Política, Brexit, turismo, actualidad, finanzas, Cataluña, ecologismo, medios o corrupción son algunos de los temas que trata este boletín informativo

15/11/21. Opinión. El periodista Lenox Napier repasa la actualidad española en su boletín semanal Business Over Tapas, al que puede suscribirse por 60 euros anuales. Puede obtener más información en su web (AQUÍ) o en su perfil (AQUÍ). EL OBSERVADOR / www.revistaelobservador.com ofrece este contenido tres días después de su lanzamiento...

Editorial:

Like the British with their NHS, the Spanish are also fond and supportive of their own national health, the SNS or Sistema Nacional de Salud as defined by the Spanish Constitution (explained here) in 1986 (wiki).

Expatica says here: ‘Around 90% of Spaniards use the public healthcare system, which is called the National Health System. However, it is very decentralized with service delivery organized at the regional level. The system is overseen by the Spanish Ministry of Health, which develops policy and oversees the national health budget…’. In short, each autonomous region runs its own bureaucracy within the health system.
And, it’s relatively easy on one’s pocket – as the World Health Organisation says: ‘Spain’s health system is more likely to protect people from financial hardship than health systems in most other European countries’, although, as here, some families are suffering from medical prescriptions and dental bills. The copago system, where the patient pays part of the prescription, can cause financial issues.
But (and there’s always a ‘but’), times are hard and the administrations have problematic finances: in short, cuts are evident everywhere (yes, yes: more taxes!).
This is usually noted by the time between an appointment with one’s local doctor (the atención primaria) and the trip to the specialist.  Weeks or months, depending. A short-cut is to turn up at the Emergencia at the public hospital, who will give immediate hands on treatment as necessary.

It’s also the case that the Spanish medical attention is very good, with first-rate doctors and dedicated nursing staff. Those of us who have been through the system will probably acknowledge this.
Cuts arrive in staffing, equipment, standards, medicine and so on. The conservative regional governments are more inclined to push private hospitals and consultants while the socialist regions might (a trifle unwillingly) encourage the public system. Certainly, the private companies, the health insurance people and our friends at ‘Big Pharma’ are all for private health.

….

From the cuttings: ‘The waiting lists in the Madrid health care system grew by 35% in 2021. Almost 800,000 citizens of the Community "wait up to six months to be called"’ says El Huff Post here.
This tends to annoy the health workers as well. From 7Días we read that the health service in Extremadura are ready to strike over their long hours and regional government cuts.
But some good news too: ‘The Government repeals the Aznar law that encouraged the privatization of the Spanish health system. The draft of the Health Equity, Universality and Cohesion Law establishes public management as a "preferred formula" for health services but does not close the door to outsourcing’. elDiario.es here.
Sometimes the public hospitals will send patients to the private ones, but more often, it’s the other way around. Certain equipment is prohibitively expensive and not every hospital has, for example, proton therapy machines (Amancio Ortega has just donated ten of these to the public health).
Finally, as the Covid issue begins to recede, some politicians want to mount inquiries into the high number of deaths in the residencies for seniors during the first wave of the crisis. Other politicians – perhaps understandably – don’t want the subject to be opened. Here the Parlament decides against an investigation (Catalunya Press) and here, Madrid does the same (InfoLibre).

Housing:

The plusvalía, the property gains tax, was ruled last month to be unlawful by the Constitutional Court, leaving the town halls in a difficult position, since the impuesto went to them. What, wondered the court, would happen to those who sold at a loss, and to those who inherited? The Government has now brought in a substitute measure, giving the seller a choice between two different calculations. It won’t be retroactive – so there remained a brief tax-free window between October 26th and Wednesday November 10th when the new rules were published in the BOE. LaSexta explains here (with video).

From Magnet here: ‘When the Franco regime encouraged mass emigration to the cities, it favoured property-ownership over rentals. And, until the outbreak of the crisis in 2008, the residential system in Spain has been based on rapid and widespread access to property. "Spain is a country of owners," said dozens of headlines over the years. And yes, when we compare ourselves with the rest of the developed countries, the percentage of the population that rents is notably lower in Spain, where we have historically aspired to be owners, with an amazing 76.7% of homes in 2017, according to the INE…’. But now, things are changing. The young (20 – 35 years old) are no longer buying homes it seems.

Mark Stücklin at Spanish Property Insight writes of a new variant of property interloper here: ‘Squatter types in Spain: Political pawns’. He says. ‘…I’ve written before about the different types of squatter groups in Spain to help owners understand where the threat comes from, because some groups are absolutely no threat to second-home owners, whilst others like squatter mafias make a living out of extorting them. There’s a third group of squatters to add to the list that one could call political pawns…’.

Also at Spanish Property Insight here, a suggestion that it’s a good time to buy property: ‘High inflation plus low borrowing costs makes a compelling case for property investment’.

There seems to be an item doing the rounds in the expat media which will bring (we think, unjustifiable) hope to many (of course, British) property owners and long-term visitors anxious to overstay within the Schengen Area. A typical example comes from Think Spain here: ‘Valencia regional president: “Let Brits stay here for more than 90 days”’. Meanwhile, The Daily Express returns to the fray with ‘Brexit: British expats on Costa del Sol 'selling up' as they 'don't want this restriction'’. We Brits shouldn’t be treated like other nationalities under the Schengen rules, apparently (laughs and shakes his head in disbelief). Yet the same volatile paper publishes this precisely one day later: ‘British expats surge back to Spain with huge ‘rush’ to buy second homes in popular areas’.

Tourism:

Spain’s Tourism Minister, Reyes Maroto, has predicted that foreign visitor numbers could return to pre-pandemic levels next year. Maroto made her forecast on the back of a surge in tourist figures for September. Figures from the National Statistics Office showed almost 4.7 million international visitors to Spain that month, four times the admittedly wretched figure for September 2020…’. From The Olive Press here.

From The Express here: ‘Spain holiday warning– UK tourists face at least five hurdles to jump after Brexit changes. Non-EU holidaymakers, including Britons, could be denied entry to Spain should they not meet the relevant travel criteria’. Let us know how you get on.

Finance:

From República we read that ‘According to Goldman Sachs, Spain will grow the most among the larger economies in the world in the coming years. The influential Wall Street bank expects an expansion of 6.5% in 2022 and 3.9% in 2023, above the average for both the euro area and the United States’.

On Tuesday, speaking in the Cortes, President Sánchez once again affirmed that the electricity bill will be back to the levels of 2018 by the end of this year: "It is a goal that we intend to meet", he said. El Huff Post has the story here.

Politics:

El Español has published its latest poll, with a new party, which comes from the various ‘forgotten provinces’ expected to cause an upset. España Vaciada (their webpage here) could take up to 15 seats in a new government, if elections were held now. The party clearly finds inspiration from Teruel Existe which managed to grab a seat in the last elections. Sadly, El Español has a paywall, but we can appreciate their graphic here which gives the PP and PSOE as neck and neck (101 and 100 seats), with Vox at 55 and Podemos at 34.

Pedro Sánchez claims to feel embarrassed by the opinions expressed by some of the European leaders regarding Pablo Casado says El Mundo here (with video). Speaking in the Cortes (parliament) to Pablo Casado on Wednesday, Sánchez said: "Many of the colleagues with whom you speak in the meetings prior to the European Council, then comment to me on the things you say about the Government of Spain and I am ashamed for you. Don't you know that it does immense damage not only to the reputation of Spain but also undermines the confidence of citizens in our own democratic system? (...) Do not try and harm Spain abroad. Do not leave it looking bad, just leave it; because it makes you look bad. Some of the things your colleagues in Europe say about you, well... ".

The ‘war’ between the two PP leaders is starting to hurt the party in Andalucía says ECD here – the region, to have its elections next year, doesn’t need to have choppy seas. Other regional PP presidents are saying that Casado and Ayuso need to tone it down, as the rift could damage the party. Alberto Núñez Feijóo (Galicia), Fernando López Miras (Región de Murcia), Juan Manuel Moreno (Andalucía) and Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (Castilla y León) are all increasingly concerned about the fall-out. Meanwhile, Núñez Feijóo is leading the call for Ayuso to be given the nod to take the presidency of the Madrid regional PP.

Podemos may be a brand that has passed its sell-by-date. From El Periódico de España, a new left-wing alternative appears to be brewing after a meeting in Valencia to be held this Saturday 13th November with Yolanda Díaz, Ada Colau, Mònica Oltra, Mónica García and the support of Fatima Hamed Hossain. All powerful women in left-wing politics.

Following the recent congress for the PSOE in Andalucía, Pedro Sánchez has (finally) received the full backing of the PSOE-A says El Confidencial here. ‘We shall govern both in Andalucía and in Spain, said Sánchez with satisfaction, having finally buried Susana Díaz’ (El Mundo here).

Mónica García (Más Madrid) speaking in the regional parliament to Isabel Díaz Ayuso. Spending for los toros is up by 150%, while primary care is down from 2019 by 6%. Jotapov has the report here (with video).

Why isn’t there a Green Party in Spain? The problem is that there are a number of them, all clawing votes off each other says El Independiente.

North Africa:

The King of Morocco Mohammed VI has said that his country won’t trade with any other state which doesn’t recognise the Western Sahara as belonging to Morocco. It seems that ‘Vague or ambivalent’ isn’t good enough (a bit like China and Taiwan, maybe). We are reminded by El Independiente that ‘…The former Spanish colony of Western Sahara was occupied by Morocco in the 1975 following ‘the Green March’ (wiki)…’.

Algeria says that they will continue to supply liquid gas to Spain (through the Medgas pipeline) with the condition that Spain doesn’t turn around and sell it on to Morocco. TeleMadrid video here.

Health:

The World Health Organisation has put Spain as a glowing example of how to both contain the Coronavirus as well as their vaccination program. They would like to offer the Spanish response to other countries, says an article at elDiario.es here. Spain meanwhile is donating vaccines to third countries – The Olive Press says ‘50 million doses will have been distributed abroad by March next year’ – as well as a further two million to ‘humanitarian causes’ (read: refugees).

Health centres and public hospitals often don’t have anyone around to help interpret. Sometimes the doctor has spent time abroad and speaks a second language, and then there are often some people available ready to help translate (for a fee). It’s the case that one’s Spanish might be good, yet one doesn’t know the names of the different parts of the body or obscure medical terms. The Andalusian health authority, the SAS, has a free translation service (in 37 languages!) using your mobile phone. Call them here and pass the phone to your doctor. No doubt other regions offer a similar service.

Reader Jake sends me this: ‘Mapfre: health care in Spain for foreigners’. It says ‘The main objective of the recent law launched by the Government is to guarantee universal public and free health care so that anyone who resides in Spain, whether national or foreign, can go to a hospital in case of suffering any problem of health. In this way, all immigrants are on an equal footing with Spaniards, whether they have a legal residence permit or not…’ (There are a couple of caveats).

Courts:

The Gürtel case staggers onwards. So far, between deaths from natural causes, accidents and suicides, a fruitful number of accused politicians and others have gone to face another Higher Court. Ara says twelve and calls it ‘The Gürtel Curse’ (the site has a paywall), while other news-sites put the number of unforeseen absences in front of the Court at fourteen (here and here).

The Government has agreed with the CGAE that the judicial apparatus in Spain should be closed down during the entire Christmas to Three Kings (24 Dec to 6 Jan) holiday period.

Media:

The PP has a scheme whereby anonymity on the Internet would be banned. The idea is that one would need to join a social network with one’s ID card to stop fake identities. It would cut down on cyber-violence, at least…


Will the electricity go down in a massive black-out that will last for weeks? La gran apagón is of much concern to the right-wing media. La Razón tells us that ‘to be prepared could save you or your family’s life’.  El Mundo says that many people are preparing, buying torches, radios and other useful stuff. (Me: buy a sweater!). elDiario.es says that experts and the energy companies themselves agree that it will never happen: ‘it’s impossible’. LaSexta is equally pragmatic, here.

Following on from above, elDiario.es has a go at the bulos, fake news and conspiracies of the flat-earthers here. Twitter is a good place to find them, echoing crafted inventions from (in particular) the two Vox-supporting writers Luis del Pino and Alvise Pérez. It’s odd how the far-right will preach any fabrication or calamity as long as it suits their purpose, but won’t accept the threat of Climate Change.

The new European copyright (or censorship) laws aimed at social media are explained by Maldita here. In short, an algorithm will decide what we can upload, and we may find ourselves at odds with a robot. Here’s a video on the subject: ‘La Ley Iceta y la censura en internet: por qué va a cambiar internet tal y como la conocemos’ on YouTube. As someone notes: ‘If your company isn’t based in Spain, then you won’t be affected by any censorship issues’ (like Reddit for example). Meneame – Spain’s chief aggregator – was talking about moving its headquarters abroad a few years back when this issue first came up.

Ecology:

From El País in English here: ‘Drought and illegal wells: Why Spain’s Doñana National Park is drying up. The lack of rainfall and human activity are threatening this biosphere reserve in Cádiz, which has gone from having 2,867 temporary lagoons in 2004 to just two’.


Macro pig-farms in Spain account for 45% of all methane gas – 96,000 tons – emitted from pigs says elDiario.es here. There are 2,441 pig-farms with over 2,000 pigs apiece raised for meat, and a further 861 breeder farms with over 750 sows. An interactive map shows the farms near you (together with their 2019 methane and ammonia levels). We also learn that ‘Only 0.4% of pigs in Galicia ever glimpse the light of day’.

Various:

From the EFE news agency here: Crime across Spain is down to a record low, but the number of reported rapes has risen. However, ECD says here that violent crime is on the increase.

Spain has pinched more than a few English words over the years. La Razón supplies the ten most popular ones here, as recorded (and accepted) by the Real Academia Española. Not to be outdone, BBC News brings us some of the most obscure (and deformed) inglesismos used in the Hispanic world.

While Spain’s wealthiest 100 people saw their fortunes increase during the pandemic by 20%, the rest of us didn’t do so well says a gloomy article from Nortes here. Amancio Ortega, for example, is up by 10,000 million euros says the article, quoting Forbes. Spain’s second wealthiest person, his daughter Sandra, allegedly increased her own portfolio by 700 million in the past year.

El Mundo reports that the Government has now decided that all motorways will become toll-roads from 2024. A useful map is provided.  The probable rate will be a céntimo per kilometre. The paper does its best to make this sound expensive.

Mapfre, an insurance company, has put together in pdf here (in English) ‘A Guide for Foreign Nationals in Spain’.

Those who stand around outside abortion clinics to hassle the women who are going inside will soon be breaking the law, but not everyone thinks that they should be punished.

elDiario.es has an interview here with Antumi Toasijé, the president of the Council Against Racial Discrimination.

The name 'California' is a literary invention of a 16th century writer, born in Medina del Campo (Valladolid) called Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo and in his chivalric novel ‘Las Sergas de Esplandián’ (wiki) he invented a magical territory: the island of California. The name was imposed on that area in 1533 by order of Hernán Cortés, who loved the book and was under the impression that it was indeed an island. See YouTube here for the tale.

Norsemen began their raids on Spain in the ninth century. From Visit Andalucía (sic!) here: ‘The Viking Raids in Andalucía after 844 AD’.

Lenox counts his steps here.

Guy Hedgecoe on Reggaeton here.

See Spain:

Radio Liberty broadcast pro-Western propaganda to the Soviet Union (and later Russia) between 1959 and 2001 (wiki). It was headquartered in a building outside the picturesque village of Pals, Gerona and had 250 employees. It’s now just a ruin but it receives tours organised locally. La Vanguardia has more here. Pals itself is a medieval village worth a visit, says Spain-Holiday here (the site understandably doesn’t bother with mentioning the old and vandalised radio station).

The CNN has chosen its fifteen most beautiful towns and villages in Europe says the ABC, and it includes the little-known town of Regencós (Gerona) with a population of just 300 (Wiki). It stands out ‘for its architecture, culture and tranquillity’.

La España Vaciada – the large part of Spain where there are few people and fewer services – is portrayed in an article from Geográfia Infinita (with a map and photographs) here.

Finally:

Obús is one of Spain’s best-known ‘heavy metal bands’. They are from Vallecas and they’ve been around for forty years. Meet them here at El Confidencial. Here they perform No me lo digas más (2019) on YouTube.