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Spanish report Spanish report
by Euro Reporter
2010-12-06 08:46:37
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Spain sets new austerity measures

Spain summarized new set of austerity measures Friday to bring its massive budget deficit under control and to relieve investor’s concern on international bailout. The Spanish government austerity measures include the sale of minority stakes in the state lottery, partially privatize some of the country’s biggest airports and raise taxes on cigarettes by 24 percent, which the government anticipates will generate an extra $1 billion a year.

In addition, the government will cut the monthly benefits for the long-term unemployed and the taxes imposed for small and medium-sized businesses to promote economic activity. These measures come after the $19-billion austerity package that was presented earlier this year to help curb a budget gap equal to 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spanish prime minister, postponed his visit to Latin America to impel the new set of austerity measure on Friday. The prime minister insisted that Spain will not ask for a bailout from either European Union or the International Monetary Fund. The financial aid failed to calm investors, who recently increased the cost of borrowing for Portugal and Spain on speculations that the Euro-debt contagion may affect the two countries and will apply for a bailout.

Meanwhile, as concerns that the deficit will be brought down, traders have pressed for further signs of the government’s determination to cut consumer spending. On Friday, the yield on a ten-year Treasury bond fell, retreating from a record high reached this week. The decline has relieved some of the pressure on Lisbon to apply for a bailout. Portugal and Spain’s stock markets closed higher for the weekend.


Support for Spain Socialists at all-time low - poll

Spain's ruling Socialists are less popular than at any time in the country's modern democratic era, according to a poll published by El Pais on Sunday. The poll, conducted by Metroscopia on Dec. 1-2 among 1,000 voters, showed that if an election were held tomorrow the Socialists would win 24.3 percent of the vote, with the opposition Popular Party polling 43.1 percent. That compares with a 9.1 percentage point advantage for the PP in the last Metroscopia poll a month ago, when the Socialists staged a partial rebound after a cabinet reshuffle.

The latest poll was carried out in one of the toughest weeks for the now deeply unpopular prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose personal ratings have plunged as Spain has struggled to pull itself out of a deep recession following the financial crisis. According to Metroscopia, 80 percent of those surveyed had little or no confidence in Zapatero. The poll coincided with a package of measures to reduce Spain's debt, including the sale of stakes in the national lottery, the partial privatisation of the airports authority AENA and cuts in benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Unemployment is around 20 percent, the highest rate in Europe. But the poll was taken before Spanish air travel was brought to a standstill on Friday and Saturday by a wildcat strike by air traffic controllers protesting against changes to their working conditions. Based on the poll, the Socialists' share of the vote would be below the 24.4 percent the party polled when Spain held its first democratic elections in 1977, El Pais said. Zapatero was reelected in 2008 with 43.7 percent of the vote. Of those polled, 91 percent said Spain's economic situation was bad or very bad.


Spain, the world capital of prostitution?

The Spanish economy may be dangerously close to meltdown this week but one area at least – prostitution – appears to be doing very nicely, thank you. "Don Jose – cleanliness; Don Jose – discretion; Don Jose – security, and a patrolled car park," half-whispers the calm female voice on a Granada radio station throughout the day. It is an advertisement for the city's biggest and best-known brothel. Cut to a Saturday night inside the said Don Jose "club" – three storeys high, flashing neon lights, two bars, a VIP zone and some 70 sex workers, clad in everything from nightgowns to G-strings to the very briefest of shorts – and, according to local regulars, business is booming. "The place is heaving every weekend," comments "Alvaro", an experienced brothel-goer in his late forties. "These days in the afternoons and early evenings, you'll get businessmen who've told their wives they're at meetings. Then later on, there are hordes of 18- or 19-year-olds, just there to have a laugh and, if they want, have a quick lay as well."

This is no exaggeration. Prostitution is so popular (and socially accepted) in Spain that a United Nations study reports that 39 per cent of all Spanish men have used a prostitute's services at least once. A Spanish Health Ministry survey in 2009 put the percentage of one-time prostitute users at 32 per cent: lower than the UN figure, perhaps, but far higher than the 14 per cent in liberal-minded Holland, or in Britain, where the figure is reported to oscillate between 5 and 10 per cent. And that was just those men willing to admit it. To meet this vast demand, an estimated 300,000 prostitutes are working in Spain – everywhere from clubs in town centres to industrial estates, to lonely country roads to roadside bars, the last often recognisable by gigantic neon signs of champagne bottles or shapely females, flashing away in the darkness. And recently, on the French border, Club Paradise opened with 180 sex workers, making it the biggest brothel in Europe.

As the clubs get larger, the clients get younger. According to studies carried out for the Spanish Association for the Social Reintegration of Female Prostitutes (Apramp), back in 1998 the typical client was a 40-year-old married male. By 2005, however, the average age had dropped to 30 – and it appears to be getting lower. "The kids are going because they see it as a quick way of getting what would take a lot longer to happen if they went to a disco," Alvaro says. "You've got the money, you choose the woman you want and it's all over and done with." His own logic is even more brutal: "I go when I don't have a girlfriend."

There is no single reason, though, why prostitution should be so popular in Spain. Historically it has long been seen as an expression of individual freedom – first as a pressure valve for the strait-laced family-focused environment of the Franco years (when prostitution was quietly ignored), and then consolidating itself after the dictator died. Then, as now, brothels would be listed in the yellow pages, albeit under the coy title of "nightclubs", and nobody batted an eyelid. Among the young men of the Spanish provinces, even in the late 1980s, sleeping with a prostitute was no longer something you did as way of losing your virginity: it could actually be seen as cool. In the 1990s, magazines such as Interviú, which prides itself on its investigative journalism, would think nothing of publishing "erotic guides to Spain". Even today, all-male business dinners can end up in the local "club". "Every now and then I have to take clients," says one accountant who did not want to be named, "but it's OK. They take credit cards."

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