Regional Topics, the San Felipe Economy and more.....
...by Tony Colleraine
Monday October 31, Halloweeeeeen, 2011
Yesterday Mexico shifted back to winter time. Baja California and several border cities involved in commerce with the adjacent US states will put the clocks back next Sunday, 6th November. This is also the time when the CFE institutes the winter electricity rates. If you find yourself tempted to turn on the air conditioner think twice. The electric rate jumps to 2.59 peso/kwh.
Last week I bought a "kilo" of shrimp from a fisherman on the Malecon. When I got them home and removed the lumps of ice, I found that I had 800 grams.
I have had the same experience many times over the years and I suppose it is the cost of doing business on the Malecon. Effectively, it makes the $15/kg price come out at $18.75. Of course, if you take your own scales along to check the purchase, that would be regarded as a sign that you do not trust the fisherman...... The alternative is to go to Reubens fish market on Mar Caribe where they have scales certified by the state department of weights and measures.
Saturday October 29, 2011
Rob Hoare of sanfelipenews.com did did some research on the customs regulations on duty-free liquor and a possible explanation on what could be happening:
In my opinion, there is a lack of clarity in the way that the regulations on duty-free goods are written, and there is a definite discrepancy with the verbal instructions given to the San Felipe tourism office by the Mexicali aduanas. The message appears to be: buy your liquor in Mexico; you might pay a little more but you will suffer far less anxiety!
Tuesday October 25, 2011
To the people writing in about the schedule of events for the shrimp festival, I have to admit that I have very little information to offer. There is a poster available in the festival website (..>>) that gives some idea of the events each day.
A very unfortunate situation arose last week in which a party of visitors traveling in a single vehicle stopped to buy duty-free liquor in Calexico to bring to San Felipe. The understanding was that a maximum of 3 bottles per person was allowed into Mexico. On crossing the border, Mexican customs confiscated all of the bottles; a loss to the visitors of hundreds of dollars. I checked with the San Felipe Tourist Office and they say that the regulations have been changed. Their belief is that the limit is now 1 bottle per vehicle. We are going to check with customs to see what the policy is. In the meantime, I would advise visitors not to bring more than they can afford to lose. It is also important to realize that customs officers are now incorruptible. No bribes are tolerated and cameras watch every interaction between the officers and the traveling public. It seems to me that the duty-free shops in Calexico should alert customers to any new regulations though I realize that doing so will severely cut their sales.
Update: Mexican Aduana (customs) say that the duty-free limit is still 3 liters/person but they must be declared. Excess is charged duty at the rate of 239% of retail value. If you have trouble, dial 078 for Tourist Assistance in Mexicali - your mobile has to be on the Mexican system for this number to work.
Note that the Snowbird Festival has been moved to 10 November, 12-4 p.m. on the malecon.
Thursday October 20, 2011
An interesting bill is to be presented in the U.S. Congress to allow foreigners to get a resident (non-working) visa and move to the U.S.A. The foreigners would have to invest $500K cash in residential real estate, which could be divided into half to live in and half to rent out. It is believed that this would cause a boom in sales of real estate, quickly remove the huge backlog of unsold and foreclosed properties on the market and lift the values of all existing homes.
As a data point, foreigners already are investing heavily in U.S. real estate, to the tune of $80 billion in the year ending March 2011. The proposed bill would magnify this number several-fold. California, Florida, New York, Colorado, Hawaii and Texas would likely be the states benefitting most from the plan. The buyer would have to live in the home for at least 180 days each year, which would require paying U.S. income taxes on any foreign earnings. Buyers would no longer be eligible for the temporary visa if the property were sold.
In addition, Chinese visitors would be able to get a 5 year visa (they are limited to 1 year now) and Canadians would be able to visit for more than 6 months without getting a visa. (Compare that to the restrictive regulations in Mexico!)
In Mexico, the Governor of the State of Sonora has raised the idea of changing the constitution to allow foreigners to own real estate in their own names, without having to go through the fideicomiso business. This would undoubtedly make Mexico far more attractive to investors and would probably triple the number of people buying houses here. With similar terms to the American proposal it would also bring a major windfall of taxable income to the Hacienda.
Little chance is given to either measure becoming law.
Wednesday ,October 19, 2011
The road from Mexicali to San Felipe is now in pretty good shape. THe construction area is approaching the south end of the Laguna Salada (km 80-90) and you only have to "offroad" for a couple of miles. Any car can make it, come on down!
Over the years we have had a number of organizations form to rescue animals from the dog catcher. Following the sad death of Steve Foreman (SFZAPP) a new group has sprung up to help with the adoption of unwanted dogs. The new, non-profit, group is made up of both ex- ZAPP and ex-SFAR volunteers who are moving the animal awareness forward in San Felipe. The old SFAR segunda, for example, will be under their umbrella.
Check out their website www.myvivasf.com and help them with the fundraising and adoptions.
Bill Spradlin, Director of Casa de Fe, reminds me they are having a fundraiser at Rumors on Thurs. Nov. 3rd. "This is our 1yr anniversary, to the day, when our kids arrived at the home. We are working with Jeannie to have an angel hair pasta with shrimp dinner. Denny Flanigan will be playing music. We are having a silent auction to sell some paintings we have hanging at Rumors and we are going to have a great time from 5pm - 9pm. We have tickets available at the orphanage, at Rumors, at Lily Ana's Day Spa / Baja Ink and of course at the door."
Yesterday, the Secretary of Tourism, Juan Tintos, announced that the first stage of the upgrade to the Malecon will begin in November with a fund of 10 million pesos. There will be undergrounding of electrical and telephone utilities and the work should be completed in February of 2012. Another 10 million pesos will be needed to complete the renovation by the end of next year. There will also be loans to businesses along the Malecon to enable them to gentrify their shop fronts and to bring higher class merchandise and services to the area.
Monday ,October 10, 2011
Autumn arrived with a sigh of relief from everyone last Wednesday as the first cold front went through and we are now set to start the winter season in San Felipe. Halloween is practically over, the American big box stores are full of Christmas goods and spring is just around the corner.
What have we learned over the summer?
In Mexico the national tourism economy is doing fairly well. Visitors to San Felipe from Tijuana, Ensenada and Mexicali have kept the local bars, restaurants and hotels doing good business and the SCORE Tecate 250 brought a decent boost to the economy in September.
There has been a significant tightening of safety in regards to boating and water sports as a result of the tragic loss of the Erik.
The construction crews building the highway connecting us to Mexicali have finally got their act together and are doing work in units of distance that do not require miles of off-road diversions by travelers.
Our rainy season did not show up - not good news for the local aquifer.
The war against the drug cartels continues unabated and the death toll continues its inexorable climb. San Felipe remains quiet and untrammelled.
In Baja California Sur, it appears that Loreto is now bankrupt and is one of Fonatur's most expensive mistakes (along with the Escalera Nautica). The Canadian Loreto Bay company went broke as a result of the U.S. housing crisis, the Spanish conglomerate Fadesa Nopolo is also close to insolvent as a result of the European debt crisis and Loreto TSD Partners, a subsidiary of Citigroup, withdrew its support for the Loreto Bay Company debt.
Fonatur is also being heavily criticized for the new convention center it is trying to build in 9 months for the Los Cabos summit of the G-20 nations. Locals say that any quality construction will be impossible to complete on time.
In the USA?
The recession may have been declared to be officially over but nobody seems too confident of this. Indeed it may be coming back to take another bite out of our safety nets. Unemployment is not going down; in California it is still at 12%, and housing prices continue a very slow decline in many areas of the country. Popular opinion is that there is a likelihood that we will never return to the days of full employment.
Many older workers have postponed all thought of ever retiring, and recent retirees are actively looking for part-time employment because their dwindling savings and the value of their present house will not allow them the care-free golden years they had anticipated.
Recruiters that I have talked to say that they are not looking for unskilled labor at all. They are after talented, young, workers that do not need to be provided expensive office space. The new mantra is work at home; don't spend money on business clothes, commuting and using company benefits. No accidents, no workers comp. With conditions such as these, a company can save 15% on salaries and up to 50% on overhead. There are now entire divisions of I.B.M. where not a single employee sits in an office. Virtual meetings between employee groups are held online and empty office buildings are now being reconfigured for sublease as fast food palaces or for tear-down. One sign of this change is that consumption of gasoline in California and many other states is declining. Fewer people are on the roads traveling to work.
The summer vacation season in California was subdued and, on a national scale, we see strong encouragement for visitors from China, India and Brazil to visit and to buy some of the goods (ironically made in in their home countries) that they cannot easily get there. A typical Chinese family of 3 will spend $2000 on food, travel and lodging for 10 days, and an additional $6000 in buying quality American products such as Apple computers, to take home.
Travelers from foreign countries are being courted with enticements such as coupons, beauty pageants and promises of visa reform. The payoff could be significant: 1.3 million new jobs and an $859 billion shot in the arm for the U.S. economy over the next decade.
Thursday ,October 6, 2011
We're here to put a dent in the universe. - Steve Jobs (1955-2011)
Wednesday ,October 5, 2011
There were several comments about the group towing a boat down to Loreto that came in over the past few days. Here is a typical comment about the level of difficulty:
And from Doug Magee at Gonzaga:
previous months news - - September 2011 - The Tecate SCORE San Felipe Challenge of Champions 250 race, Hurricane Hilary.