The low-cost airline Ryanair has announced that it will close 21 of the remaining routes that it operates from Girona airport, in addition to the closure of various routes that the company announced some months ago (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Speaking in Barcelona, the vice-president of the company, Michael Cawley, said that the decision had been taken following the failure to reach a competitive agreement with the Generalitat. In February, Ryanair said that it would end 18 of its Girona routes, taking it from 64 to 46 routes and from 300 flights a week to 194. Its latest move signifies an additional 50 percent cut in the number of passengers that the company expects to carry from the Catalan airport, dropping from 2.6 million to 1.3 million; the number of airplanes used to service Girona will also be halved, from six to three. Cawley criticised once more the government of Artur Mas for saying that it couldn't take on the pre-agreement signed by Ryanair with the previous Generalitat coalition government due to the current economic climate, and then giving €20 million to Spanair.
While the Generalitat is applying its cuts to the health service here with a certain level of discretion and stealth, patients and staff are making efforts to keep some affected services running (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Yesterday, there were staff protests at the Hospitals del Mar and de la Esperança in Barcelona against imminent redundancies, while there is also a continuing protest at the Sant Feliu doctors' surgery (CAP) in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, which started last Thursday and has seen some protestors stay overnight at the centre, which is threatened with closure. Meanwhile, 30 residents from the Costa Brava town of Breda (Selva) travelled to the headquarters of the Generalitat's health department wearing t-shirts protesting against the night-time closure of the town's only CAP. "They've told us that if we become ill at night, we have to go to the CAP in Santa Coloma de Farners," those involved commented. Other protests against similar closures are ongoing in Poblenou in Barcelona and the town of Castellbisbal in Vallés Occidental. The strategy of the Generalitat is to close down centres that are deemed to be "excessively" near to other health services, such as hospitals, leaving patients with the option to travel to those alternative centres. However, they are tending not to announce which centres will close (whether permanently or only at night); in the case of those that are closing at night (56), they have been said to have their timetables "modified", while another 32 will no longer be open during the night but provide details of emergency services that can be contacted by telephone for home visits. Twenty-two centres are being closed permanently, meaning that patients will have to travel to the nearest open centre.
Although small and medium-sized companies (petits i mitjanes empreses in Catalan) continue to be the engine of the Catalan economy, providing work for more than seven out of 10 workers here, they have been seriously hit by the current economic crisis (read article in Catalan here, Avui). The director of the economy and business department of the company PIMEC, Modest Guinjoan, said yesterday that the worst year for the sector so far had been 2009, which saw 14,000 such companies close down with the loss of 100,000 jobs. He added that 2010 and 2011 have also been bad, but without the dramatic falls of 2009. In addition, the president of PIMEC, Josep González, said that the only positive aspect for these Catalan companies at the present time are exports, which represent the only green shoots of recovery compared to the stagnating internal market. González called for a change in government policy because the "necessary measures are not being taken". He criticised the government for throwing in the towel on labour reform in the face of pressure from trade unions and the upcoming Spanish general elections, when, he argued, it is crucial to be competitive. Guinjoan warned that despite the rise in exports, only 20 percent of PIMEs here are exporters compared to 80 percent of large companies.