Friday, 30 December 2011


Spain's new conservative government has outlined 8.9bn euros ($11.5bn, £7.5bn) in new spending cuts and tax rises to lower the country's borrowing. The announcement is the first in a wave of austerity measures, with a total of 16.5bn euros to be cut in 2012. It also said Spain's 2011 deficit will be about 8% of its output - higher than the 6% seen by the previous government. The Popular Party last month ousted the Socialists from power at elections amid deep economic gloom. The government of new Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to meet Spain's target of reducing the public deficit to 4.4% of gross domestic product in 2012, no matter what. On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria maintained a freeze on public sector wages for another year and ruled out practically all government hiring. "This is the beginning of the beginning," Ms Saenz de Santamaria said. "We are facing an extraordinary, unexpected situation, which will force us to take extraordinary and unexpected measures." Taxes on the wealthiest Spaniards will also be raised for at least two years, raising 6bn euros, she said. Spain's borrowing costs have jumped in the last year - reaching as high as 6.7% for 10-year debts - as investors feared that Spain might join Greece, the Irish Republic and Portugal in needing a bailout. The country's economy has shrunk sharply since a housing bubble burst in 2008, and it has an unemployment rate of 21%, the highest in Europe. The austerity measures have sparked a number of large protests across the country.

Thursday, 29 December 2011


Snakes on a plane (almost) in Argentina Authorities in Argentina caught a man trying to board a plane with almost 250 poisonous snakes and endangered reptiles.


Spanish airline Iberia canceled more than a third of its flights Thursday due to a strike by pilots fearing job losses when company planes are diverted for use by Iberia’s planned new budget carrier. Iberia said it scrapped 118 domestic and international flights but found seats on other Iberia flights or with other carriers for all the 10,000 travelers affected by the one-day strike. 0 Comments Weigh InCorrections? inShare It was the second such holiday-season walkout by the pilots. The first was on Dec. 18. Iberia, Lineas Aereas de Espana, S.A., plans to divert jetliners from money-losing domestic and medium-haul European routes for Iberia Express, which it hopes to launch early next year using lower-earning, newly hired pilots and flight attendants. The company says its plans are for this carrier to have 40 planes in 2015. Pilots union SEPLA threatened on Wednesday to stage more strikes over the creation of Iberia Express, fearing job losses among existing staff with the creation of the unit, designed to compete with budget airlines.


A judge subpoenaed the son-in-law of Spain's King Juan Carlos on Thursday to testify as a suspect in a corruption case, deepening a public relations nightmare for the royal family at a time of acute economic crisis for everyday people. The case surrounding Inaki Urdangarin, husband of the king's daughter Cristina, has been front-page news for weeks. But it went a big step further Thursday when Judge Jose Castro on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca named Urdangarin as a formal suspect in a criminal probe. The Balearic Islands Superior Court of Justice said in a statement that Urdangarin has been called to testify Feb. 6 in Palma, the capital of the archipelago. The one-page document did not mention allegations. But Spanish media say Urdangarin, 43, is suspected of siphoning money from public contracts awarded from 2004 to 2006 to a nonprofit foundation he then headed. He has not been charged with a crime. An official at the Royal Palace declined comment Thursday other than to say it "respects the decisions of judges." Spain has nearly 22 percent unemployment, a stagnant economy, mountains of debt and many other woes, so alleged shady business dealings by a member of the royal family look terrible for the Spanish monarchy. On Dec. 12 the Royal Palace shocked the country by announcing Urdangarin would for the time being stop taking part in official ceremonies involving the royal family. And in an unprecedented show of transparency, the palace this week made public the details of the stipend the royal family receives from the national budget. It said, for instance, that King Juan Carlos earns euro292,552 ($382,597) a year in salary and expenses and his son, Crown Prince Felipe, roughly half that amount. In his yearly Christmas Eve speech, the king expressed concern over what he described as the declining confidence among Spaniards in public institutions, a remark seen as a reference to the scandal surrounding his son-in-law, a commoner who used to be a professional handball player. Judge Castro's order Thursday made public an until-now sealed case file that the newspaper El Pais said contains 2,700 pages. Spanish newspapers have quoted investigators as saying Urdangarin is suspected, among other things, of having taken some of about euro6 million ($8 million) his nonprofit foundation received from the regional governments in Valencia and the Balearic Islands for organizing events such as sports seminars and diverting it to for-profit companies Urdangarin ran. The case is part of a broader, long-running corruption probe involving the regional government in the Balearic Islands. Since 2009 Urdangarin, the princess and their four children have lived in Washington, D.C., where Urdangarin works for the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, S.A. King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia have three children. Crown Prince Felipe is the youngest, Princess Cristina is the middle child and the eldest is Princess Elena.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

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Ice Skating in Marbella

From December 15th to January 9th next year the Marbella ice skating rink is open to the public at the Palacio de Ferias y Congresos. The 800 sqm ice skating rink also includes a Christmas market, bouncy castle, trampolines, carousel and children's attractions. There is a cafeteria and free parking.

*Normal opening hours are from 12:00 noon until 11:00pm (see below). Entrance is free but there is a charge of €6 to ice skate for 45 minutes which includes the rental of the skates. It is necessary to wear gloves while ice skating so remember to bring some along or you will be charged €2 to rent a pair. The attractions and rides cost €2.50.

*During the Christmas holidays there are special opening hours:
December 24th: 12.00 - 19.00
December 25th: 16.00 - 23.00
December 31st: 12.00 - 19.00
January 1st: 2012: 16.00 - 23.00
January 5th: 12.00 - 19.00
January 6th: 12.00 - 23.00

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Eighteen thousand homes were built illegally by developers during the boom years up to 2006 and thousands of people bought them in good faith. The Marbella administration has sought to resolve the issue by fining the developers and devising a plan that effectively legalises 17,500 homes. Where developers cannot be found, homeowners pay the fine.

Until now, the Andalucia regional council, within whose jurisdiction Marbella lies, had opposed the town council’s policy of legalising illegally built homes. However, the Andalucian authorities have announced they will issue a decree before the end of December agreeing to allow illegally built homes to remain standing.

However, Marbella and Andalucia agree that 500 homes remain illegal because they break multiple laws. The courts want them demolished, but Marbella’s town council is reluctant to destroy them.

“The politicians don’t want to be seen putting people out of their homes,” says Campbell Ferguson, director of Survey Spain Network of Chartered Surveyors. He advises buyers to consult a lawyer before putting in an offer on a property to find out whether it was licensed or has any fines attached to it.

Laurent Coulée, sales director at Fine & Country estate agents, says; “While nothing was built for the last five years, in the last few months we have seen some villas being constructed.”

Marbella map

Sierra Blanca Estates is building 36 apartments at its Reserva de Sierra Blanca scheme in the north of the town. Prices start at €1.15m for the three-bedroom apartments which are scheduled for completion in 2013. Half have been sold off-plan, with Russians the biggest buyers. Coulée says developers are gaining confidence from five infrastructure projects, three of which are under way.

First, the San Pedro Bypass, which is scheduled for completion in early 2012, will divert traffic from Marbella city centre, relieving congestion during busy summer months. Second, Marbella’s beach promenade, the Paseo Maritimo, is undergoing €10m of upgrades and extensions. Third, Malaga Airport, where a third terminal opened in March 2010, is scheduled to have a second runway completed in the first three months of 2012.

Other infrastructure schemes include the redevelopment of Marbella’s La Bajadilla marina and fishing port. Qatari developer Nasir Bin Abdullah & Sons wants to build a €400m marina with 858 moorings, including six for super-yachts, and a 200-metre pier for cruise liners. It will build shops, bars, restaurants and a five-star hotel to line the quayside and at least four blocks of apartments, by 2015. The town hall is an enthusiastic supporter of this project because it believes it will help Marbella compete with rival tourist destinations, the Côte d’Azur and Sardinia.

Also in the pipeline is a plan to extend Malaga’s commuter railway from Malaga Airport to Marbella, giving visitors and residents an alternative to travelling by road.

Assuming all five schemes are completed, Coulée says their effect on the town’s property market will be transformative. The transport schemes would make it easier for holiday homeowners to access Marbella, while the new marina would draw tourists, providing opportunities to rent out properties, he says.

Despite renewed demand, Marbella remains a buyers’ market. In prime areas, such as the city centre and along the Golden Mile, a stretch of dual carriageway lined by hotels, luxury homes and businesses, property prices need to be 40 per cent below 2006 valuations to make them saleable, says Barbara Wood of buying agency The Property Finders. If the market continues to follow the pattern of previous downturns, prices will flatline in 2012 and 2013 before rising in 2014, she forecasts.

Kristina Szekely, owner of Kristina Szekely Sotheby’s International Realty, says the eurozone crisis, coupled with Spain’s economic and debt problems, is having a negative effect on the Marbella market, but that some buyers are taking advantage of this to buy properties at relatively low prices.

Coulée says Swiss and Scandinavians are buying Marbella homes to take advantage of the fall in value of the euro relative to their national currencies. Other buyers come from Spain, Britain, Russia, Qatar and Dubai, and tend to be cash buyers who do not need a mortgage.

La Casa Loriana

La Casa Loriana is on the market for €50m

Buyers have some interesting properties to choose from. Fine & Country is marketing what it says is Spain’s most expensive home, the €50m La Casa Loriana which overlooks the Marbella beach and promenade. The main house, guest house, beach house and staff villa provide 4,000 sq m of accommodation, including 10 bedroom suites. Features include two swimming pools, a cinema and sweeping driveway.

Marbella’s developers and estate agents are celebrating the Popular party’s general election success in November because they believe the conservatives will support the town’s infrastructural improvements and that they may extend the previous Socialist administration’s temporary VAT cut on newly built homes. Whether that will keep housebuilders at work while the eurozone debt crisis takes its toll on Spain’s economy remains to be seen.


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