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by Euro Reporter
2011-10-12 08:37:24
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Health service chokes as austerity tightens

Spain's treasured public health care system has become the latest victim of the euro zone debt crisis. "We haven't been paid, but there's nothing we can do about it. We need the contracts, so we're just going to have to wait it out," said a representative for a cleaning company who did not want his or the firm's name used for fear of a backlash.

The company, which says it is owed hundreds of millions of Euros by the government of the Castilla-La Mancha region south of Madrid, is one of dozens of providers of everything from surgical swabs to disinfectants struggling to pay workers as Spain's regions delay payments to meet tight deficit targets. The debt-burdened autonomous regions' spending cuts are a tangible sign of the present and future pain as Spain works to meet ambitious deficit reduction goals pledged to the European Union in the midst of an economic downturn.

Spain's political parties have kept their positions on the issue vague ahead of November 20 general elections, but even the most passionate defenders of the current system agree there is scope for cost savings and more efficiency. Spain's conservative opposition, the People's Party (PP), which is expected to win in November, will likely cut into social welfare programs the incumbent Socialists have left untouched. But even the Socialists now say they can find ways to reduce health spending without harming services. Examples include forcing car insurance firms to pay for the treatment of accident victims and sending foreign governments the bill when their citizens use Spanish hospitals.

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Matador left blind in one eye after being horrifically gored through the head

One of Spain’s most popular matadors has been blinded in his left eye and paralysed down one side of his face after he was gored through the head during a bullfight. Juan Jose Padilla, slipped after placing banderillas in the bull and the animal struck piercing him through the jaw during Zaragoza’s Fiestas Del Pilar on Friday to the horror of the 20,000 onlookers. Television images showed the sickening moment when the bull’s left horn penetrated Padilla’s lower jaw to emerge beside his protruding eyeball.

He was helped out of the ring after the gory incident with blood gushing from his head screaming “I can’t see, I can’t see.” The 38-year-old native of Jerez then underwent a life-saving five-hour operation to repair severe damage to his eye, bone, muscle and skin. Doctors had initially thought the goring – which was shown on Spanish TV channel Canal+ Toros and is now on YouTube – would be fatal.

But the bullring’s doctor Antonio Val-Carreres later confirmed Padilla was in serious condition and was staying at Zaragoza’s Miguel Servet hospital. Marques, the bull from the Ana Romero ranch which gored Padilla, were killed by the senior matador on the bill, Miguel Abellan, who put it to the sword with tears streaming down his face.

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Spain unlikely to meet deficit target


Alarm bells are being rung over Spain's ability to hit its public deficit target this year without taking further dramatic steps to raise extra income or cut spending. Figures released last week by the national statistics institute (INE) show that the deficit level remained virtually unchanged during the first half of this year, according to one of the country's leading analysts. Angel Laborda, of the savings banks federation Funcas, said the figures on the overall borrowing needs of Spain's public administration meant the chances of bringing the deficit down from 9% to 6% this year were slim.

The deficit could now head for between 7.5 and 8%of GDP – well off the target agreed by the socialist government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the European Union and much worse than previous analysts' estimates. "Most of the year has already gone so I think it is impossible to meet 6%," Laborda said. "I'd say it will be closer to 8%." He blamed the problem on the regional governments, who account for a third of public spending. Many had only seriously begun to cut spending after May elections, he said. Lower-than-expected growth was also a handicap.

Separate figures show that central government has brought down its part of the deficit, suggesting that regional governments may have actually grown their deficits during the first half of the year, he said. The Zapatero government has staked its credibility in the markets on hitting deficit targets. The fact that it met last year's target, together with Spain's relatively low overall national debt, helps to explain why bond yields have been lower than neighbouring Italy's. Finance minister Elena Salgado has repeatedly vowed to meet this year's 6% target. The socialist government, which is set to be replaced by the conservative People's Party (PP) at a general election on 20 November, has said it will introduce new measures if it has to. "Our objective of a 6% deficit at year's end will not be given up on," a finance ministry spokesman reaffirmed. "We have said many times that we will do whatever it takes to meet that."



         
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