The biggest internet shop Amazon has opened its Spanish website (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The first purchase was made just after midnight on Tuesday, which was one day earlier than expected, with a customer buying the complete Star Wars DVD set (€73.99). As well as books, CDs and DVDs, Amazon sells much more from toys to vacuum cleaners, and there are fears that its arrival in the Spanish market will threaten existing businesses, especially bookshops, who are already concerned about the new rival. The online giant, created in the US in 1995, can't use price cuts as a way to compete in Spain because the law, although it allows discounts of five percent, obliges companies to sells products for a fixed amount, as happens in Germany, France and Italy. However, Amazon can attract clients through other means such as offering a wider range of books that physical bookshops can't stock due to reasons of space and the speed of delivery, with books usually arriving a matter of days after a purchase is made, or one day if the customer pays extra for postage. While Amazon doesn't have a distribution centre in Spain, it does have one in France of 90,000 square metres.
The city council of Badalona has removed a series of benches in areas with high levels of immigration in an attempt to stop gatherings by what it calls 'annoying' residents (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). In what is described as 'preventative town planning', the idea is to exclude certain citizens from a space that they normally use, for example by avoiding homeless people sleeping in the street and drug addicts injecting themselves in public, as well as preventing brawls and night-time get-togethers in municipal spaces. Now, mayors in three places, including Badalona, are getting rid of benches and fountaions motivated, they say, by the complaints of locals. The mayor of Badalona, Xavier Albiol, known for his controversial claims of a link between delinquency and immigration, has decided to take out benches from the neighbourhood of Salut because people using them regularly caused annoyances to other inhabitants of the area. In addition, he has ordered the removal of public fountains because they were being used by some people to wash themselves and as a water supply.
The ratings agency Fitch has downgraded the solvency of five Spanish autonomous communities, including Catalunya (read article in Catalan here, El Punt-Avui). Fitch also included a negative forecast with the new rating, which means that future downgrades are possible. According to a report issued yesterday by the agency, the downgrade is due to a fiscal deterioration that the organisation has detected in recent years in some Spanish communities, which has led to increased debt for these regions. As such, debt issued by the Generalitat has passed from an A rating to A- with a negative perspective attached. This is not good timing for the Catalan government, which in the coming months will have to look to the financial markets for funds of some €5.455 billion. A large part of this will be for the re-financing of €3 billion of the first issue of individual bonds, which expire on November 21st. As such, the department of economy of the Generalitat, headed by Andreu Mas-Colell, is hoping that a significant amount of bond-holders will accept the renewal of their assets, with conditions similar to those in place for the bond issue carried out this May, when one-year bonds had an interest rate of 4.25 percent and those of two years, 4.75 percent. However the interest rate to be offered to those who do renew their holdings is yet to be confirmed, and will depend in large part on the situation with the financial markets. “The new rating arrives at a time of generalised downgrades in the ratings of companies and governments and, given that, we are applying austerity measures that are having a positive result," said yesterday a spokesperson of the economy department.