Costa del Sol News - 2nd July 2010

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Rich get richer - 12.5 per cent more millionaires in 2009

Spain comes in 12th place for number of super-wealthy

By Oliver McIntyre

THE effects of the economic crisis are clearly not being felt equally by all. The number of millionaires in Spain jumped by 12.5 per cent in 2009, and the increase worldwide was even greater, at 17 per cent, according to a report last week by Merrill Lynch & Co. and Capgemini SA. 

The number of millionaire households is Spain - those with at least $1 million in investible assets, excluding primary residences - rose to 143,000 last year, from 127,000 in 2008.

The increase in Spain was similar to the average across Europe but was double the rise seen in Germany and also greater than that experienced in Italy and France, according to the head of Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management for Spain and Portugal, Lucía Granda. 

There were a total of 10 million millionaires worldwide in 2009 - up from 8.6 million a year ago - and their combined wealth was up 19 per cent to $39 trillion after falling more than 19 per cent in 2008 following the credit crisis.

The gains were driven by market recovery and government stimulus measures, the report said.

Spain retains is spot at number 12 among the countries with the greatest number of millionaires.

La Línea residents angry at state of local beaches

The EU Blue Flag office has promised an investigation

By David Eade

THE Asociación de Vecinos de La Velada has reacted angrily to the state of La Línea's beaches, from Santa Bárbara to the Burgos tourist centre. They said last week it was impossible to go on to the Levante beach to swim because of the stink of sewage and the waste that was floating in the sea along the entire length of the beach. This led to protests in the town.

La Línea currently flies two EU Blue Flags over its beaches. These are a European sign of environmental excellence and are much coveted by each nation in the EU. However it has been revealed in recent days that La Línea's beaches are not to Blue Flag standard - they are third world.

J J Uceda who speaks for the Asociación de Vecinos de La Velada has formally complained to the Foundation for Environmental Education in Denmark that controls the awarding of the Blue Flags.

In response Joan Arildslund of the International Blue Flag office has promised that its Spanish office will investigate the resident's complaints.

So what will they find on La Línea's beaches. In his report J J Uceda says: "One of the beaches, a bit out of the centre of town but extremely crowded in summer and without enough parking facilities, is normally used by people who make use of portable barbecues for sardines and other food.

People also camp alongside the beach and when they finish they make holes in the sand and dump all their used barbecue charcoal and ash.

Mijas Pueblo lures nighttime tourists

The goal is to promote local businesses

By Oliver McIntyre

FOLLOWING last year's success, Mijas is once again launching its summer-nights scheme aimed at attracting tourists to the Pueblo after dark. Known as Vive Mijas de Noche, the programme includes a tapas route and an outdoor artisan market, plus a variety of entertainment.

The goal is to "promote and support the bars and restaurants of Mijas Pueblo," and to provide "tourists as well as local residents a chance to enjoy summer nights to the fullest," according to the town hall. "The evening and night-time hours were practically the only time frame that had not been tapped tourism-wise," said Fuensanta Lima, the councillor for tourism.

The Ruta de la Tapa - which was enjoyed by some 5,000 people last summer - will take place each Tuesday and Thursday during the months of July and August, with participating establishments offering a drink and tapa for 1.50 euros. Customers will be given a punch-card known as a 'tapaporte' (tapas passport), and when it has been stamped by all 12 establishments they will receive a gift as well as be entered into a 'grand finale' draw at the end of summer.

The outdoor artisan market will also be held on Tuesday and Thursday nights, starting at 9pm. It will include 24 stands in Plaza Virgen de la Peña and free music and dance performances, plus children's activities.

The summer-nights programme officially kicks of this Friday, July 2, with an inaugural festival starting at 10pm in Plaza Virgen de la Peña, where the 12 bars and restaurants participating in this year's tapas route will offer an array of their tasty bites and the artisan market will get underway.


IVA rises in Spain today and VAT in the UK in January

By James Parkes and Suzan Davenport

THE INCREASE in IVA (VAT) tax in Spain comes into effect today (July 1) and while many establishments are still deciding whether they'll absorb the rise or if the customer will pay the price, back in Britain people are dreading the even greater rise in VAT tax announced for January 1.

From today, standard rate IVA, which affects most products, services and supplies such as clothes, household goods, tobacco, alcohol and cars, rises from 16 to 18 per cent.

The cost of buying a new-build house, services in restaurants and bars, public transport, live entertainment, hairdressers and dentists goes from 7 to 8%, while the super-reduced rate applied to basic need products (bread, milk, etc) stays at 4%.

Each business or company now has to decide whether or not they will pass on the extra IVA to their customers.

Carrefour Spain has stated it will not increase the price in the majority of products, 'but on certain items the margin is so narrow that lowering the price means operating at a loss'.

Inditex, owners of top high street fashion stores Zara, Pull & Bear, Bershka, Massimo Dutti and others, has said it will not pass on the IVA increase to its customers.

Market experts estimate a rise of around 1% on the cost of the average shopping trolley with low-cost stores - those with an insufficient margin to lower their prices - having to pass on the IVA increase to their customers.

In any case, whether businesses pass on the cost of the hike to consumers or not, the Spanish government calculates that the new IVA will bring in 5,150 million euros each year.

In the last few months, since the hike was announced, some consumers have bought properties, cars and products ahead of today's rise to avoid paying the extra 2%.

However there have been voices warning about possible cases where the new IVA might be applied to services consumed before today - according to an article published in the Spanish daily El Pais yesterday - such as telephone calls where the IVA applied could be that in effect when the invoice is made out. So calls made in June could be charged at 18% IVA when the invoice is made out at the beginning of July.

Air control absentees 'abnormally high'

Airport operator Aena says that the situation makes meeting air traffic regulations difficult

By Dave Jamieson

Málaga airport's air traffic control tower

ABSENTEEISM amongst air traffic controllers in Málaga is one of the highest in the country. This week's news follows a formal complaint that some employees are being scheduled to work 17 hour shifts.

Figures for May issued by airports operator Aena show that controllers at Málaga airport had a 17 per cent absenteeism record during the month.

This was equal to the figure at Madrid's Barajas airport and was beaten only by the employees at Alicante airport who recorded 24 per cent absenteeism. Aena described the levels as "abnormally high," adding that Social Security inspectors are investigating every one of the recorded absences. The operator said that the situation makes meeting air traffic regulations difficult, which results in delays and inconvenience for passengers.

Aena claimed that the rise in absenteeism was a protest against the recent changes in working conditions, an accusation which was immediately rejected by the controllers' trades union. A spokesman for USCA said there was a "direct relation" between high absenteeism and conditions which include being rostered on shifts for 30 consecutive days.

Meanwhile, an air traffic controller at Málaga last week denounced Aena to the province's Works Inspector citing "abusive working hours." The author of the denuncia says that the working hours being demanded are contrary to agreed guidelines and constitute a serious health risk.´

Struggling retailers hopeful as summer sales launch

Fecoma predicts revenues will be up five per cent from last year

By Oliver McIntyre

COSTA retailers, still reeling from the economic crisis, are cautiously optimistic that the summer sales season - which officially launches today - will boost revenues, with stronger performance than the last year's summer sales.

The Málaga Business Federation (Fecoma) says it predicts revenues will be four to five per cent higher than in last summer's sales season, when the province's small retailers brought in 88 million euros.  The federation expects shoppers to spend an average of around 90 euros each at the sales, up five euros from last summer.

Fecoma says it expects the improvement not only because of an increased number of visitors compared to last summer but also because the cooler weather this spring has meant fewer people have already purchased summer clothes. 

However, another group, the Independent Federation of Users and Consumers (FUCI), is more pessimistic about the sales season.  As Madrid last week launched its summer sales early (the Málaga sales run from July 1 to August 30), FUCI said Madrileños would spend 28.5 per cent less this year compared to last, at 75 euros each.  And according to its survey, the Madrid shoppers are the highest spenders in the country, in contrast with low-end Extremadura, at under 60 euros per person, while Andalucía fell somewhere in between.

Clothes first

As in sales seasons past, the first items shoppers are expected to rush for are clothes, shoes and accessories, with the bulk of sales expected during the first 15 days of the ‘rebajas'.  For home electronics and furnishings the push comes later as many people wait for the biggest markdowns at the end of the season.

Cats saved from certain death

Animal rescue charity Adana has liased with Estepona town hall to help the felines

By David Eade

WILL THEY live or will they be put down? That is the question which has been raging over the future of around thirty cats who live on the Alcazaba Beach urbanisation in Estepona.

The felines are to be found in the gardens and are healthy and well fed. According to the vet for Amigos de los Animales, Nicolás Fernández, they are sterilised, vaccinated, have no parasites, form a stable community and are no danger to the public health.

Unfortunately a number of families on the urbanisation say the cats are a nuisance and food is left for them in public places. They have complained through their president to Estepona town hall which has stepped in to remove the cats as it insists is its statutory duty. This has led to fears that when the cats are removed they will be destroyed.

Enter Adana

Rafaela, a woman who feeds some 300 cats in the Marbella area, contacted Nanette Roberts and Marjorie at Adana - the Estepona animal rescue association  to see if they could help.

Top TV soccer under threat

Broadcaster Medipro blames its bankruptcy on competitor Sogecable

By Dave Jamieson

THE company which holds broadcasting rights to Spain's top soccer matches last week requested insolvency protection, so putting television coverage of some matches under potential threat.  Mediaproduccion SL, part of Mediapro, said the action had been taken following another media group's failure to meet its contracted payments.

In a statement last Wednesday, the company blamed Sogecable, the country's leading pay-TV company, for "noncompliance" and said the action it had taken was "purely a result of Sogecable's decision to not assume their payment obligations."  It added that the move had been taken "out of a basic sense of prudence."

Three months ago, a Madrid court ordered Mediapro to pay 105 million euros to Audiovisual Sport, which is 80 per cent owned by Sogecable, in a dispute over a contract violation dating from 2006.  However, Mediapro says it was unable to pay because Sogecable failed to meet a June 15 deadline to pay 90 million euros which it was owed for match coverage of the first half of the 2010-2011 soccer season on its Canal Plus or Canal Plus Liga channels.

Sogecable, which runs the Digital Plus satellite system and the Canal Plus pay channels, immediately said it intended to fulfil its side of the contract signed with Mediapro in June 2009. In a statement, it stressed that "all subscribers to Canal Plus and Canal Plus Liga are guaranteed the broadcast of next season's Premier and Second division league matches." 

Mediapro, which controls the free-to-air channel La Sexta and the digital channel Gol-TV, opened a bitter war with Sogecable four years ago by snatching the rights to screen Real Madrid and Barcelona games.  The seven-season deals were worth a total of 2.1 billion euros. 

Auto industry faces abyss with end of Plan 2000E

Sector says car sales will plunge by 20 to 30 per cent as ‘cash for scrap' subsidies dry up

By Oliver McIntrye

SPAIN'S automobile industry fears plummeting sales in coming months after the government has refused to extend the Plan 2000E ‘cash for scrap' subsidy scheme for car buyers.

With Plan 2000E winding down and the IVA (VAT equivalent) tax increase set for July 1, the sector says it expects a 20 to 30 per cent drop in sales during the second half of 2010 compared with the first six months of the year. 

Plan 2000E - under which car buyers get a subsidy of 2,000 euros to scrap their old vehicle and replace it with a new, lower-polluting model - was launched in May of last year after the recession-struck auto industry posted drops of up to 35 per cent in sales.

The scheme injected life-blood into the sector, with year-on-year sales increases of 35 per cent in the final months of 2009, climbing to a spectacular 56 per cent in March 2010.