January 1 will undoubtedly be a big day for Spain. The peseta is being ditched to make way for the euro. At best there will be some confusion, at worst it could be a complete nightmare. But the High Street Banks, despite the introduction of an all new currency, have decided to remain closed on January 1, because above-all it is a public holiday, and not even the end of the peseta can change their minds.

So if you have a problem with the euro, you'll have to wait, along with everyone else, until January 2. But, there is some good news, the Bank of Spain will be open for business.

Surely, January 1 is the day that banks should open even longer to try and iron-out any faults.
I understand that public holidays must be respected but January 1, next year is a different matter. I am sure everyone is slightly concerned about the euro and I would like a bit of re-assurance from my bank. But Spain does have a small problem with public holidays and openings. It's like tourist information offices closing on public holidays, the days of the year when their services will be most in demand with thousands of tourists and residents looking for something to do.

Also, super-markets and hyper-markets should be allowed to have more flexible opening hours. The time has come for a complete shake-up and while January 1 and banks might be a rather special case there is certainly a need these days for greater public services from companies of all types from banks to information offices.

Jason Moore

A revealing poll

The American public is still strongly supportive of President Bush's leadership in the war on terrorism - in a poll conducted last weekend by the New York Times and CBS News, 91 per cent of those questioned backed his performance. This rating was probably affected by the positive news on the progress of the Afghanistan campaign but, even so, it is a remarkably strong vote of confidence in the President three months after the initial terrorist strike. The poll also questioned respondents about some of the anti–terrorist measures recently proposed or introduced by the Bush administration. On these issues public opinion showed a much smaller level of support for the government. For instance: fifty-one per cent said that it was not a good idea to try foreigners accused of terrorism in military courts, as has been proposed; and eight in ten said they believed the president should make changes in the legal system in consultation with Congress rather than by exectutive order, as he has recently done. And in one of the most interesting of the poll's findings, public opinion was divided equally when asked to say which would worry them most - the government's failure to enact strong enough anti-terrorism laws or to introduce laws that excessively restricted the average person's civil liberties. Concern about civil liberties in the context of the anti-terrorist campaign hardly existed in the United States six weeks ago; the fact that it has grown so rapidly should give the President and his Attorney-General, John Ashcroft reason to pause for thought.



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