Yesterday's popular vote in Barcelona on whether Catalunya should be independent saw 257,645 people take part, a figure that surprised the organisers (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). This represents 18.4 percent of the potential electorate, made up of anyone on the electoral roll aged 16 and over, while just a few days ago the organisation Barcelona Decideix had set itself the reachable target of 10 percent participation. The group said it was surprised that ultimately almost double the number hoped for had voted. It means that this non-binding referendum on the matter far surpassed the participation figures achieved last year in the city council's vote on the future of Avinguda Diagonal (in which 172,161 people took part), and leaves it, in terms of numbers, around the middle of the 553 towns and cities in Catalunya that have organised similar acts. When announcing the result, the spokesman for Barcelona Decideix, writer Alfred Bosch, said that the final figure had exceeded their most optimistic forecasts of 15 percent. Of those who voted, 89.7 percent said they were in favour of an independent Catalunya, 8.8 percent were against the idea and blank and spoiled votes were 1.27 percent [as reported in La Vanguardia].
The Catalan government is today putting on sale bonds worth €2.7 billion as a way to raise funds (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The bonds, which will be sold to individuals, will have a duration of one or two years and be sold through nine banks and savings banks. The subscription period will end when the target figure has been reached, although if demand is high, the Generalitat has the option of extending the offer to a total of €3.3 billion, according to its agreement with the banks. The financial entities taking part in the offer are: La Caixa, CatalunyaCaixa, Unnim, Barclays, Ahorro Corporación, Caixa d'Enginyers, GVC Gaesco and Deutsche Bank. The one-year bonds offer an interest rate of 4.25 percent and those of two years, 4.75 percent, while the minimum investment is €1,000 (for one bond) and up to a maximum of €2 million (2,000 bonds). The banks will charge commission for the purchase of the bonds, ranging between 0.75 percent and 2.5 percent for the one-year bonds, and one and 3.5 percent for the two-year ones. The Generalitat's finance minister on Friday, Andreu Mas-Collell said on Friday that he was convinced the issue would be a success given "the attractive conditions for the citizens of Catalunya and also for the Generalitat."
The low-cost airline Ryanair saw its share of the Spanish market grow by 38 percent last year, with particularly good results in short- and medium-distance routes (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). More than 26 million passengers used the airline in Spain in 2010, an increase of seven million in just one year and a rise that contributed to Ryanair's overall passenger numbers going up from 65 million to 72 million. Last year, Ryanair opened four new bases in Spain: as well as Barcelona's El Prat airport, it now operates from Seville, Valencia and Malaga. This week, the airline reported that it is expecting to see a significant increase in the number of people using its service this year at El Prat, Seville, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife, Valencia and Malaga. However, the president of travel agent association UCAVE, Rafael Serra, said that the Ryanair model was very dangerous: "The airline enters a market, drives down prices and forces out competitors, then seeks subsidies [from local administrations] to ensure its continuity or else it withdraws its routes." This strategy has recently been applied to various Spanish airports, including Girona, over which Ryanair withdrew from negotiations over subsidies with the Generalitat and later announced a significant reduction in its services from the airport for this summer. The company has also withdrawn from Lleida airport and forced the authorities at Alicante to let its airplanes park at the terminal building so passengers can embark and disembark using the walkways that connect to planes.