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IMF lowers 2021 growth forecast for Spain to 5.7%

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elpais– In its new World Economic Outlook for October 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) partly coincides with the Spanish government’s own macroeconomic forecast for this year and the next, but disagrees with its long-term deficit projections.

The international organization has reduced Spain’s growth prospects for 2021 to 5.7%, five tenths of a point lower than what it said in its July update. And in 2022, the IMF is expecting Spain’s economic output to grow 6.4%, which is six tenths of a point higher than its previous estimate. In September, the Spanish government released its own projections of 6.5% growth for 2021 and 7% for 2022.

The IMF report also shows that Spain is expected to gradually reduce its debt and deficit levels this year and the next, but to make very little progress on these fronts from 2023 onwards, in contrast with the government’s own projections.

Covid-19 crisis

In June 2019, Spain was emerging from a decade of austerity following the deep crisis of 2008. Brussels responded to the good news by lifting corrective measures after certifying that the country’s deficit level had returned to below the EU target of 3% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The optimism was short-lived. Less than a year later, the economy had shrunk by a record 10.8% as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a figure unseen since the days of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. And the government was forced to roll out its fiscal artillery to deal with the crisis, including a job retention scheme and deferred tax payments. The combination immediately pushed up the national deficit to 10.9% of GDP for 2020.

Although Spain recently entered the coronavirus low-risk scenario through a drop in infections driven by high vaccination rates, the economic fallout remains considerable, and the Spanish Cabinet last week approved the blueprint for the 2022 budget, which it described as the largest public spending effort in Spain’s history.

Debt and deficit

The Spanish government – a center-left coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos – is expecting to end 2021 with a budget deficit of 8,4%. After that, the goal is to bring the figure down to 5% in 2022, 4% in 2023 and 3.2% in 2024.

The IMF agrees with the first part of this diagnosis, but believes that between 2023 and 2026 the deficit will remain above 4% of GDP. More specifically, it is expected to be 4.4% in 2023 and 4.2% thereafter.

This means that for at least the next five years Spain would be in violation of the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact, which sets a ceiling of 3% for the deficit and 60% for debt. However, the Pact was suspended until 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the EU Commission is expected to launch a review of its budget rules on October 19, Reuters reported.

As for government debt, the IMF also disagrees with the Spanish executive’s forecast. The latter said it plans to bring the figure down from 120% of GDP in 2020 to 119.5% in 2021 and 115.1% in 2022. The international organization thinks instead that it will be 120.2% in 2020, and that it will not experience any significant reduction until 2022. At that point, the figure would likely hover around 116% or 117% for several years.

Health

Spanish researchers pave way for fair play in global Covid testing and research

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thelocal– The World Health Organisation described the accord as the first transparent, global, non-exclusive licence for a Covid-19 health tool, that should help towards correcting the “devastating global inequity” in access.

The deal brings the Spanish National Research Council CSIC together with the global Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) knowledge-sharing platform.

“The aim of the licence is to facilitate the rapid manufacture and commercialisation of CSIC’s Covid-19 serological test worldwide,” the WHO said.

The test effectively detects anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies developed in response to either a Covid-19 infection or a vaccine.

CSIC, one of Europe’s main public research institutions, will provide the MPP or prospective licencees with know-how and training.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the licence, which will be royalty-free for low and middle-income countries, as “the kind of open and transparent licence we need to move the needle on access during and after the pandemic”.

He added: “I urge developers of Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to follow this example and turn the tide… on the devastating
global inequity this pandemic has spotlighted.”

C-TAP was founded in May 2020 as a platform for developers of Covid-19 tools to share knowledge and intellectual property.

Set up during the scramble for Covid vaccines and treatments, the health technology repository was first suggested by Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.

The information pool was intended as a voluntary global bank for IP and open-sourced data as part of a common front against the new coronavirus.

However, as it turned out, rival pharmaceutical companies have largely kept their findings to themselves rather than sharing them as global public goods.

Tuesday’s deal “shows that solidarity and equitable access can be achieved”, said Alvarado.

CSIC president Rosa Menéndez said she hoped the move would serve as an example for other research organisations.

‘Preposterous’ tests hoarding

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the test could quantify three different types of antibodies — and crucially, differentiate vaccinated people from those with natural Covid infection.

“This feature will become very important for measuring the number of Covid-19 cases in countries and the impact of control measures,” it said.

In welcoming CSIC’s move, MSF diagnostics adviser Stijn Deborggraeve said it was “preposterous” in a global pandemic that tests were being monopolised by “a handful of privileged people and countries”.

The Geneva-based MPP is a UN-backed international organisation that works to facilitate the development of medicines for low- and middle-income nations.

The antibody test licensing accord is the third Covid-related deal that the global pool has struck in a month.

Last week, the MPP reached an agreement with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to make its prospective antiviral Covid-19 pill available more cheaply in 95 low- and middle-income countries via sub-licensing to generic drug manufacturers.

The MPP signed a similar deal last month with Pfizer’s US rival Merck for its prospective oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir.

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Spain

In 2 days, 10 migrants die trying to reach Spanish islands

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euronews– Spanish rescuers say 10 migrants have died while trying to reach the Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

Rescuers said Monday they found a migrant boat drifting 200 kilometres from the Canary Islands and saved 40 people but recovered two bodies.

The boat is believed to have departed from Dakhla on the coast of Western Sahara five days ago. A Spanish rescue plane spotted it drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. At least five people had to be evacuated by helicopter to a hospital on the island of Gran Canaria for urgent medical attention. The other survivors were being brought back to the port of Arguineguín on the same island in one of Spain’s rescue ships.

Some 900 migrants have reportedly died or gone missing on the dangerous migration route from West Africa to the Canary Islands, according to the U.N. migration agency. Experts say even that number is an undercount as many migrant ships sink with no confirmation.

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Spain

Spain’s Civil Guard police officers allowed to have visible tattoos

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thelocal– Spain on Monday relaxed its policy banning officers from the country’s oldest police force, the Guardia Civil, from exhibiting tattoos.

Officers will now be allowed to display tattoos anywhere on their bodies “as long as they do not contain expressions that violate constitutional values or harm the discipline or image of the force,” the interior minister said in a statement.

“For the first time visible tattoos will be allowed on uniformed officers,” it added.

On the other hand, the decree prohibits hoop earrings, spikes, plugs and other inserts when they are visible in uniform, “except regular earrings, for both male and female personnel”.

The Guardia Civil mainly patrols and investigates crimes in rural areas, while Spain’s National Police focuses on urban areas.

Last year Spain’s leftist government appointed a woman to head the force for the first time in its 177-year history.

The increasing popularity of tattoos has led police forces around the world to regulate their use.

Los Angeles police are required to ensure that tattoos are not visible to the public while on-duty, while France’s Gendarmes police force also requires that they be covered.

 

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