Spain is facing in the coming days the second reform to its constitution and will do so without a referendum (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). Pressed by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero will include in the constitution a limit to the deficit and debt. Zapatero has conceded to the proposal, previously suggested by the PP in June 2010, which sets a limit to the deficit and debt. As yet unwritten, the amendments have already been seen and approved by the PP and the anti-crisis measure was announced in yesterday's financial debate in Congress. Speaking at the the debate Zapatero said that the text will establish a ceiling for both debt and the deficit but will include "strict objective criteria and room for flexibility." The reform is not expected to take effect until 2018 or 2020 causing Zapatero to joke that none of those present yesterday, least of all him will be present when it comes into effect. José Bono, president of Congress has confirmed that the bill will be approved by the house on September 1st allowing no time for further amendments. Rajoy welcomed the measure but criticised the delay and recalled Zapatero's initial negative response to the idea stating that Zapatero had said only a month ago that the reform had "no foundation, effectiveness or ability."
Francesc Xavier Mena, director of the department of enterprise and employment, has set up a temporary employment agency to interview 20,000 beneficiaries about their benefit in a bid to control fraud (read article in Castilian here, El Pais). In a move to control the Renta Mínima de Inserción (RMI), which is given to help people who don't have sufficient financial means to meet the essential needs of everyday life. Some 200,000 beneficiaries until the end of September are to be asked, in the office of the Generalitat, 11 questions poised in the majority by personal from the company Randstad, specialised in human resources. The department have denied using a temporary employment agency and haven't clarified what training the personnel conducting the interviews have received. Although not made public, sources close to management at Randstad said that three months ago they conducted a pilot test in which dozens of people receiving the financial aid were called to the offices to be interviewed. The moves to control the RMI have outraged social workers who state that the each case is already reviewed twice a year. The official justification behind these interviews is to fight against fraud but those affected see it differently. Esther S, a 41-year-old, called to the offices yesterday (Tuesday) told El Pais that she was told not to worry and this was just procedure to update data. Esther then responded to questions about changes in her personal life, travel, banking and debt but didn't have to provide any documentation. Around 34,000 people receive the RMI, with the basic allowance standing at around €420 a month, a figure which varies according to family or personal circumstances. Francesc Xavier Mena and the minister of social welfare are due in court to answer questions about the recent crisis in August which left tens of thousands of people without the financial help. The crisis began with a change in the payment system implemented without warning. It is thought that around 25 percent of beneficiaries did not receive help in August.
The mayor of Barcelona Xavier Trias has pulled the plug on the previous government's idea to create a marine zoo at the Fòrum, preferring to focus on a reform of the facilities at Ciutadella Park (read article in Castilian here, La Vanguardia). Sonia Recasens, second deputy mayor, announced the move at the presentation of two new hyenas, the first at the zoo in 25 years. Recasens also revealed that so far this year, up until July, Barcelona Zoo had received 692,948 visitors, a figure up 13 percent over the same period last year, an all time record. The newest additions to the zoo are two male spotted hyenas from Hungary and are of particular interest to the zoo as they were the only family of carnivorous mammals that weren't previously represented. When asked about the fact that they were two males the team at the zoo responded by saying that it was normal to start the first two years of a group with a single-sex and then introduce females.