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In his first speech since his father Juan Carlos abdicated the throne, Spain’s future King, Crown Prince Felipe, addressed his country’s begrudgingly slow economic recovery. He referred to Spain as “united and diverse.” These remarks came a week after a new report noted that 1.26 million Spaniards have been without jobs since 2010. These citizens, unemployed for at least three years, are representatives of the 500 percent increase in Spain’s long-term unemployed population since 2007. They are 23.1 percent of Spain’s unemployed population and their numbers are continuing to grow with each passing year.

In the first quarter of 2014, Spain’s unemployment rate fell to 25.73 percent, down from a record high of 26.94 percent last year. During the same quarter, Spain’s economy grew at a quarterly rate of 0.4 percent, its best period since 2006. These increases have caused politicians and the International Monetary Fund to reassert their confidence in Spain’s recovery prospects, but that confidence has proven divisive within Spain.

Fiscal policies by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative Popular Party have been lukewarmly received by the general public. On June 6, the Spanish government approved a $15 billion stimulus package to spur growth and promote their renewed confidence in the economy. However, 26 percent of Spain’s population remains on government benefits. This figure is second in the EU only to Greece.

As reform efforts begin to take hold throughout Spain, civil unrest has resurfaced. Much of the focus is now geared toward high levels of income inequality. There has recently been a boom in tourism in Barcelona, accounting for a record high of 7.5 million visitors in 2013, but the unemployment rate still looms at 18 percent. Protesters are noting changes in government policies which have only affected the well off and have left the despondent with little to aspire to.

Spain’s corporate tax rate has recently been lowered to 25 percent from 30 percent, but the ability of the country’s educational institutions to produce well-trained students for prospective employers is questionable at best. Two-thirds of Spain’s 38.6 million residents over the age of 16 have only a basic education. Of these residents, 32.5 percent are currently unemployed. The youth unemployment rate is also nearly double that of the national rate. Slow recovery rates have dissuaded international investment and stymied growth in Spain’s financial sector.

Spain recently announced an early 1.3 billion euro repayment of a 41 billion euro EU banking rescue loan. This announcement was positioned as a confidence boosting measure. Whether it proves a catalyst for a Spain bereft of chronic unemployment, only time will tell.

– Taylor Dow

Sources: Digital Journal, Euro Weekly News, Fox News Latino, Latin Post, The Local, RTE News, The Spain Report
Photo: Wall Street CN

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The inaugural World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) – a conglomeration of entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics and technicians in the health space – convened last week in Qatar. As its title suggests, WISH serves as an arena for international delegates to create and implement innovative, nontraditional solutions to pressing issues in global health.

One participant, Londoner Lord Darzi of Denham (chairman of the Institute of Global Innovation at Imperial College), succinctly stated after the announcement of the Summit that “WISH is about action.”

Qatar’s newfound consideration as a hub for frontline innovation- principally through the Qatar Foundation- landed the nation the opportunity to host the prestigious two-day summit event. The Foundation has been on the forefront of the nation’s “visionary national health strategy” and initiated a first-of-its-kind investigation into the healthcare systems of eight major world players, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, India and Qatar. The Global Innovation Diffusion Report, unveiled on the second day of the summit, presented a well-researched report card of how each nation fosters and incorporates innovation to maximize health outcomes for their citizens.

The report noted both victories and areas in need of improvement for the eight nations of study. Each succeeded on a general level in identifying and addressing doctors and involving patients in treatment. Unfortunately, however, every nation but Qatar fell short in matching research-based suggestions with real changes in the health care space. Expert assessments of appropriate technological or practical innovations were ignored for different reasons in each nation.

In Spain and the United Kingdom, the least innovative countries, funds for research and development are scarce. New ideas simply cannot get off the ground because there is no money to put wind in their sails to begin with. Australia, Brazil and South Africa were slightly more successful than their European counterparts, but need to improve incentives for academics and policymakers who spread innovation. The United States and India showed a consistent, but small, gap between the ideal and reality.

The thorough case study concluded that innovation is most successfully spurred in the United States when incorporated into (or alongside) insurance and the accompanying payment system. Incidentally, the report identified the rollout of Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) programs as a major success for the U.S. in terms of innovation implementation. PCMH programs encourage primary care providers to tailor payments around patient outcomes and foster cooperation between medical and social services.

Moving forward, hot areas of progress for medical innovation will likely include: the application of mobile technology to share and store medical information; policymaking that encourages clinicians to adopt new ways of working; mobilization of resources to allow coordination between researchers and clinicians; and the development of an “innovation culture” and leadership among front line health care professionals.

Delegates representing our nation will undoubtedly confer about these recent findings and carve out a designated space for innovation in discussions touching on future policies, programs and technologies.

Casey Ernstes

Sources: Gulf News, NCQA, PR News Wire, World Innovation Summit for Health: Home, World Innovation Summit for Health: Global Diffusion
Photo: Vintage 3D