For the first time in 13 years the birth rate in Catalunya has fallen by 3.8 percent (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Since 1995 the birth rate in the region has seen a continued increase but demographers are now forecasting an era of decline that will last until 2020. The start of the current decline occurred in April 2009, around nine months after the effects of the economic crisis were beginning to be felt. Although experts do not think the financial situation is the only cause of the decline. Mireia Farrè of the Institut d'Estadística de Catalunya (Idescat) claims that "even without a crisis, we knew that one day there would be an end of the increase." The decline has continued in the first quarter of 2010, according to data provided by eight public hospitals. Andreu Domingo, who works at the Centre d'Estudis Demogràfics says that it isn't possible to know through neonatal screening data to what extent the reduction of birth affects the native population and the immigrant population but, he claims, "it is likely that it has not been equally affected". He goes on to say that the immigrant population may be the principal protagonist for the falling rate. Between 2000 and 2008, births to Spanish mothers rose just 11 percent and those to foreign mothers living in Catalunya rose by a staggering 340 percent.
Voting for the future plans of the Diagonal ran into problems yesterday, the first day of voting, with at least seven consultation points experiencing computer problems (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). However in a statement released yesterday, a reported 92 percent of the polling stations were working without incident and that internet voting system was functioning normally. The points using 3G connection suffered from some issues and last night there were five points without service, including La Carpa de Jardinets, the Centro Cívico Fort Pienc and the Mercè Rodoreda library, all of those having registered intermittent problems since yesterday morning. The two companies responsible for the system, Indra and Scytl were working to resolve the problems. People polled at the stations were of mixed opinions about the redevelopment with some stating this wasn't an ideal time to be undertaking such an expensive development. Francisca said, I voted to keep the Diagonal as the same as we need more schools, social security and other things at this time."
Artur Mas, the President of the CiU has warned government leaders that the President of the Generalitat, José Montilla, could today announce summer elections (read article in Castilian, here, La Vanguardia). Today is the last day that Montilla, who has the right to call elections in the summer, initially timetabled for the Autumn can do so. In the absence of a Catalan law, the statue stipulates that elections must take place between 40 and 60 days after the publication of a decree dissolving parliament in the Diario Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya. Therefore the date could be as early as June 20th but the Ley Orgánica del Régimen Electoral General (LOREG) claims that there has to be 54 days between the announcement and the event and therefore effectively puts the hypothetical election date as July 4th. It is thought unlikely that Montilla will call for an election to take place in the summer months as he has already stated that an election should not fall during traditional holiday months. However this hypothesis remains on the table and in a meeting yesterday of the permanent secretary of the CDC has called on leaders to clear their agendas ahead of what may happen today. An official stated that "our Plan A is to provide for elections by November, but we must be prepared in case we need to activate a Plan B, if elections go ahead".
Also in the news: AENA have confirmed that 23 flights have been suspended, (12 arrivals and 11 departures) in El Prat due to the ash cloud which is now affecting the Iberian peninsula (read article in full, in Catalan here, Avui). Municipalities have announced a new financial system to combat the crisis (read article in full, in Catalan here, El Punt).