January News Round up

Price of new homes in Catalunya fall dramatically in 2009
NEW home prices fell by a whopping 6.3 per cent last year in Catalunya, says Spain’s Society of Valuers.
Although the average fall in the cost of new builds across the country was 5.7 per cent, Catalunya registered the second-highest decrease in home values.
The region was only beaten by Madrid, where brand-new houses and flats dropped in price by 7.7 per cent.
According to the society, the average price per square metre of property for a city-centre home is 2,558 euros.
For Barcelona, this rises to 3,965 euros, but the other provincial capitals are showing below-average home-prices.
A property in Girona measuring 100 square metres would cost, on average, 253,310 euros, and one of the same size in Tarragona would be valued at aruond 221,300 euros.
In Lleida, this falls to 169,800 euros for a 100-square-metre property.
The Society of Valuers says prices will continue to fall throughout 2010, but at a much slower rate.
And although home values are much lower than two years ago and mortgage interest rates at an all-time low, few people are in a position to buy due to unemployment or job insecurity, and banks’ reticence about offering credit.
Cocaine found in bananas on sale in Lidl
A HAUL of cocaine was found in a consignment of bananas on sale in Lidl in three cities in Spain last week.
National Police say 100 kilos of the drug was discovered when a member of staff at the German supermarket emptied a crate of bananas onto the fruit counter.
Managers of the store, in Madrid, called the police immediately.
Various ‘bricks’ of cocaine were found among the bananas, and further investigations in stores in Cáceres and Plasencia revealed identical finds.
Police have visited all Lidl supermarkets, but are continuing to investigate the source of the cocaine and where it was intended to be shipped to.
But they have stressed that the Lidl chain has no connection whatsoever with the drugs found, and believe a trafficking organisation may have slipped their illicit goods into the wrong consignments of fruit.
Nude protestors call for an end to animal abuse in circuses
NAKED protestors in body makeup led a demonstration on Sunday outside Valencia’s bullring against ill-treatment of animals in circuses.
Three of the 12 or so demonstrators painted themselves as an elephant, tiger and lion, wearing no more than their underpants.
They want the city council to ban all shows that use living creatures.
Head of Valencia pressure group AnimaNaturalis, Elisa Arteaga, explained that 25 towns and cities across Spain have already forbidden the use of live animals in circuses, and that they want to see Valencia follow suit.
Arteaga explains that the group is not against circuses in themselves, because ‘they create jobs’, but suggests that organisers ‘substitute humans for animals’.
She criticised the ‘physical and psychological mistreatment’ that she says ‘is more than evident’ among circus animals.
Due to living in captivity – often in cages so small they are unable to move – animals develop symptoms similar to humans with an OCD, that of repetitive actions.
Animals kept in such conditions even self-harm, claims Arteaga.
The pressure-group leader says circus animals are put through ‘tough training regimes’.
AnimaNaturalis is encouraging people to boycott circuses that use animals, saying that taking children to such events teaches them not to respect living creatures.
Smoking ban could lead to job losses in bars and restaurants
BAR and restaurant owners all over Spain are up in arms over plans to ban smoking in all public areas by the end of 2010.
They complain that they have invested thousands in creating smoking areas to comply with the new law that took effect on January 1, 2006, and that they have now ‘thrown this money down the drain’.
Many owners of cafés and eateries say customers will no longer go out for a drink and a snack if it means they have to stand on the pavement and smoke, which will result in a loss of profits for the premises.
“This is hardly the time to do it,” commented a spokesman for the Hostelry Federation in Valencia.
“We’re in a recession, and a law that could make us lose customers does not exactly help.”
Warning that loss of business will also mean more bar and restaurant staff on the dole, members of the catering sector say they have not ruled out putting pressure on the government in the form of petitions and protest marches if necessary.
They also slam the fact that the hostelry sector appears to be the most-targeted in the government’s campaign to cut numbers of smokers in Spain.
But they also say they are perplexed by the dichotomy of the government now permitting newsagents to sell cigarettes, which they were banned from doing at the beginning of 2006.
“If they want to reduce tobacco consumption, the best way to do it is to make it difficult to buy,” say catering industry bosses.
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Christmas road crashes leave 49 dead
A TOTAL of 49 people have been killed on the roads during the Christmas and New Year period, reports the Dirección General de Tráfico.
Up to Thursday, January 7, a whopping 15 million cars were on Spain’s roads, with people going away for the holidays or travelling across the country to see friends or family.
The first fatal accident happened at 15.00hrs on December 22, and a further 42 death crashes occurred between then and midnight on Sunday, January 3.
As a result, 49 people were killed, 17 seriously injured and 34 suffered minor wounds.
New homes fall in price by 5.7 per cent
PRICES of new homes fell by an average 5.7 per cent over the course of 2009, with the Comunidad Valenciana seeing some of the greatest reductions.
The Society of Valuers revealed on Monday that the highest falls in property values were in the capital, at 7.7 per cent, followed by Catalunya at 6.3 per cent.
And new builds on the Costa Blanca, Costa Azahar and in the province of Valencia fell in price by 5.5 per cent.
Smaller reductions – of between 2.1 and 2.8 per cent – were seen in Asturias, the Balearics and the Canary Islands.
The Society believes that 2010 will see house prices continue to fall, although at a more moderate rate.
In city centres, where property is sought-after but thin on the ground, some homes may actually go up in price, says the society.
Inflation is expected to be under two per cent this year, due to the fall in consumer purchases, and mortgage interest rates will remain low.
Yet in spite of low mortgage rates, with a high level of unemployment and job insecurity, and difficulties in obtaining credit, properties continue to take a long while to sell as vendors are forced to reduce their asking price in order to shift them.
Camps’ year-end speech calls for more funds for region
REGIONAL president Francisco Camps’ end-of-year speech proclaimed that the Comunidad Valenciana is ‘poorly financed’ by the central government.
He made a plea to the region’s five million inhabitants to ‘continue to claim with strength and conviction the money that is due to them’.
Pronouncing his New Year speech from the regional house of parliament in Valencia, Camps called for the central government to provide funding for health, education, care for the sick and elderly, justice and wellbeing.
He believes that other regions receive more money for public services and that the Comunidad Valenciana has a raw deal in financial terms.
“We have to continue to call for the money that corresponds to us to finance all that makes our region one of prosperity, wellbeing and opportunities,” Camps announced.
“We make as much effort as any other Spanish region, and yet we don’t have the funds that are due to us.”
The regional president underlined the importance this year of Spain’s working together more closely with the European Union, and seemed convinced that the Comunidad Valenciana ‘can manage to put in place an economy that, during the past ten years, has shown symptoms of strength and prosperity, doubling the number of jobs available, and has managed to become so attractive that a million more people live here than a decade ago’.
The regional government intends to invest 1,400 million euros in creating employment this year ‘in order to start a new decade with ambition and hope’.
Interest rate rise in December
INTEREST rates across the Eurozone rose slightly in December, bucking the 14-month trend of falling figures seen as a result of the recession.
The Euribor – the rate that affects mortgages and savings in all countries that use the euro – stood at 1.242 per cent at the end of December, having risen from November’s 1.23 per cent.
Despite this small rise, however, the Euribor continues to show some of the lowest rates in history.
At the end of 2008, it stood at 3.45 per cent, and at the end of 2007 it was over 5.4 per cent.
It means that in the space of a year, homeowners with a variable rate mortgage are now saving around 120 euros a month.
With an average mortgage of 120,000 euros over a 25-year term, homeowners pay in region of 510 euros a month – compared to the 630 euros they would have been paying exactly one year ago.
But economists say interest rates are likely to rise in the second half of 2010, based upon indications from the Central European Bank (BCE).
Rare green turtle rescued
A RARE species of turtle was rescued off the El Trabucador beach in the Ebro delta in Tarragona just before Christmas.
The Foundation for the Conservation and Rescue of Marine Animals (CRAM) found the Chelonia mydas – commonly known as the ‘green turtle’ caught up in the water just off the shore.
They call this discovery ‘extraordinary’, given that this species needs waters of at least 18 degrees Celsius in order to survive.
One of three species of turtle living in the Mediterranean, there are said to be between 200 and 300 in the area.
The foundation has been rescuing endangered sea animals since 1991, but this is only the second time it has found a green turtle, and only the first time one of these was discovered still alive.
Tarragona for capital, say residents
AROUND 2,000 people joined a demonstration to push for Tarragona to be considered regional capital.
They wore red handkerchiefs round their necks bearing the slogan ‘Capital T’.
Additionally, they want their county to be renamed ‘Tarragona’, instead of ‘Camp de Tarragona’ as it is currently known.
Mayor Josep Fèlix Ballesteros read out a manifesto at the end of the demonstration giving reasons why he felt Tarragona should be regional capital, including its historic past, its trade and logistics, and its university.
Even the famous dancer and choreographer Arantxa Sagardoy joined the demonstration, which ended with a concert and performances by children from four of the schools in the city.
Motorway tolls rise in price
TOLL fees on the motorways in Catalunya have gone up by 0.69 per cent for cars and motorbikes this year, and 0.5 per cent for lorries.
The Ministry of Territorial Politics and Public Works says this represents around 90 to 97 per cent of current inflation figures.
They say toll rates were set to rise steadily between 2005 and 2013.
In practice, this equates to just under seven cents extra per euro of tolls due.
Average state pension is 784 euros
THE average state pension for Catalunya currently sits at 784.33 euros, representing an increase of 4.7 per cent in the past year.
It remains lower than the national average of 861 euros a month for retirees in Spain, and 760 euros for all types of pension across the board.
Disability and sick pensions, widows’ and widowers’ pensions, orphans’ pensions and retirement funds are included in this figure.
The monthly pension for retirees tends to be higher than for the other groups.
Overall, pensions have risen across the country by 4.8 per cent this year.
State budget deficit increases fivefold in a year
THE state’s deficit at the end of the year totalled 71,524 million euros – representing 6.79 per cent of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP).
At the same time last year, the state’s budget deficit was 13,967 million euros, meaning it has multiplied by five in just 12 months.
Secretary of State for the Economy, Carlos Ocaña, says the government is investigating where the money went and how to claw it back.
Newsagents can sell cigarettes again
NEWSAGENTS and press kiosks will be able to sell cigarettes again this year, after being banned from doing so in January 2006.
At the time, numerous establishments were up in arms about the ban on selling tobacco produce, since they estimated that it accounted for 90 per cent of their takings.
Thousands went out of business altogether as a result.
“This change in the law has put an end to four years of unjust discrimination,” commented the Association of Press Vendors.
In June last year, thousands of newsagent and press kiosk owners sent letters and petitions to the central government calling for a change in the law allowing them to sell cigarettes again.
Tortosa goes the extra ‘green’ mile
TORTOSA’S ‘green mile’ will be extended this year, MP for Tarragona Teresa Pallarès has announced.
Starting at the railway bridge, works will commence to increase the length of the so-called ‘green way’, a cycle path that will soon run along the banks of the river as far as the Mil·lenari bridge.
It earned this name because of the environmentally-friendly nature of cycling instead of taking the car.
Additionally, the State has agreed to put up 300,000 euros to enable Tortosa to restore the towers of its cathedral.
Drug laboratories uncovered and dealers arrested
SIX people have been arrested in Amposta on suspicion of drug-trafficking.
The Mossos d’Esquadra – Catalunya’s answer to the Guardia Civil – dismantled six dealing points in the Sant Cristòbal district of the town last week.
They also seized 160 wraps of cocaine and more than 250 grams of the substance in rock format.
The street value of these would have run into thousands of euros, say officers.
During raids on six houses in Amposta, police confiscated 1,800 euros in cash that the dealers had amassed through peddling their cocaine.
Officers say none of the gang lived in the houses in question, but used them as ‘head offices’ and worked shifts to ensure that the buildings were occupied and being used as drug laboratories 24 hours a day.
Details of the six suspects have not been revealed.
Region’s first baby born in Alzira
THE first baby to be born in the Comunidad Valenciana this year came into the world at 15 seconds after midnight in Alzira hospital.
Berta, born to a Spanish mum, weighed 3.2 kilos and both mother and baby are said to be doing fine.
Barely had the rest of the country finished swallowing their grapes, when little Berta put in her appearance.
She was closely followed by the Alicante province’s first baby, Valeria, who was born in the General Hospital in the city at 00.01hrs to a Spanish mum, and weighing three kilos.
Castellón province’s first baby is Joaquín Ramón, who arrived half an hour into 2010 to a Russian mother in Vinaròs hospital, weighing 3.78 kilos.
The first babies of 2010 born in the other 12 public hospitals in the region were of various nationalities including Indian, Lithuanian, German, Argentinean, Moroccan, and a British baby boy born in Dénia.
Of the 15 first babies of the year, nine were girls, reports the ministry of health.
ONCE lottery winners in Xirivella and Picassent
XIRIVELLA and Picassent saw two lottery-winners celebrating the New Year in style when their ONCE tickets paid up 95,000 euros between them.
The National Organisation for the Blind in Spain (ONCE) runs a weekly lottery which costs a euro per ticket, purchased from street-sellers or in stands bearing the name.
And this New Year’s Eve, seller Ángel Jiménez Garay reported that one of his customers had won a ‘staggered’ special prize that will see him net 1,000 euros a month for five years, totalling 60,000 euros.
He bought his ticket from a stand on Xirivella’s industrial estate.
Seller Inmaculada Guerrero Ortiz, whose stand is on Picassent’s C/ Mayor, reveals that a purchaser from her kiosk won 35,000 euros.
Local Police move to industrial estate
LOCAL Police in Dénia are due to move into their new station shortly, on the industrial estate at the entrance to the town.
New Year’s Day saw them moving their computer equipment and telephones into the new building on the Juyarco estate, into a building that will give them more room to work from.
The new station is on two storeys, each measuring 500 square metres, and is installed with low-consumption air conditioning.
They say the police station should be open to the public by the time the Three Kings fiestas are over.
Oliva’s new Red Cross station opens
OLIVA has been chosen by the Red Cross to set up its new emergency transport centre in the Comunidad Valenciana.
The state-of-the-art new centre, which opened on December 28, allows volunteers to offer humanitarian aid to 400 people in the event of natural disasters.
Their equipment includes specialist materials for cleaning flooded homes, which hundreds of residents in the region suffer every year during the heavy rainfall in October and April.
The new centre also has an additional 100 beds, 100 sleeping bags, 100 personal hygiene kits, and flasks for hot drinks, among other essential items.
Ontinyent forced to pay back taxes
ONTINYENT has been ordered to refund builders and developers in the town a five-figure sum in taxes that they should never have charged them.
A favourable court verdict for the Association of Developers and Constructors of Ontinyent means that a total of 38,531 euros that they were forced by the council to pay for occupying roads and pavements with tools and materials during the course of their work will now be paid back to them.
The Association planted legal action against the town’s local authority last year, considering their rates of 65 cents per square metre per day to be ‘excessive’.
They originally lost their case, but the decision was overturned following an appeal which was heard last week in a Valencia court.
These taxes, described as ‘abusive’ by the association, caused building firms even greater hardship at a time when the recession had caused the construction industry to all but disappear and led to millions of its members unemployed.
Electricity, postage stamps and train fares go up in price
A NEW year traditionally marks a rise in prices of virtually all goods, commodities and services in Spain.
This year, although some councils have announced they will freeze IBI rates, 2010 will see higher prices in almost everything else throughout the country.
From Friday, January 1, gas-bottles have now gone up to 11.05 euros – an increase of 3.36 per cent on their 2009 price of 10.69 euros.
Train fares have also increased by four per cent for long-distance tripos, and shorter journeys – such as from Gandia to Valencia – have gone up by five per cent.
Post office prices have also risen this week, with a 6.25 per cent increase on stamps for national and European deliveries on ordinary letters, cards and packages of up to 20 grams.
This means to send a letter to the UK will now cost 64 cents instead of last year’s 62 cents.
Registered letters will now cost 2.88 euros to send to European destinations.
Electricity – which already rocketed in price in 2009 after the bi-monthly estimated reading system came into play – is set to go up again this year.
From Friday, electricity has risen in price by 2.64 per cent.
In practice, this will mean the average household pays just 89 cents extra per month, with pensioners on the minimum state pension, large families or households with all members currently on the dole being exempt from this increase.
IVA has also gone up to 18 per cent from its previous 16 per cent, making it higher than the UK’s figure of 17.5 per cent.
Reduced-rate IVA, which sat at seven per cent last year, has now gone up to eight per cent.
But income tax and telephone landline connection fees through Telefónica remain the same, and toll fees on motorways have decreased slightly in most cases by between 0.05 and 0.48 per cent.

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