Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Luxembourg Scandal

The Luxembourg scandal – where many large companies have quietly set up subsidiary offices, paying very low taxes and, with creative interior billing, manage to pay almost no taxes at all in other countries where they operate – has received a major disclosure  recently. The Guardian runs an extensive exposé titled: 'Luxembourg tax files: how the tiny state rubber-stamped tax avoidance on an industrial scale' and Business Insider lists the companies involved here. El Confidencial covers the story for the Spanish readers, saying that over 300 multinationals are involved in the report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which runs to 28,000 pages. All of these companies use one of the 'Big Four' accountants, and just one revealed, PricewaterhouseCoopers, is said to have arranged tax savings of around 700,000 million euros between 2004 and 2010. A quote from the ICIJ exposé: 'Companies have channelled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes. Some firms have enjoyed effective tax rates of less than 1 percent on the profits they’ve shuffled into Luxembourg'. The new President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, was the Prime Minister of Luxembourg when many of these fiscal advantages were approved by the Government, says El Diario, and, as Infolibre notes, Spain's own Minister of Finance Luis de Guindos was director of the financial division of PwC between 2008 and 2010. We are left with just three more links in this paragraph, the first from Twitter reminds us of the plan to create wealth, jobs and employment reforms from the 'Consejo Empresarial para la Conpetitividad' (mentioned in Business over Tapas last week) with the comment 'In other words, the big companies that on Monday asked us to fight against the Black Economy in Spain are the same people who pay 1% in Luxembourg'. The second, Britain's Private Eye returns to the story noting that '...the practice explains why the ratio of foreign investment to GDP in Luxembourg is the highest in the world at 4,700 percent (compared to the UK, itself fairly high, at around 50 percent)'. And lastly, there's an article about the Spanish presence in Luxembourg from El Diario here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Las Salinas de Aguadulce.

Aguadulce is the pretty urbanisation with a sports marina forming part of the village. It is on the coast, and backs on to El Ejido (Almería), the huge plastic-coated agricultural town which is famous for all the wrong reasons. The urbanisation shares the coast with a small protected area, Las Salinas de Aguadulce.

Monday, November 03, 2014

A Brief Visit to Córdoba

To get to Córdoba, take the signposted road northwest out of Granada. For someone used to Spain's fine motorways, it was a shock to find that the route, the N432, is a single-lane road that wanders past some castled towns heading lazily - and sometimes bumpily - through the olive trees of northern Granada and into Jaén, then over some gentle hills and so to Córdoba. Around 160 kms: 2.5 hours.
Unlike Granada, where I always am feeling choleric by the time I've found where I am heading for, Córdoba was very easy to navigate. Up, over the river, northeast along a wide boulevard and the hotel on the right. Two friends showed me around.
One, who is studying veterinary science at the university, told me that it's very hot in the summer (as we know from watching the July TV thermometer which is almost always filmed in the city), and very cold in the winter. When it rains, she continued, it does so for several days at a time. This past weekend, the weather was perfect. Everyone was enjoying the warm Indian summer and I even saw an army general driving along on his scooter (not a sight you often see these days).
The old part of the city spreads over a large area - much larger than Granada - and it is like walking around in a typical andaluz village, with narrow streets and white houses. The astonishing mesquita is near the wide River Guadalquivir. It has a large square formal Arab garden, walled and restful, with a cathedral spire on one end, and the opposite side standing against the walls of the giant mosque.
A truly breathtaking building. I could hardly see it for the tears.
Outside, over a beer, I listened to an old blind man playing his guitar and singing: 'Cór-do-ba'. We walked the streets, past some Roman columns, saw the famous Royal horse-riding school and had a meal in a restaurant under the smiling picture of Manolete, the City's famous bullfighter who died in the ring in Linares when he was just 30.
My weekend in the city included a massage, a sweat and a soak in the Moorish baths located down a narrow street. They serve you a glass of mint tea, Arab style.
I always had a slight feeling against
Córdoba - I was wrong. it's quite stunning.