Wage dispute in Spain


Just nine months after being elected, Spain’s Socialist government faces a rift with the trades unions over how to protect the value of the minimum wage (SMI) against inflation. The matter came to a head in the middle of last week after finance minister Pedro Solbes stated that revising the SMI in line with inflation could impact negatively on employment and business — a stance which appeared to diverge from that of the labour ministry. — AFP

Volkswagen, NBC ink pact


Volkswagen has signed a ground-breaking product placement deal with American entertainment group NBC Universal that will give the German cars high visibility on cinema and television screens. The NBC TV network and Universal film studio will feature Volkswagen products in films, DVDs, TV programmes and its theme parks worldwide. — HNS

Eurozone inflation


Eurozone indicators to be released this week will show that core inflation remains under control. Meanwhile, eurozone industrial output and French consumer spending are both expected to record declines. The Eurostat is expected to confirm that headline inflation edged up to 2.3 per cent in December from 2.2 per cent in November. — AFP

‘Superjumbo’ to roll out


The biggest passenger airliner the world has ever seen will roll out of its hangar for the first time on Tuesday to proud smiles from European leaders who backed its construction — and a scowl from the US company Boeing, whose king-of-the-skies status has been lost. —AFP

Pension rights protested


Thousands of Russian pensioners took to the streets of Saint Petersburg, Moscow and elsewhere Saturday to protest withdrawal of Soviet-era benefits, denouncing what they called Vladimir Putin’s ‘criminal’ reforms. The biggest rally was in the centre of the president’s own home town Saint Petersburg, where up to 10,000 protested. — AP

WB threatens to freeze aid


The World Bank is threatening to freeze hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Cambodia unless it pays back money that a contractor allegedly earned unlawfully from a bank project. In two letters dated January 11, the World Bank said $2.7 million was fraudulently earned in a contract to procure 13,764 motorcycles for soldiers being paid to leave the Cambodian military in a project financed by the bank. — AP

Paramalat apologises


Calisto Tanzi, founder of the bankrupt Italian food giant Parmalat at the heart of a huge finance scandal, apologised to savers who suffered ruin from the company’s meltdown. “I apologise to all who have suffered so much damage as a result of my schemes to make my dream of an industrial project come true,” he said in a statement. — AFP

Royal visit to boost ties


A state visit by Spain’s King Juan Carlos to Morocco is a sign both of warming diplomatic relations between the two neighbours and Madrid’s intention to boost its economic presence in the north African country. It will be the monarch’s first trip to Rabat since he attended the funeral of Hassan II in July 1999, and marks the end of a period of poor relations under Madrid’s former conservative government. — AFP