Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is facing difficulties in gathering the necessary amount of political support for his proposed austerity measures (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The plan, due to be approved by the Spanish cabinet this Thursday, needs parliamentary support from within the Spanish congress to be passed, but the opposition Partido Popular party has already signalled that it won’t support the package of measures, and a similar response has been given by smaller groups such as the Catalan party Convergència i Unió and the Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco). As well as taking political advantage of the situation (the PP has voiced its support for the ‘weak’ members of society who are affected by the prime minister’s plans, while CiU is trying to play on the negative attitudes that many Catalans now have towards Zapatero), the parties are reluctant to share the responsibility for the list of tough cuts that the Socialist government has formulated in response to international and European pressure for Spain to reduce its public debt; plans including the reduction of civil servant pay and cutting of certain public benefits have not been well-received across Spanish society. Both the PP and CiU have said they are against the proposed freezing of pensions, due to be a key issue in upcoming elections with a growing sector of the population that is aged over 50, and the part of Zapatero’s plans that have caused most attacked in recent polls.
Following various meetings held yesterday, two new Catalan savings banks are due to come into being, the result of two separate fusions between six existing caixes or savings banks (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The first will see Caixes Catalunya, Tarragona and Manresa merge into a single entity, with its new commercial name due to be announced in the next few days (for the time being, it is being called Caixa Catalunya); the other fusion means that Caixes Sabadell, Terrassa and Manlleu will come together under a brand new name, Unnim, which will start officially operating in July. The merger discussions have been going on for almost a year and yesterday’s meetings of the various boards of each financial organisation were the culmination of the fusion process. The mergers come at a time when the Spanish financial sector is facing various difficulties with falling profits and a rise in arrears amongst both companies and private clients, coming on the heels of a period of strong growth during which many of these savings banks expanded their network of offices. As a result, the announced mergers will see a rapid reduction in the number of bank offices around Catalunya, and hundreds of people are expected to lose their jobs. Both new entities will take advantage of money from a fund set up by the central Spanish government to help with the re-structuring of financial organisations, with ‘Caixa Catalunya’ receiving over €1 billion and Unnim, €350 million.
If the elections for the presidency of FC Barcelona were to happen today, then contender Sandro Rosell would win a clear majority (read article in Castilan here, El Periodico). This is the finding of a poll carried out on behalf of El Periodico and Sport newspapers amongst 800 members of Barça regarding the race to win one of the most coveted jobs in international football. Rosell was a vicepresident of the present governing body of the sports club until he fell out with outgoing president Joan Laporta; with the latter now standing down, Rosell has put himself forward as an official pre-candidate and is standing on a platform of change. According to the poll, almost 55 percent of those members who can take part in the vote for the Barça president would pick Rosell, with the other two principal candidates, Marc Ingla and Jaume Ferrer, lagging far behind on 12.4 percent and 9.9 percent respectively. Rosell has the advantage of being the most recognised of the three and his promise of change has much appeal for Barça members. In contrast, Jaume Ferrer, who is currently a Barça director, represents a continuity vote, with only 33.1 percent of those asked voicing favour for such a presidency, and 57.9 percent seeking change. However, despite this, over 70 percent said they believed that Laporta has been a good president. The elections will take place in four weeks, on June 13th.
Also in the news: Catalan Socialist Party gives Mayor Hereu a chance to prove worthiness as candidate for next year’s council elections (read full article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia); Local tourist agencies seek ‘plan B’ in case volcanic ash cloud causes problems for visitors in the summer season (read full article in Catalan here, Avui); Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho spotted playing beach football with friends in former home of Castelldefels (read full article in Castilian here, El Periodico).