11Onze Check: Banks complain - are they right?

On 21 of June 2020, the European Council approved an economic stimulus package known as the European recovery fund or Next Generation EU (NGEU), with the aim of reviving the economies of member states affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Banks are complaining that they will not play the same role as they did with the ICO during the pandemic, but are their complaints sufficiently substantiated? We cross-checked the information.

 

Six months ago, the Spanish government and the banks initiated formal contacts to explore ways of collaboration and to specify the role that financial institutions will play in the distribution of the European fund. Negotiations are still ongoing, but it is becoming clear that the role of the banks in channelling this fund will be different from the one they developed with the ICO credits during the pandemic, since in this case, the state has the money at its disposal. The ICO is a public bank with the function of distributing credit to stimulate the economy and depends on funds provided by the Spanish government. During the pandemic it had no liquidity, and it was the private banks that provided the money for the ICO loans, making it a business for the sector. Now, it seems that the Spanish government does not need private banks because it has the 140 billion coming directly from Europe.

The banks’ outcry did not take long, and it seems that they have all agreed to publicise their grievances. An extensive media offensive that we analyse today by looking at an article published by Economía Digital, “Enfado de la gran banca por su exclusión de los fondos europeos”, but which serves as an example of how other media has dealt with the issue. Is this information biased? Yes, according to the 11Onze Check Bias Method, it has a bias of 70%. We analysed it.

SOURCES

We only hear the voice of the banks. There is only one unidentified source from the Spanish government. There is no reference for all the data provided. It is not possible to trace where this data comes from.

 

ENDOGAMY

There is no representative of the ICO, nor of the Ministry of Economy, nor any alternative voice to the view of the traditional banks. We only read the opinion of the banks’ representatives. Moreover, unverified statements from the banks are taken for granted. For example: “The president of Banco Santander, Ana Botín, recalled this week that banks have played an important role in the pandemic by protecting businesses, and now they need to strengthen public-private collaboration to do the same with the recovery funds”. If we know that, according to the INE, in nine months of the pandemic 207,000 businesses closed… Are we sure that, as Botín says, the banks have protected companies?

 

FOG

The information is foggy because the bankers seem angry, but, at the same time, they assure that the arrival of the funds will increase their turnover by 10%. The mechanisms that the banks are proposing to participate in the Next Generation Fund are also unclear and seem to be focused on accompanying the client. In reality, however, it could be a manoeuvre to make sure the public funds go to their clients’ accounts (and not to other entities) in order to be able to count on these funds.

 

INTENTION

We are not talking about a single news item but about a compilation of articles in the same media outlet, some of them linked to each other, which contain the same rhetoric clearly aimed at discrediting the government’s management and spreading the bank’s vision: 1, 2, 3. Therefore, we can deduce that there is an intention to establish the narrative according to which the banks have to participate, no matter what, in the allocation of public funds.

 

CONTEXT

The information is simplified, and key elements are missing. For example, it is not explained that the ICO’s function is specifically to provide credit to stimulate the economy. It seems that it cannot function without private banks, and this is not true. Nor is it explained how this aid has been channelled in other countries. And finally, there is a crucial piece of context that is omitted: banking has already recovered pre-pandemic profit levels thanks to the closure of branches and massive lay-offs. Nine billion net since the start of the pandemic. This, coupled with the fact that the price of money is at historic lows, removes any impediment for banks to lend and stimulate the economy. What is stopping them? What do they need Next Generation Funds for?

 

COMMERCIAL MOTIVES

The article talks about the good role played by banks in channelling the ICO funds and the role they can play in the Next Generation fund, but makes no mention of the benefits obtained by the financial sector through the management of the ICO, nor of the abusive practices that were uncovered during its management. Nor is there any mention of the commercial interests behind this desire to play a key role in the distribution of these new resources. The basic idea is to play the role of intermediary. The money comes from Europe (and therefore does not have to be mobilised by the banks), but it is still channelled through private banks. Why should it be this way? What is the point?

 

VOLUNTEER SERVICE

The public interest is not represented at all. While it talks extensively about how private banks and investment funds are key in advising companies and distributing this fund, no public alternatives, which are there, are given when it comes to channelling this aid. The article does not take into account the consumer’s point of view: is it in the interest of the ordinary citizen that ICO loans are managed by large Spanish private banks?

Therefore, we conclude that this information is 70% biased and shows a partial view of the management of the Next Generation Funds. If you want to know the Bias Method, which we have followed to contrast this information, you will find it here. If you would like to send us economic information to verify, you can do so by writing to us at [email protected]

 

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As every year, the magazine ‘Forbes’ has published the list of the 100 richest businessmen in Spain. In 11Onze, we have compiled the 25 richest businessmen in the Països Catalans and we try to find out how they have managed to build their millionaire wealth.

 

Food industries, pharmaceuticals, fashion and cosmetics and hotel groups. These are the four sectors that have made the fortunes of the 25 richest businessmen in the Països Catalans. Many of them are related, others have accumulated family inheritances and a prosperous business since the beginning and middle of the 20th century. Most of them invest their fortunes in art collections, philanthropy and private foundations. These are the richest of the rich.

  1. Juan Roig Alfonso, president of Mercadona (3.7 billion). He is one of the most admired men in Spain, according to the consultancy Brand Finances, but also one of the most hated by small producers and by the political left. His supermarket chain has more than 1,600 shops on the Iberian Peninsula and has been awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Business Excellence in 2019. Roig is an avowed admirer of FAES, the Partido Popular’s think tank, where he has donated large sums of money, and dedicates part of his income to supporting sports and entrepreneurship initiatives. Phrases such as “In Spain we have to imitate the hard work culture of the Chinese bazaars” are attributed to him.
  2. Hortensia Herrero, shareholder of Mercadona (2.3 billion). Hortensia Herrero and her husband, Juan Roig, have turned Mercadona into an empire. In addition to her business activity, she has started a philanthropic and sponsorship task with the Hortensia Herrero Foundation in the País Valencià, which promotes artistic heritage.
  3. Sol Daurella Comadrán, President of Coca Cola Europacific Partners (1.9 billion). At only 54 years of age, she is president of the Coca Cola bottling company and distributes its products to 13 countries in Western Europe. She is the granddaughter of the cod businessman Santiago Daurella i Rull and daughter of the businessman Josep Daurella i Franco. Sol Daurella has been a shareholder of Banc de Sabadell, Ebro Foods and Acciona and is a member of the board of the Círculo de Economía de Barcelona, chairs the board of directors of the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya and is a patron of the Palau de la Música Catalana. She has been a member of the Advisory Council of Diplocat, a fact that has provoked a great deal of criticism from the most pro-Spanish sectors.
  4. Isak Andic, owner of Mango (1.6 billion). The fashion businessman was elected president of the Instituto de la Empresa Familiar in 2010. He comes from a Sephardic family that moved from Turkey to Barcelona in the 1970s. His fashion business started when he returned from a holiday with a pair of shirts that he sold to his friends. He began to sell to order until he sold them in a market in Barcelona and expanded his business by importing hand-embroidered outerwear from Afghanistan. In 1984 he opened the first Mango shop on Paseo de Gracia with his brother. He now has more than 2,100 stores worldwide.
  5. Fernando Roig Alfonso, owner of Pamesa (1.4 billion). Juan Roig’s older brother is the owner of one of the five most important ceramics groups in the world, having bought Azuliber in 2020 and 40% of Argenta. He is also the third largest shareholder of Mercadona, president of the Vila-real football club and of the energy company Renomar.
  6. Manuel Lao, ex-owner of Cirsa (1.3 billion). His family origins are in Almeria, but at the age of 12 he emigrated to Terrassa. He has lived in Matadepera for many years, where he has raised the average income to make the municipality one of the richest in Spain. With his brother Juan Lao, he set up the Cirsa group, an operator of casinos, bingos and electronic games. Manuel Lao bought 44% of the shares from his brother for 120 million euros and in 2018 sold the company to Blackstone for 2.2 billion euros, despite the fact that a debt was deducted from this amount. Lao now invests his money through Nortia Capital and, among other investments, controls 8.16% of Merlin Properties.
  7. Alberto Palatchi, former owner of Pronovias (1.3 billion). He was the director of Pronovias until 2017, when he sold 90% of the company he founded with his father in 1922 to BC Partners for 550 million euros. Now, Palatchi invests his capital through Galma Capital, which controls two of the most profitable sicav in the country, Gesprinsa and Hermoprisa. He also owns real estate and invests in art.
  8. Miguel Fluxà Rosselló, executive chairman of Iberostar (1.2 billion). He is president of one of the most important Spanish hotel groups in the world. The Mallorcan-born group operates 70% of Cuba’s hotels with Melià and Barceló. 
  9. Antonio Gallardo Ballart, shareholder of Almirall laboratories (1 billion). Antonio, together with his brother Jorge Gallardo, are the main shareholders of Almirall pharmaceutical laboratories, through the corporations Genbad and Zamap, in which their sons also participate. The company has more than 1,900 employees in 13 subsidiaries in Europe and the United States. The family business started in 1862 with a small pharmacy in Barcelona.
  10. Jorge Gallardo Ballart, Chairman of Almirall Laboratories (1 billion). According to Forbes, the pharmaceutical group has obtained very positive results with the development of its new drug against atopic dermatitis. Almirall has almost doubled its stock market value in recent years, from 1.4 billion euros in 2017 to 2.6 billion today.
  11. Carmen Daurella Aguilera, shareholder of Arcelor Mittal (950 million). Sol Daurella’s cousin controls Haberes y Servicios, an indirect shareholder of Coca Cola Europacific Partners through Cobega, the Daurella’s holding company. Carmen and Sol Daurella sold Copesco, the family cod company, to the Basque group Angulas Aguinaga.
  12. Gabriel Escarrer, founder of Melià Hotels (900 million). It is one of the most quoted hotel chains on the stock market, but the pandemic crisis has taken its toll. According to Forbes, Melià has lost 51% in capitalisation since 2017, and its stock market value is currently 1.3 billion.
  13. José Elías, shareholder of Audax Renovables (900 million). He is a major shareholder of Audax Renovables, Audax Green, Ezentis, Aspy, Atrys Health, and the supermarket chain La Sirena. This uncontrolled growth has allowed him to enter the lists of the world’s richest people in just two years.
  14. Manuel Puig Rocha, Vice-President of the Puig Group (850 million). Puig markets its products and fragrances in more than 150 countries. Puig operates under the Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci and Paco Rabanne brands and in the fashion sector it is a shareholder of Jean Paul Gaultier. In addition to these businesses, Manuel Puig holds 5% of Fluidra’s capital, a percentage that has brought him a great deal of joy, as the company has increased by 50% on the stock market.
  15. Thomas Andreas Meyer, owner of Desigual (850 million). He is of Swiss origin, but has made his professional career in Barcelona. Desigual competes with Zara and other brands of the Inditex group and this year has established a four-day working day after workers voted in favour of it. Meyer is known to lead a life away from the spotlight and is a champion of sustainability. No photographs of him had been published until 2008.
  16. Carlos March Delgado, chairman of the Alba financial corporation (850 million). He chairs the corporation and is majority shareholder of Banca March, with his brother Juan, and ahead of his sisters Gloria and Leonor. March is married to the philanthropist Concepción de la Lastra. 
  17. Ricardo Portabella, owner of Anpora (800 million). His fortune comes from the inheritance received from his grandfather, Luis Portabella Conte, who partnered after the Civil War with Daniel Carasso, son of the founder of Danone. His grandfather presided over Danone España for more than four decades and Ricardo Portabella was the sole heir of his uncle, Antonio Portabella Ràfols, who owned a lot of Danone shares and a large real estate portfolio.
  18. Juan March Delgado, shareholder of the financial corporation Alba (750 million). With his brother, Carlos March Delgado, they are the majority shareholders of Banca March.
  19. Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, art collector (750 million). Carmen Cervera, widow of Baron Heinrich Hans August Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kaszó, from whom she took her married name, is one of the world’s most sought-after art collectors and is a leading figure in the art press. Last July she reached an agreement with the government to rent her collection for 6.5 million euros a year and return the Mata Mua painting by Paul Gauguin.
  20. Óscar Serra Duffo, shareholder of Fluidra (600 million). He is one of the founders of this manufacturer of swimming pool design and production. Founded in 1969 by the Planes, Serra, Corbera and Garrigós families, Fluidra has increased its stock market value fivefold since 2017.
  21. Tomás Arrufat Pujol, president of Proeduca (550 million). He is the promoter and main shareholder with 76% of Proeduca Altivos, the company that manages online training at La Rioja International University.
  22. Nuria Roura Carreras, shareholder of Grífols (550 million). She is the widow of Víctor Grífols and one of the main shareholders of the pharmaceutical laboratories. She also promoted the Víctor Grífols Foundation on bioethics.
  23. Alicia and Mercedes Daurella, shareholders of Coca Cola Europacific Partners (550 million). Carmen Daurella Aguilera’s sisters are also shareholders in the company chaired by their cousin Sol. 
  24. José Ignacio Comenge, shareholder of Coca Cola Europacific Partners (550 million). This Valencian is also a shareholder of Coca Cola Europacific Partners and has important stakes in Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), Ebro Foods and Ence.
  25. Mauricio Botton Carasso, owner of Germina Finance (450 million). He is an investor through Germina Finance and owner of the La Gramosa estate. His fortune, like Ricardo Portabella’s, comes from the sale of Danone’s Spanish subsidiary to several shareholders.

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How does machism manifest itself in the socio-economic world and in the consumerism of our society? Are we sufficiently aware of the micro machismo that we encounter in our day-to-day lives? What do women have to do to join and fully develop in the labour market? In a new episode of La Plaça de Territori 17, Lara de Castro, from the 11Onze Human Resources team, and Gemma Vallet, director of 11Onze District, answer all these questions.

 

Fortunately, ideas, attitudes and practices based on a learned cultural attribution of male superiority are becoming less and less present in our society. However, there is still a long way to go to eliminate sexist attitudes and micro machismo from everyday life. Looking at a man if you buy a car, or at a woman, if you buy a hoover, are behavioural practices that we have come to accept, but which are becoming increasingly unwelcome in a society that continues to evolve towards gender equality in all socio-cultural spheres.

As de Castro points out, “all of this is so commonplace, so normal, even for women, that until all of this is nipped in the bud, we will not be able to move forward“. Even so, there must also be a change of attitude on the part of women, “we will become more accepting of our bodies, our age, our wrinkles and the fact that we are women. That we are also capable of managing certain things that until now have only been managed by men”.

Gender pay gap, an unresolved issue

According to a report issued by CCOO, the gender pay gap has been reduced, but the average salary of women would have to grow by 24% to be equal to that of men. As Lara de Castro explains, “The pay gap is huge. But it is all about confidence, not only the confidence that the world gives me when it comes to earning money but also the confidence that I have when it comes to creating this money” she continues, “when I earn the money, it empowers me and makes me change my mentality”.

Advertising marketing has not facilitated this empowerment of women, on the contrary, it has helped to reinforce the macho attitude of society, even so, as Gemma Vallet points out, “advertising, in the end, is a mirror of society. And it is a mirror that amplifies. But as we adopt new behaviours, advertising will have to reflect these new behaviours”.

 

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A report based on data compiled by Bloomberg analyses the global economic situation and lists the countries most at risk of bankruptcy. Spain is not on the list, but it exhibits some markers of an economy close to collapse, artificially propped up by the ECB bailout.

 

As with companies, states can declare bankruptcy or default when they are unable to meet their financial obligations due to a lack of liquidity. Runaway public debt, together with high external debt and fiscal deficits, are the main indicators that anticipate a country’s bankruptcy.

The study by Bloomberg Economics warns that a “historic cascade of defaults from emerging markets” is coming. In other words, there is a group of countries that are currently at high risk of default or bankruptcy. In addition, he notes that the number of developing countries that are close to economic collapse has doubled.

El Salvador, Argentina, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia and Pakistan top the list of 50 countries accumulating a quarter of a trillion dollars of debt that could lead them to the same situation of economic bankruptcy in which Sri Lanka finds itself. The first country to default on its sovereign debt this year.

 

Spain’s public debt is at an all-time high

Each Spaniard owes more than 31,000 euros. This is the figure that corresponds to each citizen of the 1.45 trillion euros of accumulated public debt. A debt that is growing at a rate of 270 million euros per day, and which from 2020 to 2021 increased the fiscal hole by 200,000 million euros.

An economic situation of extremely high uncertainty, with inflation running rampant and GDP shrinking as all the institutions make downward forecasts every few months, point to the precariousness of the vital constants of a country incapable of meeting its public debt without the help of the ECB. A covert bailout that, as we have seen in other crises, has a cost and threatens our quality of life.

Europe is already calling for a halt to stimulus and a return to “fiscal discipline“, a well-known euphemism that in practice amounts to more cuts and tax burdens for citizens who can barely cope with the magnitude of the current economic tragedy. No wonder that, with a popular revolt looming, they are urging a balance between this “fiscal discipline” and “social peace”.

 

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The latest data provided by the National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that in July, prices rose by 10.8% year-on-year. A rate of inflation not seen since 1984. But what would happen if prices continued to rise rapidly and uncontrollably? Joan Benedicto, 11Onze agent, explains what is hyperinflation and details some historical examples.

 

Before understanding what hyperinflation is, we need to be clear about what inflation is, as Benedicto explains, “inflation is defined as the generalised and sustained increase in the prices of goods and services in a country, over a given period of time”. However, we can speak of hyperinflation when there is “an uncontrolled, excessively high rise in prices of at least 1,000%”.

The rapid rise in prices, together with the loss of the real value of the currency, leads to a large reduction in the monetary wealth of the population. As the 11Onze agent explains, “if I buy a loaf of bread, and in my country there is 1,000% inflation, this loaf of bread, after a year, will cost €11 instead of €1”.

Moreover, it should be borne in mind that in real cases of hyperinflation throughout history, price rises have been much more disproportionate than in the previous example. Likewise, the social and economic consequences of these hyperinflations are still having a major impact on the world economy.

Hyperinflations throughout history

The most paradigmatic recent case of hyperinflation is possibly that of Venezuela, which in 2018 “went on to have an inflation rate of approximately 130,000%“, notes Benedicto. Although its economy has shown significant recovery, with “inflation below 700% in 2021”, and the end of the inflationary spiral in 2022, the effect of this prolonged crisis is reflected in the daily reality of Venezuelans, who see how a significant part of the population continues to suffer the risk of extreme poverty and food insecurity.

Another case is that of 1923 in the Weimar Republic, today’s Germany. After the First World War, the country was in dire economic straits and had no gold reserves to meet the payments of the Treaty of Versailles. The mark was devalued and, as 11Onze’s agent explains, “five years after the war, inflation reached 665 million per cent”.

We cannot conclude this brief compilation of hyperinflations throughout history without mentioning the Hungarian hyperinflation of 1946. After the devastation of the Second World War, the economy was so badly damaged that prices doubled every day and, as Joan Benedicto points out, “hyperinflation peaked at 41.9 trillion per cent, without doubt, the worst case of hyperinflation ever known”.

 

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The first modern banking society in Catalonia was founded in 1844. It was the Banc de Barcelona, which initially focused on financing businesses. 

 

This bank stood out for being the first bank in the state to issue banknotes, as journalist Sergi Hernández explained on the betevé website. The journalist also emphasises the fact that the bank did not just focus on circulating banknotes throughout the state, given that at that time banknote issuance was delocalised, but was also the first to help trade and industry. 

The bank’s first banknotes were entirely handmade. To prevent them from being counterfeited, they were made with many cylinder mould watermarks and were clipped into a chequebook. Drawings were also an important security point for their difficult reproduction, making them less likely to be counterfeited. Hernández also reminds us that there were two female figures on some banknotes of this period: one female figure represented Spain, and the other represented Barcelona, as a symbol of the bank’s mothers. 

  • On the banknotes, one female figure represented Spain, and the other Barcelona, as a symbol of the bank’s mothers.

The journalist reminds us that the Banc de Barcelona, in its early days, ran smoothly until it suffered its first crises. Specifically, in 1874 it stopped issuing banknotes for the provincial banks, which meant that it ceased to operate as a commercial bank. Subsequently, under the effects of the crisis in Spain after the First World War, the Banco de Barcelona went bankrupt in 1920.

And the same year that it went bankrupt, the Banc de Catalunya was born in Reus. This bank holding company was created by the local financiers Fransesc and Eduard Recasens, and Evarist Fàbregas, as Marc Pons writes in El Nacional. These three people, owners of different banks in our country, took the remains of the Banco de Barcelona and added them to their new bank, called Banc de Catalunya. Pons also reminds us that the bank began to grow and open branches around Catalonia and even in the Valencian Country, and in 1930 it went international with the opening of a branch in Paris. But the history of this new bank was short. As the journalist Marc Pons wrote in his article in El Nacional, on 2 July 1931, Minister Prieto ordered the withdrawal of the balances held by Campsa and Cepsa in the Banc de Catalunya, which represented more than 50% of the bank’s deposits. Individuals and businesses also withdrew their deposits, and this led to the collapse of the Banc de Catalunya a few days later. And with the bankruptcy and the Bank of Spain refusing to finance the Banc de Catalunya, it became impossible to meet the obligations arising from the activity of Campsa and Cepsa. Thus, in 1931 it had to close its doors. 

 

  • With the Banc of Catalunya bankrupt, and the Bank of Spain refusing to finance the Banco de Cataluña, the Banco de Cataluña finally went bankrupt in 1931.

Today, in the Catalan Countries, two building societies still operate, those known as Caixa d’Ontinyent and Caixa d’Estalvis de Pollença. There are also different credit cooperatives, such as the Caixa d’Enginyers and Caixa de Guissona. In addition, we have a dozen banks, an electronic money institution, different securities brokers, management companies of collective investment institutions and cooperative societies with financial services according to the data of the list of financial entities of the Catalan countries. 

But we are at a time of change in society, the pandemic has accelerated what was already happening more gradually, which is the need to reinvent the way we live, to be more ethical and more sustainable. This has created the need for a bank of the future, a bank that adapts to all generations, with a clear response, that is transparent and where its clients are treated as people, attending to their real needs with transparency and in a simple way. We are leaving traditional banking behind. Without detracting from a history of banks and building societies that have influenced and left their mark on the Catalan economy, it is now time to reinvent ourselves, to roll up our sleeves and “good sickle blow” as we Catalans say, cultivate the land to give birth to the new banking system that the country needs. 

 

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David Garrofé has a deep understanding of the needs of Catalan entrepreneurs and SMEs. For more than 30 years he has been secretary general of Cecot. He left the post last June and is now just another businessman making his way in the Covid-19 era. With this experience behind him, he makes a complex resume of the economic context that has befallen Catalonia, with an unprecedented fiscal deficit and an imminent global debt crisis. 

 

“The life of an entrepreneur is exciting. But, it is true, I miss public life, a very grateful and sacrificed space. We live immersed in certain inertias that make change difficult,” Garrofé points out at the outset. He recognises that, at present, he lives with entrepreneurial risk in his body, in a context that he is passionate about. And yet, he firmly believes that civil society cannot give up intervening in the development of public policies.

But how can it do so, how can it offer solutions to politics? “It is true that there is a point of disappointment, but one day you have to accept that, too. There are so many things that seem so logical to change, which just need some internal concert and leadership. And then you ask yourself: does it take that much? That’s why I am in love with civil society’s capacity to change things,” the entrepreneur says.

 

Consensus through meritocracy

To the extent that civil society is organised, Garrofé says, it is capable of doing great things. “However, we come from a cultural tradition in which administrations have placed themselves in a role of superiority and low listening. They listen little and tend to go it alone. And the principle that the politician is a public servant is lost,” the businessman complains. He considers that a “very heavy and inflexible” administrative apparatus has been created.

“Too often we have politicians in charge who want to continue to live for many years in politics. Therefore, their analyses are based more on ‘What can I do to stay in office’ rather than ‘What can I do to change things’,” he laments. This is the great evil that affects Catalonia, but also limits other countries in the globalised world. In this sense, Garrofé considers that what really transforms things are the regulatory and legislative frameworks that protect us: “And we started from a framework, the Transition, which wanted to be democratising, but which drags along many historical vices.”

For this reason, he believes it is essential to “change the framework.” “We need a revolution in the civil service. In other countries, it is professionalised, and there are no changes. Above a certain level, they are the best technicians that the state has, and not politicians who come down to perform functions for which they are not qualified. And, in addition, there is a great deal of accountability,” Garrofé argues. “There has to be a reform agreed upon by society to give prestige to the civil service, to make it more meritocratic,” he argues.

The burden of the fiscal deficit

Garrofé is convinced that, in general, we do value the driving force that is Catalonia, but he considers that there is a clear risk of being left behind in the global race. “Our competition is not Madrid or Malaga, but China, Vietnam or the U.S. The U.S. generates a lot of patents! They invest four times more than we do in R&D,” the businessman points out.

In Catalonia there is little investment in research, Garrofé regrets, because the administration is not sufficiently aware that, in fact, the world’s big technology companies, such as Facebook or Google, grow and consolidate thanks to public funding. “Is it normal that Catalonia, which is the main power in the whole of Spain, with 25% of exports, has a smaller budget for the Generalitat de Empresa than for Culture? And doesn’t that mean that the budget for Culture is high… Is that the way to transform a country?.”

Moreover, he recalls that the Spanish government has never financed Catalonia, which is in a privileged geostrategic position, as it deserves. “Even they recognise this, and it is becoming more and more serious. It has been a burden for Catalonia. Then there is the lack of investment in infrastructure. We are talking about an accumulated shortfall of 200 billion euros,” says Garrofé. “The real accumulated differences are spectacular,” he adds. For this reason, he believes that governments must be forced to make courageous decisions.

 

The debt crisis, a historic crash?

He is very critical of the management of public finances, especially in a context such as the pandemic, which has caused uncertainty that, he admits, “is here to stay” and that we will have to know how to deal with. “In the last ten years as much public money has been issued as in the whole of human history,” he explains. And he reminds us that inflation is the consequence of printing so many banknotes.

“Solid materials, such as aluminium, water, paper, hard assets, they say, are worth something, but banknotes? They are just little printed pieces of paper that are worthless,” he exclaims. And he reminds us that if the debt crisis that has accumulated in powers like the United States explodes, it could have an impact on the whole world without remedy. “And what are the central banks of China or India doing? They are buying gold, quietly, little by little,” he reveals.

The most obvious consequences, according to Garrofé, will add up in a chain. The first is inflation. “We are already experiencing it, and they say it is temporary, but we have years to wait. Inflation is the misery of the poor, because the richest of the rich are not affected as much. We have now accumulated 6% and, if we accumulate a similar figure this year, we will have already lost 12% of purchasing power. And how does this affect a collective bargaining agreement?.”

Garrofé is pessimistic and believes, like many other economic analysts, that an unprecedented stock market crash is coming, because the value of money is overstated. So how can ordinary people combat this seemingly inevitable historic crisis and protect their savings? One of the products that 11Onze will offer is the purchase of gold and other precious metals, not in investment, but in bullion. “The currency will depreciate… So what will keep the value of our savings? The assets of a lifetime, the classics. Offering gold is a good service, and so much,” he concludes.

 

11Onze is the community fintech of Catalonia. Open an account by downloading the super app El Canut for Android or iOS and join the revolution!

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High inflation has forced the European Central Bank to raise interest rates higher than expected. And more rate hikes are expected in the coming months. The question is how much they will increase and to what extent they will affect the Eurozone’s economic performance.

 

The new interest rates approved last week by the European Central Bank come into force today. Although the increase was expected to be 0.25%, the institution chaired by Christine Lagarde surprised the markets with a rise of 0.50%. This is the first increase in 11 years and the largest since 2000.

The ECB Governing Council’s decision affects the three key interest rates, bringing the rate on the main refinancing operations to 0.50 %, the marginal lending facility to 0.75 % and the deposit facility to 0.00 %.

With this decision, the ECB joins the majority of central banks in the world, which in recent months have already taken the step of increasing their interest rates to combat rising prices. The dismal inflation data, which in June reached 8.6% in the eurozone, have pushed the ECB to make a larger increase than expected. Also the sharp rise in interest rates in countries such as the US, which has raised rates three times since May, and the weakness of the euro have influenced the decision.

 

How will interest rates evolve?

Everything indicates that interest rates will continue to rise in the coming months, although the percentage will be decided “meeting by meeting”, according to the European banking regulator. The aim is to return to rates of “2% inflation in the medium term”.

Analysts speculate that the interest rate range could be between 1% and 3% next year. As a reference, the governor of the Bank of France, François Villeroy de Galhau, recently estimated that it could be between 1% and 2%.

In any case, the ECB seems determined to prioritise the containment of inflation, even if the rise in interest rates ends up generating a recession in some eurozone countries. In fact, there are already those who consider that provoking a recession is the only realistic formula for bringing inflation back to reasonable levels.

It should be borne in mind that higher interest rates will make borrowing more expensive for both individuals (including mortgages) and companies. It should therefore reduce private consumption and corporate investments, which will cool the economy.

For the time being, all indications are that the next rate hike will take place in September, when the ECB Governing Council meets again. Beyond that date, Lagarde only indicated that, “if we see inflation stabilising at 2% over the medium term, a progressive further normalisation of interest rates towards a neutral rate will be appropriate”. 

 

Risk premiums under scrutiny

The first to suffer from higher interest rates are the risk premia on the debt of the most vulnerable eurozone countries: Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Faced with the possibility of an economic recession triggered by the rise in interest rates, investors are increasingly reluctant to buy the debt of the countries with the weakest economies.

For this reason, the ECB has accompanied the announcement of the rate hike with that of the creation of the TTIP [Instrument for the Protection of the Transmission of Monetary Policy], a mechanism to prevent the risk premiums of peripheral countries from soaring and the financial fragmentation of the euro zone from occurring. We cannot forget the unstable situation in Italy, for example, with the resignation a few days ago of Mario Draghi as prime minister and the call for elections.

The ECB states that this TPI “will be an addition to the Governing Council’s toolkit, and can be activated to counter unwarranted, disorderly market dynamics that pose a serious threat to the transmission of monetary policy across the euro area. It adds that the magnitude of TPI purchases will depend “on the severity of the risks facing policy transmission”. In any case, the ECB intends this tool to be a last resort, as the first line of defence will be the “flexible” reinvestment of the sovereign bonds it now holds in its portfolio. 

Moreover, this intervention will not be without conditions, as the “rescued” countries will have to comply with the commitments and reforms set by the Recovery Fund and the various EU recommendations.

 

If you want to discover the best option to protect your savings, enter Preciosos 11Onze. We will help you buy at the best price the safe-haven asset par excellence: physical gold.

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Només el 15,8% de la població jove està emancipada, la pitjor dada en dècades. L’atur juvenil i els preus de l’habitatge són els dos grans motius. Ara, l’administració intenta donar solució a través d’una nova Llei de l’habitatge. Però serà prou? En parlem amb els experts.

 

A l’Estat espanyol, prop de la meitat dels joves d’entre 16 i 29 anys que viuen en un habitatge independent ho fan en un lloguer compartit. Si es vol viure sol, el preu que cal pagar suposa el 91,6% del salari i, si es vol contractar una hipoteca, cal reservar almenys el 55,1% del sou. Tot i que, aparentment, la compra d’un habitatge pot semblar més assequible, la realitat és que els joves tenen vetat el mercat hipotecari. Ni tenen prou estalvis per cobrir la despesa inicial ni gaudeixen d’estabilitat laboral. Així ho constata el Consell de la Joventut d’Espanya en l’estudi anual del 2020.

L’habitatge segueix sent el gran maldecap dels joves que es volen emancipar. Per això, per mirar d’afrontar aquest escenari, el govern de Pedro Sánchez ha anunciat una nova Llei de l’habitatge, que hauria de limitar els preus dels lloguers i afavorir l’accés dels joves a un habitatge digne. A 11Onze hem analitzat la proposta de normativa amb el Sindicat de Llogateres i el president del Consell Nacional de Joventut de Catalunya (CNJC), Guillermo Chirino. 

 

Quan la llei es queda curta

En una situació d’emergència com l’actual, en què la taxa d’emancipació juvenil ha arribat a mínims històrics, Chirino considera que “l’acció política no pot esperar”. Tanmateix, alerta que, si la llei tarda 12 o 18 mesos a aprovar-se, com és habitual, això dona marge als propietaris per a pujar els preus del lloguer i, per tant, l’eficàcia de la mesura es queda curta. El president del CNJC també avisa que el govern ja ha apuntat que les ajudes de la llei estarien limitades a aquells joves que treballen. “Només això ja descarta més del 50% de joves”, es lamenta Chirino. A més, els polítics han declarat que les ajudes arribarien a uns 50.000 joves, és a dir, a només l’1% dels joves de l’Estat.

Òbviament, aquesta llei no resoldrà res ni facilitarà l’emancipació del jovent”, critiquen fonts del Sindicat de Llogateres, que afegeixen que no són favorables a finançar el pagament de l’habitatges dels joves amb ajudes. “Permet que l’arrendador pensi que, si els joves poden pagar més, aleshores no cal abaixar el preu, sinó que, fins i tot, el pot apujar”, argumenten.

 

La inspiració del model català

Pel que fa a la regulació dels lloguers, la proposta s’inspira en la norma catalana, l’única proposta legislativa vigent que existeix a l’Estat. Així ho expliquen al Sindicat de Llogateres, que amb el Sindicato de Inquilinas, han treballat intensament en la llei catalana i han lluitat per dur-la a l’àmbit estatal. Malgrat tot, al Sindicat de Llogateres adverteixen que les diferències entre la proposta del govern espanyol i la catalana són substancials i posen en risc l’eficàcia de la mesura en el conjunt de l’Estat.

Per començar, la llei catalana estableix un índex de preus de lloguer, que assegura als inquilins que, en cas de signar o renovar un contracte, el preu es manté igual que en el contracte anterior. A més, si el preu està per sobre d’aquest índex de referència, s’haurà d’abaixar. L’índex es calcula a partir de la mitjana dels preus del lloguer, per a habitatges amb unes característiques similars i dins una zona concreta. En canvi, en la proposta del govern espanyol només els propietaris jurídics, és a dir, aquelles empreses amb més de deu immobles en propietat, estarien obligats a fer una rebaixa en el preu del lloguer.

“A ciutats com Barcelona la concentració de la propietat és molt alta, però només el 30% dels habitatges de lloguer són de propietat jurídica. La majoria són propietat de persones físiques que, tot i tenir més de deu habitatges, no estarien obligades a rebaixar el lloguer”, alerten al Sindicat de Llogateres. A la resta de municipis catalans, on la concentració de la propietat és més baixa, aquesta mesura queda, a parer seu, “totalment descafeïnada”.

Per altra banda, l’aplicació de la rebaixa sembla que serà discrecional, i es deixarà que cada autonomia i, fins i tot, cada municipi decideixi. Per contra, Chirino defensa que, si és una mesura pública, “hauria de ser vinculant per a tothom, ja que d’altra manera pot generar desigualtat i inequitat territorial”. 

 

Una vida digna per al jovent

Més enllà de les regulacions en el preu del lloguer, la nova llei ha de posar a l’abast dels joves tot un seguit d’ajudes. Però les dificultats per a emancipar-se no semblen tenir una solució definitiva. D’entrada, tot i que per assegurar una vida digna l’habitatge no hauria de suposar més del 30% del salari, la realitat es topa amb uns preus disparats i uns sous massa baixos.

D’aquesta manera, si el salari mitjà dels joves ocupats a l’Estat és de 969 euros, l’import que s’hauria de destinar a l’habitatge no hauria de superar els 290 euros mensuals. Tanmateix, el preu mitjà del lloguer és de 880 euros al mes i, en certes zones de l’Estat, com Barcelona i la seva àrea metropolitana, la xifra supera els 1.000 euros. Així les coses, com es pot ajudar els joves a emancipar-se?

Al Sindicat de Llogateres creuen que, per a facilitar l’emancipació, cal anar a l’arrel del problema: “Cal garantir que tots els habitatges de lloguer baixin el preu i facilitin l’accés a col·lectius vulnerables. A Catalunya, molts col·lectius d’habitatge reclamem un parc d’habitatge públic de lloguer amb preus assequibles. No es tracta de construir més, sinó de recuperar habitatges i assegurar que els grans propietaris destinen una part al lloguer social”, defensen.

Al CNJC també han creat tallers d’autodefensa llogatera per a detectar les dificultats en què es troben els joves i mirar de trobar-hi respostes. “A Catalunya ja tenim una llei de regulació de preus del lloguer que ha sigut increïblement efectiva. Ha reduït els preus del lloguer en aquelles zones on s’ha aplicat i, a més, ha millorat la confiança en els lloguers”, defensen. Ara, consideren, el que cal és millorar aquesta regulació catalana i ampliar-la per a tot el territori. “Encara ens queda molt de camí per recórrer”, s’esperonen.

 

11Onze és la comunitat fintech de Catalunya. Obre un compte descarregant la super app El Canut per Android o iOS. Uneix-te a la revolució!

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Is a new housing bubble forming? If house prices seem too expensive, you are probably right. Both the Bank of Spain and the European Central Bank have already detected signs of “overvaluation” in the housing market.

 

The Bank of Spain has acknowledged that house prices show “incipient signs of overvaluation”, according to the ‘Financial Stability Report,’ published at the end of April. Although this body believes that the overvaluation is “limited”, it recommends closely monitoring the market’s evolution. 

According to this report, indicators of imbalances in the real estate market have been showing some slight signs of overvaluation since the beginning of 2020, which increased slightly in 2021 despite the pandemic.

Luis de Guindos, vice-president of the European Central Bank, was already concerned in January about the overvaluation of the residential housing market and the situation of the mortgage market in some Eurozone countries.

 

A market immune to the pandemic 

The truth is that at the end of 2021 buying a flat was 6.4% more expensive than twelve months earlier, according to INE. And the fact is that the real estate market has been one of the few that has shown itself to be immune to the coronavirus. Supply has not grown at the same rate as demand, so prices have continued to rise.

In fact, the price of housing in Catalonia increased by 1.3% in April, according to the real estate portal Idealista, bringing the price per square metre to an average of 2,340 euros. In the case of Barcelona, the increase was 0.7%, meaning that the price per square metre is now close to 4,000 euros. And if we take a look at the evolution of the last twelve months, Tinsa puts the price increase in Spain as a whole at 7.7%.

In 2021, more than 89,000 homes were sold in Catalonia, with an average price per square metre of 2,293 euros, and 2022 began with more sales transactions than 2008, according to the Association of Registrars. 

 

A risk for the banking sector?

The Bank of Spain considers that there are no signs that financial institutions are being lax in granting mortgage loans, but real estate imbalances within the euro area represent a “significant source of risk” for the banking sector. It should be borne in mind that the foreseeable rise in interest rates by the European Central Bank would increase the monthly instalment on variable-rate mortgages, so the default ratio could rise.

According to the Bank of Spain’s report, the growth of credit for new mortgages was particularly significant in 2021, with year-on-year rates of over 40% in the final part of the year. In any case, banking is now less sensitive to the real estate market than in the last housing bubble, as the volume of credit to this sector does not currently reach 40% of the total, whereas in 2007 it accounted for 70%.

Since the start of the pandemic, most Eurozone countries have seen slight increases in the ratio of the total balance of mortgage credit to GDP. However, in the case of Spain, this increase is due more to the decline in GDP generated by the pandemic than to the accumulation of debt.

 

Renting, mission impossible?

If buying a flat is expensive, renting is not at all economical either. The study ‘Relación de salarios y vivienda en alquiler en 2021’, carried out by Infojobs and Fotocasa, indicates that renting a flat on your own is almost an impossible mission. To live in an 80 m² flat, Catalans had to spend an average of 54% of their gross salary on rent last year.

The average rental price per square metre last year was 14.06 euros, 0.4% more than the previous year. If we compare the data with those of other Spanish regions, Catalonia is where the highest percentage of salary is spent on renting housing, followed by the Basque Country (50%), the Balearic Islands (49%) and Madrid (49%).

Unfortunately, this percentage is much higher than the percentage recommended by European supervisory bodies and makes it almost impossible for young people to become independent.

 

11Onze is the community fintech of Catalonia. Open an account by downloading the super app El Canut for Android or iOS and join the revolution!

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