The Generalitat yesterday agreed significant changes to the criteria for receiving the renta mínima de inserción (RMI) financial benefit, which is paid to those people who have no other sources of income (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). The decision was taken without any consultation with the government's own advisers on family and social policy or any other of the Catalan political parties, although these discussions had been promised in the Catalan parliament just last week by members of the welfare and family, and business and employment departments of the Generalitat. As a result of the approved changes, the conditions for those applying to receive the monthly payment of the RMI, which is €500 on average, have become much more restrictive than before (for instance, recipients have to have been living in Catalunya for two rather than one years, and those people who cannot prove 'additional social difficulties' will no longer be eligible). The aim of the reform is to stop the unemployed turning to the benefit once their unemployment payments have concluded, in the face of a large number of long-term unemployed, who lost their jobs as a result of the current financial crisis, expected to come to the end of their benefit in the coming months, which could cause an avalanche of RMI applications. According to an estimate provided to the Catalan parliament by the councillor for Business, Francesc Xavier Mena, "between October and March 2012, the 69.8 percent of unemployed people in Catalunya will have exhausted their state-paid benefit." It is hoped that such people will instead apply for the Spanish renta activa de inserción payment, rather than the Catalan-controlled benefit.
The Catalan nationalist party Convergència i Unió (CiU) abstained yesterday from the vote regarding the amendment to the Spanish Constitution that will set a limit on the amount of debt that public administrations can incur in the future (read article in Catalan here, El Punt-Avui). Although it is unlikely to have any serious impact on the agreement reached between the governing Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the opposition Partido Popular (PP) to pass the change through a 'fast-track' process, the 10 members of CiU in the Spanish Congress were upset that their complaints about the amendment were not taken into account by the Spanish parties [it will affect the debt and spending of each of the Spanish autonomous communities as well as the central government]. As such, they decided that the best course of action was to not participate in yesterday's vote regarding whether to admit the proposal put forward by prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to amend Article 135 of the Constitution. The CiU spokesman in Congress, Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida, criticised the harmful effects of the pact made between the PSOE and PP, even though the latter were not interested in listening to his complaints. The two Spanish parties have offered to hold talks with the different parliamentary groups, but warned that the new text for the Constitution is unchangeable.
The business of instant money-lending is thriving in Barcelona thanks to the crisis and the problems of many to reach the end of the month with their standard income (read article in Castilian here, El Periodico). With unemployment high and banks refusing to give more credit on credit cards, there is an increasing number of Spaniards who are finding it difficult to pay their monthly bills and so are turning to money-lending firms to help them out. "In the last month, we have had 600 applications for credit, which is double the demand compared to the previous month," said Daniel Alonso, director general of Crédito Pocket, one of the newest companies to join the money-lending sector in Spain. "But even so, we're far from the competition, which can receive around 2,000 credit applications in a month," added Alonso. The company was created last year, set up by four Catalan partners who wanted to repeat the success that such 'instant cash' companies have achieved elsewhere in Europe. Indeed, the majority of the companies in this sector that operate in Spain are controlled by international firms.