Last year, Catalunya closed, on average, one bank branch per day (read article in Catalan here, Avui). Catalunya is one of the autonomous communities in Spain with the greatest number of bank offices, but by the end of last year, 383 of them had been closed down leaving a total of 7,715 branches throughout the region, according to data from the Bank of Spain. At its peak, the network of Catalan banks reached 8,159 points, in mid-2008. However, despite the number of closures, the Bank of Spain believes that the consolidation of offices is going slower than it should. Throughout Spain last year, some 1,577 offices were closed, around three percent of the country’s total. The majority of the expansion of bank branches, both at a regional and national level, has been carried out by savings banks (caixes d’estalvi)—however, as a number of these institutions have now embarked on a merger process, it is expected that there will be a related cut in the number of their offices in the coming months.
The Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the president of the Generalitat, José Montilla, are to meet on Monday, when Zapatero visits Catalunya to inaugurate the particle accelerator ‘Sincrotrón Alba’ (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Zapatero is to lunch with Montilla at the Palau de la Generalitat before the two head to Cerdanyola del Vallès, the first time the men have met since the start of January in Madrid. However, it is thought that relations between the two have improved since Montilla showed his support for the joint editorial published in Catalan newspapers regarding the constitutionality of the new Catalan statute and there were disagreements between the central and regional government over the budget for the latter.
Just over 50 percent of Catalan children aged between eight and 14 take part in on-line social networks such as Facebook, while 64 percent of the age group has an e-mail account (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). These are some of the findings in a study carried out by the Fundación Observatorio de la Sociedad de la Información about safety in the use of internet by children in Catalunya, which was presented yesterday. The survey was done with children and adults at the Fiesta de los Súpers last year (an annual children’s event organised by Catalan television). Reassuringly, 97 percent of the youngsters questioned said that although they use chat systems, they don’t do chat or talk with strangers, and 81 percent said they only communicated with people that they know. In addition, the large majority (75 percent) said they erase any e-mails they get from people they don’t know. In terms of the parents questioned, only 30 percent said that always or almost accompany their children when they are surfing the net, while almost the same number, 29 percent, said that they never or almost never do.
Also in the news: Spanish health ministry and autonomous communities reach agreement to cut pharmaceuticals costs by €1,500 mn (read full article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia); Guardia Civil officer released after 15 years in prison for stealing millions of pesetas from public funds (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico); Electricity company says Girona service better than the Spanish average (read full article in Castilian here, El Periodico)