The Catalan government wants to complete its negotiations with the Spanish administration regarding ways to cut its budget deficit by the summer (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). The Generalitat has also made clear that it will not cut its spending by more than 10 percent, with the aim of reducing its deficit to 1.3 percent this year, and has called on Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to meet his obligations with Catalunya. This follows suggestions that the Spanish government wants Catalunya to cut its spending by over 20 percent, and the publication on Saturday in La Vanguardia of a letter from the Spanish secretary of state for the treasury, Carlos Ocaña, where he called not only for more significant budget cuts but also increased tax rates. However, the Generalitat has completely discounted the option of raising taxes and instead is opting for taking a firm line with the Spanish government where possible, as it did with the recent funding issue for the reduced cost public transport tickets, which Zapatero's government eventually agreed to subsidise. The Generalitat is aiming for its 2011 budgets to be finalised no later than July, and it is possible that they could be modified right up to the last minute. There is also reluctance at the Generalitat to meet with the Spanish government in advance of the municipal elections, taking place on May 22nd. However, Zapatero and his administration are keen to have the meeting, which would be with the Fiscal and Financial Policy Board, as early as possible, as they are due to present their latest plans for dealing with the state of the Spanish economy in Brussels towards the end of this month.
The Catalan minister for education, Irene Rigau, has insisted that the cuts that the sector is facing will not affect jobs (read article in Catalan here, Avui). "The measures that we are thinking of applying will not affect the employees of Education," she said today in an interview on Catalan radio station RAC1. Instead, she said that cuts would be made in areas such as electricity, paper and other supplies. Rigau went on to say that the government is fully supportive of the professional cycle and for that reason, education is crucial. She also praised a school in the Costa Brava that has started a scheme whereby troublesome pupils are made to do social work and spoke about the issue of uniforms, saying that some students go to school dressed as if they were going to the disco.
The current economic crisis is causing mobile phone users to hunt around for the best deal, with many choosing to change operators (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). There are also signs that people are looking to save money by getting rid of their fixed telephone lines; the number of new bandwidth lines was only 50,300 in February while 625,000 people changed mobile phone companies to take advantage of a cheaper arrangement. There has been a significant price war in the Spanish mobile phone sector in the last three years, following the arrival of the fourth operator Yoigo in the market as well as virtual operators. Users have shown a clear preference for 'low-cost' service providers, with the effect that the big companies have seen significant reductions in their customer numbers. To give one example, Telefonica has seen its broadband market share fall by 52 percent, while its mobile phone arm Movistar has lost more than 40 percent of its share and Vodafone 29 percent.