Temperatures in Barcelona province could go as low as -10 degrees today, as the current cold snap continues across Catalunya and Spain (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Many areas of the peninsula are on alert because of the cold weather, including Barcelona, Lleida and Girona provinces. According to the Spanish Meteorological Agency (Agencia Estatal de Meterología), the coldest place in Spain today will be Teruel, where thermometers could register temperatures as low as -12 degrees.
Negotiations between the Spanish government, employers' associations and trade unions regarding changes to the public pension system are entering their final phase this week (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). A debate will take place in the Spanish Congress tomorrow regarding the proposed changes as outlined in the 'Toledo Pact', following which the principal unions, CCOO and UGT, will take a decision as to whether to continue their talks with the government in the short and long term. Behind-the-door discussions have taken place throughout the weekend on the subject of pension reforms, which could include a change to the official age of retirement, rising from 65 to 67 years, as well as changes to the way in which the period of contributions is calculated. Talks between the interested parties have been going on since the beginning of January—they have no official deadline, but the Spanish cabinet is due to approve new legislation this Friday. The government is hoping to reach a global agreement with other political parties and social organisations on the question of reforming the Spanish pension system, and talks will start with the former following tomorrow's Congress debate.
The new Catalan government has decided to make the local public health system the focus of the economic debate here (read article in Catalan here, Avui). Following comments by the Minister for Economy and Knowledge, Andreu Mas-Colell where he said that the health system was the principal cause of the Generalitat's current budget deficit, politicians have turned their attention to making cuts to the spending on the CatSalut system. However, the fear of a drop in quality in one of the most valued public services has created many doubts about the future of the health system and raised the question of how to maintain the current level of service with fewer resources available. It is a particularly difficult question at a time when the population is aging and there are significant advances in pharmaceuticals and technology, both factors that require high levels of investment. Managers and professionals working in the Catalan health system agree that a shake-up of CatSalut is necessary, but without knowing at this point what action should be taken.