Austerity measures “suicidal” for Spain

UGT chief Candido Mendez and CCOO’s Ignacio Fernandez Toxo with King Juan Carlos
UGT chief Candido Mendez (right) and CCOO’s Ignacio Fernandez Toxo (left) with King Juan Carlos

Amid tax increases and public spending cuts union leaders in Spain have told King Juan Carlos that they are opposed to an international bailout and that the austerity measures introduced by Mariano Rajoy’s government are “suicidal” for the country.

Prime minister Rajoy admitted last week that Spain may have to request further assistance from the ECB but that it would depend on the conditions. Spain has already requested 100 billion euros to prop up the banking sector which is drowning under billions in bad property loans.

Following an hour-long meeting with the monarch on Tuesday, a statement issued by the General Workers Union and the Workers Commission said they are generally opposed to any further financial aid as the conditions would likely push the country further into recession and increase pressure on already struggling Spaniards who are suffering from two years of spending cuts and tax increases as the government attempts to reduce it’s budget deficit.

The statement also said that the public spending cuts and labor reforms already enacted were “suicidal for our country (and) were putting a brake on possible economic recovery and job creation.”

Since Rajoy’s remarks last Friday, pressure on Spain has eased slightly and the 10-year bond yield was at 6.7% on Tuesday.

King Juan Carlos has been in the news himself recently following his expulsion from the World Wildlife Fund last month. He had held the position of Honorary President for 30 years but was voted out after photographs of his hunting trip to Botswana showed the monarch posing, with a shotgun, next to a dead elephant.

No official comment has been made by the royal palace following the meeting.

Elephant killer dumped by WWF

The King (bottom right) with WWF officials in 1968
The King (bottom right) with WWF officials in 1968

Spain’s King Juan Carlos has been dumped as the honorary patron of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The Spanish branch of the WWF voted overwhelmingly to remove the Monarch following the appearance of photographs on the web depicting the King posing beside his trophy elephant, and the public outcry it generated.

Not only was the King removed as honorary patron, the position itself – held by Juan Carlos since it’s inception in 1968 -was scrapped.

This is yet another blow for Spain’s royal family whose popularity has waned over recent months. This year alone the family has had to contend with corruption allegations against the King’s son-in-law, Queen Sofia’s rejection of an invitation to attend Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee dinner and the appearance on the internet of a photograph showing the King posing, with rifle, next to a dead elephant. This raised eyebrows further due to the timing of the extravagant trip. The King swanned around Botswana while 24% of Spain was unemployed.

Although the hunting trip was legal and regulated by the authorities in Botswana it didn’t sit well with some of the WWF’s members.

“Although this type of hunting is legal and regulated, many members consider it to be incompatible with the position of honorary patron of an international organization … that aims to protect the environment,” the group said in a statement.

I also found another photo of him posing with two dead buffalo (at least I think they are buffalo). You can see the pic here: Dead buffalo

King Juan Carlos honoured in Russia

Putin meets King Juan Carlos in Russia
Putin meets King Juan Carlos in Russia

President Vladimir Putin received Spain’s King Juan Carlos yesterday as the monarch makes a working visit to Russia at the President’s invitation.

The King was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation, the highest honor bestowed by Russia, and it was personally presented by President Vladimir Putin.

“I’m very proud to join the distinguished group of people who have received this prize … Russia and Spain are old and great states whose relations sink their roots in history,” said Juan Carlos in his acceptance speech.

The monarch, who arrived in Russia on Wednesday at the head of a large business delegation, received the award for his humanitarian activity and for his part in Spain’s post-Franco transition to democracy.

Putin thanked to the King for expressing his condolences following the tragedy in the south of Russia where a devastating flood took more than 170 lives.

The honor was bestowed on the King in February 2011, by then-president, Dmitri Medvedev, now the country’s prime minister.

At the time, the King was unable to collect the prize and decided to donate the 125,000 euros that accompanied the award to the Spanish city of Lorca to help fix the damage caused by an earthquake in May 2011.

This is the only top official honor awarded in Russia and the only one that can be given to foreigners.

Past recipients of the award include writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the former French President Jacques Chirac.

Royal family to feel the pinch

Why do Royals always look so miserable?
Why do Royals always look so miserable?

So far, everything prime minister Mariano Rajoy has done has benefited the banks and corporations; the public are paying through the nose for other people mistakes through tax increases, sales tax increases, lower public spending, higher interest rates etc. The list goes on.

Now, Spain’s rather unpopular royal family are to get a pay cut. Don’t get excited though – it’s so small they probably wont notice.

King Juan Carlos himself will see a cut of around 20,900 euros from his state payout this year, according to an updated version of the 2012 royal budget released on Tuesday.

Prince Felipe, the Kings son and heir to the throne, will receive around 10,500 euros less. Hardly a drop in the ocean to them.

That is equivalent to a 7.1 per cent pay cut. To put this in perspective, the recent bitterly disputed cutting of the Christmas bonus for public workers amounted to around 7% of their income. So the royal family have contributed to the rescue of the nation by foregoing their Christmas bonus. Well done Juan Carlos – I’m sure the country will be fine now.

Other members of the royal family will also receive less money from the budget, which is entirely funded by taxpayers’ money.

The royal household estimates a saving of between 90,000 euros and 100,000 euros will be made from these cuts.

The salary cut got a mixed reception from the public. Some readers of newspaper websites and Twitter users joked about whether the royal family would now struggle, or whether they would still be able to afford expensive safari trips.

Others, however, commended the royal household for at least volunteering to take the cut. They volunteered? I doubt that.

The king, long revered for his role in Spain’s transition to democracy, drew derision from many after taking a lavish elephant hunting trip in Botswana at a time when 25% of Spaniards are out of work. His wife Queen Sofia also attracted criticism when she snubbed an invitation to attend Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee dinner in London citing the fishing dispute with Gibraltar as her excuse.

King of Spain in trouble with the WWF

King's hunting not conducive to the WWF
King’s hunting not conducive to the WWF’s message

That doesn’t mean the King is under threat from Hulk Hogan or The Undertaker… no, it’s the other WWF, the World Wildlife Fund and they are not happy about their “Honorary President” hunting elephants in Botswana.

Following the appearance of photographs in April depicting Spain’s King Juan Carlos standing beside a murdered elephant members of the Spanish branch of the Word Wildlife Fund (WWF) are to hold a meeting to discuss the monarchs position as it’s Honorary President.

The King has heard calls for his resignation since his hunting trip to Botswana made the headlines due to an accident in which he injured his hip. The accident occurred while the King was on a trip hunting a ‘vulnerable’ species of elephant and the news, along with a photo from a previous trip, quickly spread across the internet causing great embarrassment for the 74 year old monarch.

A petition was started online calling for his resignation from the post which he has held since 1968. The petition quickly amassed 70,000 signatures.

The WWF contacted the Royal household directly, shortly after the incident came to light, saying that the King’s actions had “provoked enormous contempt among members and in public opinion in general against the hunting of elephants, even when it is carried out in a legal and regulated way.”

The King’s fate will be decided at a meeting on July 21st.

Chile respects Spanish investment

King Juan Carlos with Chile's President Sebastian Pinera
King Juan Carlos with Chile’s President Pinera

Chile’s president, Sebastian Pinera, has said that Spanish investments “will be respected” in the South American country.

The president made the comments on Tuesday in Santiago as Spain’s King Juan Carlos visited the country as part of his tour of Latin America, hunting for investment opportunities for Spanish business.

This is the Kings first official trip since he fell and broke a hip whilst elephant-hunting in April.

Pinera made the comments in an attempt to reassure Spanish investors who are nervous following Argentina’s expropriation of YPF, the country’s largest energy company, from Spanish energy giant Repsol.

The king’s trip is seen by some as an attempt to recover some of the respect he lost after his elephant hunting trip caused outrage in a country suffering from a deep economic crisis and record unemployment.

The 74-year-old monarch said Spain is going through one of the worst moment of the economic crisis but he insisted that the measures taken by Rajoy’s government are working and the country is starting to show signs of recovery.

“We’re likely facing the toughest moment of the crisis and undergoing the most painful treatment so far,” he said in a news conference at Chile’s presidential palace.

“Things are beginning to improve, public accounts are in much better shape than a year ago, the trade balance is healthier and we’re starting to recover lost competitively,” he added.

So far this year Spain has lost out to Argentina and Bolivia. Argentina’s government expropriated Repsols 51% share in YPF, Argentina’s largest energy company. Bolivia seized control of its main power grid from Spanish owned company Red Electrica Corporacion SA.

King Juan Carlos visits Brazil to strengthen business ties

King Juan Carlos meets Dilma Rousseff
The King and Brazilian President Rousseff

Spain’s King Juan Carlos is in Brazil this week to assure Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff that Spanish businesses are prepared to invest in the country .

The monarch reaffirmed Spain’s business commitment to Brazil during a lunch at Itamaraty Palace, the seat of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry.

In response to the king’s comments, Rousseff confirmed her country’s support for expanding and diversifying Hispano-Brazilian business relations. She also expressed her confidence in the Spanish people in the face of very difficult economic times and said she was certain that Spain would be successful in overcoming the crisis.

There was no mention of the controversy surrounding Argentina and YPF’s expropriation of Repsol.

Walking with the aid of a crutch on his first trip abroad since his hip operation, the king arrived in Brazil accompanied by about 20 Spanish businessmen, including the presidents of Banco Santander, Repsol, Telefonica, Iberdrola, Indra and Iberia.

The King was received at the presidential palace by Rousseff and later they met in private along with their foreign ministers, and the Brazilian heads of the Finance and Education Ministries.

Spain in the news

There isn’t much going on in the property market at the moment. Most of the news seems to revolve around the budget and unemployment so I thought today I would give you a quick overview of the main stories across Spain.

Argentina seizes control of YPF

Cristina Fernandez
Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez says she will “fulfil a life-long dream” to solve her country’s energy shortage by seizing control of YPF, Argentina’s biggest oil company, which also happens to be a subsidiary of Spain’s Repsol.

The oil giant is reported to be worth over 18 billion euros, with Repsols 57% share being valued at over 10 billion, a figure which Madrid will be looking to recuperate in compensation for the seizure. Under the seizure plans Repsol would be left with only 6% of the company.

Spain has threatened action against Argentina for nationalising the Spanish energy firm, but Argentina is already shut out of world debt markets and has repeatedly ignored international fines on previous occasions which makes it seem unlikely that Madrid will be satisfied with the outcome.

Spain tests markets with 10 year bonds

Spain is likely to pay dearly for it’s longer-term debt today as it auctions a 10-year bond for only the second time this year to markets already nervous that Spain will miss deficit targets and fail to restart growth.

The 10-year bond rose above 6 percent on Monday for the first time in five months, increasing concern that it could soon become unsustainable for the government to refinance itself.

Spain aims to raise 2.5 billion euros from the sale of bonds and with this relatively small auction demand is likely to be high.

King says sorry for hunting trip

King Juan Carlos says sorry
King Juan Carlos says sorry

Spain’s King Juan Carlos has made an unprecedented apology for taking his luxury hunting trip to shoot elephants while his country wallows in economic crisis comes.

“I am very sorry. I made a mistake and it won’t happen again,” the monarch told television reporters as he left hospital following an operation to repair his hip which he damaged during the hunting trip.

The monarch is also the honorary president of the Spanish arm of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and while the king was apologising, members of the group were deciding whether to remove him from the post. Hunting elephants for fun hardly fits the WWF ethos and many other animal rights groups also demanded his resignation from the post.

Increase in airport charges threatens tourism

Increased airport charges threaten Spanish tourism, a market on which many parts of the country depend.

The Alliance for Tourism Excellence, Exceltur, say that the “disproportionate” increase in charges could lead to the loss of up to 2.87 million Spanish and foreign tourists across the country’s airports.

The Association, which includes companies such as El Corte Ingles, Iberia, Amadeus and Barceló, estimates the loss of income could be as much as €1,636 million a year.

As most of the airlines have already seen increased oil prices chew into their profit margins this increase is likely to translate to increased ticket prices for travellers.

El Mundo reported that as operating costs for airlines are cheaper in other “attractive” destinations many operators, and tourists, will instead visit Turkey, Egypt, Morocco or Greece, places where the “sun and sea” holiday is also available.

Anger over Kings hunting trip

Target Press/Barcroft Media
The King poses with his $15,000 prize

While the rest of Spain wallow under a mountain of unpaid debts, rising unemployment and unprecedented public debt King Juan Carlos of Spain has decided now would be a good time to spend $24,000 on an elephant hunting trip to Botswana.

The 74-year-old monarch was plastered over the pages of Spanish newspapers posing proudly in front of a dead elephant. The photograph came from the website of Botswana-based Rann Safaris, but had been taken down by Sunday.

A hunting safari with the company costs from $8,700 per week. A further $15,000 is payable to kill an elephant. That’s what an elephants life costs is it?

The owner of the company, Jeff Rann says “You have to manage the world’s animal populations, to their betterment,”

“We are trying to improve their habitat.” – by killing them for profit? How does that help them?

The trip, described as private by officials has prompted a storm of protests from animal rights groups and others demanding to know how much the trip cost.

This is not the first time the King has been in trouble for killing innocent defenceless animals. Six years ago allegations surfaced that the king had shot a drunken Russian bear that had been plied with honey and vodka. This was laughed off as ridiculous by officials. It seems the royal family would be better off staying away from guns. The king shot and killed his brother in an accident when he was a teenager and recently his 13 year old grandson shot himself in the foot with a weapon he was not legally old enough to use.