per month) and I certainly can't live on that'.

'So, what shall I put you down as?' said my interrogator.

'You can say that I am a councillor and would like to continue with this, but with functions and a proper salary'.

'I can't put that. Councillors are elected in elections, you can't just be one' she said warmly.

'Yes of course, but... and if there is some party somewhere in Spain that needs a few extra people to make up its list for upcoming elections? I couldn't care less which stripe or colour is the party as long as I have a real chance of leading up a department. I've been a councillor of culture, finance, tourism and could do anything, trust me. You see, what I really know how to do is to organise rallies, write press releases, party programmes, deal with complaints, participate in discussions, pose before the cameras, participate in processions... And since I am in the political centre, I would be just as useful in a right-wing or a left-wing candidacy because I will always move the party towards the opposite side and so I will get more votes. I have no problems with ideology because I have none of my own and so I can adapt to anything. Put down 'Councillor' in your computer, thanks'.

'Fine, done. And in what territory you would like to find work: local, provincial, a national post perhaps...?'

'You can put down European too! I'd be just as happy to be a councillor in Paris, Warsaw or Stockholm. Anywhere within the European Community...but not the Third World. Those countries frighten me; I can't stand poverty, or diseases or of course fanaticism and I'm used to a certain standard of living'.

'Right', she says, 'I've put you down as anywhere within the European Union'.

'So do you think that I have a chance?'

'I have no idea; but just to finish this last box, what do you know of scams, commissions, bribes, corruption, nepotism, money laundering, illegal financing and so on...?'

The busy fingers typed in my reply...

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Hundreds of British Home-owners Protest in Cantoria

A protest was held on Saturday against the sporadic demolition of homes in Cantoria, Almería, by the Junta de Andalucía.
The 400 demonstrators were almost all British, together with a sprinkling of senior politicians from local towns from within the Almanzora Valley.
The protest was held outside the decaying Palacio de Almanzora, a massive and decrepit building apparently not considered worthy of conservation by the Junta.
The theme for the gathering was 'Yes to Solutions, No to Demolitions'.
Speeches were given by the lawyer for the AUAN association against property abuse; Helen Prior, who lost her home to the bulldozers almost six years ago; and the president of the local union of municipalities, the senior politician for the area.
Gerardo Vásquez is the lawyer for the AUAN. He warned the protesters that, following the recent demolition of two houses in Cantoria, two more are now imminently slated for destruction following the withdrawal of their 'objection' by the town hall. All four homes are British owned.
Points made by Mrs Prior, included that she and her husband Len 'had worked and saved for 45 years to build their house, valued at 690,000 euros when it was demolished in January 2008', and that they had never received any compensation.
'What good did it do', asked Helen, 'besides showing Andalucía to be a poor and uncaring community'.
While many owners of 'the 13,000 illegal homes' in the Almanzora Valley in Northern Almería must live without water or electric – they use hoses and candles, water-tanks and generators – some have given up and returned to the UK, or even, according to one home-owner, died from the stress. However, another home-owner told me that his house had water, electric and even mail delivery, but since it was illegal, he paid no IBI. 
One of those present at the rally on Saturday was 'the Dutchman', a colourful figure from Cantoria who built several of the homes at the centre of the problem there. He was asking for people to sign a petition to reinstate the old mayor who had been fired from his post by the Court for allowing water and electric to those homes. 
An all-party meeting, to include representatives from 26 town halls, the AUAN and provincial planners, slated to be held on November 11th to examine the issue of 'illegal homes', has now been cancelled after the withdrawal of the PSOE, whose María Jesús Serrano, Councillor for the Environment and Town Planning at the Junta de Andalucía, says that her department is working on the problem of the '13,000 illegal homes' in Almería, but that 900 of them were never going to be 'regularised'. Interesting word.
These homes have been built in particularly sensitive areas, like flood plains or national parkland, or else they already have some form of sentence against them, like the Cantoria homes.
To 'regularise' the remainder says María Jesús, 'we need a strong political agreement from the town halls, to work shoulder to shoulder with the Junta de Andalucía on this matter'.

Friday, November 01, 2013

News from the Pay-Wall

I check out the news every morning, early. It's for my own interest and, also, it's to find a few stories and write them up, either for The Entertainer Online, which has a mix of news, comment and snark which is usually locally-based around and for Mojácar, or for a weekly subscription news-letter I prepare called Business over Tapas. So, not much news about Spain gets past me.
News is news. While opinion might belong to its author, something that is happening or has happened is in the Common Arena, it is open to anyone who wants to report it, repeat it, pass it on. However, some of the better known news sites, anxious about revenue, are taking to closing down their reports behind a pay-wall. So, the General Public will either cough up, or more likely, it won't use or consult their versions. El Mundo has Orbyt, a service that you must pay for, although it is clear that readers are skeptical, with the newspaper obliged to make ever-more generous offers of free gifts to subscribers. Much of El Mundo remains 'open', but some stories will suddenly peter out and a notice will come up: 'Wanna read this article? Then join up!'
Worse though are some of the British papers. I only read them for their news (or opinion) about Spain, coloured from a British establishment point of view. What does The Thunderer ('the Times of London') think about Spain, its economy, its leaders and its demolitions? We will never know, it has a pay-wall. Similarly, the Telegraph has hidden its charms behind a tin cup. So, for British news about Spain (and opinion), I go to the Spanish page of The Guardian.
There are some good sites in English about Spain, El País in English being an obvious one, and several useful blogs and independent webpages. When it comes to news about this splendid but tragic country, the local English-language free newspapers (with the notable exception of The Olive Press), unfortunately, rarely deliver.
So much of what I read is nearer to the source: it's the Spanish press,  blogs, news and compendia sites.
But for the average foreign resident in Spain, despite the new technologies available, there is the danger of becoming less informed. For the authorities, only the cosseted views of the domestic press will be consulted.