The management of changes to the social benefit payment PRIMI (aimed at people who have no other sources of income) this month has been described as a "complex operation", with many recipients still waiting for their money, which is usually received on the first of the month (read article in Catalan here, El Punt-Avui). There are many people who have gone to government offices seeking information about their payment (which is being done by cheque this month rather than bank transfer, in an attempt to identify people who are receiving the money fraudulently; the change was not announced to recipients or local administrations until August 1st) and this has led to many situations of "collapse", according to the secretary general of the Generalitat's employment department, Enric Colet. Colet was speaking to the press yesterday regarding the upset that has been caused to many recipients that has been caused with the change to the PRIMI system for this month. Amongst the problems caused, Colet explained, an information line for the area of Lleida stopped working for various hours on Monday, due to the high number of calls received. Despite this, and despite the many criticisms that have been received from various sectors regarding the decision to introduce this change in August, Colet said firmly "We didn't make a mistake." He explained that the objective of paying by cheque is to discover how many beneficiaries of PRIMI actually live at the address supplied to the government, because a change in address that is not officially notified to the administration is counted as non-fulfillment of the requirements set to receive the benefit. In addition, he defended the decision to carry out this operation in August with the argument that the money is paid to a group that "doesn't have work and, thus, they don't take holidays during the year."
A woman from the town of Angelsola in the region of Lleida has been sent to prison for building an illegal swimming-pool and not paying a fine that she was issued for the construction work (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The Lleida court (Audiencia de Lleida) sent the woman to prison, where she was taken on Monday, for a year and nine months for building the pool on land that could not be constructed on and for failing to pay the €2,500 fine that had been issued as a way to avoid jail time. According to local press reports, five years ago, the woman (known only by her initials N.R.) built a large pool in the grounds of a country house (casa rural) used for tourist accommodation without the necessary licence for such work. The local council, which had wanted to build a large roundabout on the same land, stopped the works and took the case to court. Last year, the Lleida court upheld a previously passed sentence that condemned the woman to the prison term and the fine for building on land designated as not for construction and for disobeying the council. The woman could have avoided prison if she'd paid the €2,500 because the sentence was less than two years and she had no prior convictions.
The Spanish stock market was one of the European exchanges hit by uncertainty again yesterday, with an initial rise of more than two percent followed by a fall of more than four percent, to eventually close the day down by just 0.36 percent thanks to a positive opening session on Wall Street (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Such a fluctuation of close to seven percent in just one day is not a common occurrence and proof that traders' nerves are jangling. However, more positive news came regarding Spanish public debt, whose risk premium has been falling following recent highs—it dropped again yesterday from 289 to 271 basic points above the risk premium of German debt. Interest on Spanish debt was at 5.08 percent, its lowest level since last December. Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), confirmed that the bank was buying Spanish and Italian public debt as a way to reduce the country's debt risk premiums, but he refused to say how long the ECB would continue to buy the debt. Instead, he reiterated that it was an "unconventional" step and underlined that, in exchange for the purchase, he had demanded "in the past few days, in a way that is extremely clear, that the Italian government speeds up the return to a normal budgetary situation" and that "the same had been sought" from the Spanish government.