The Balearics yesterday welcomed the New Year and the new currency with open arms. By 11am yesterday morning, when most people were either still asleep or recovering from the celebrations, queues of over 100 people had built up outside the few banks which opened yesterday and 75'000 euros had already been dispensed by Majorca's automatic cash machines. Because of the huge amount of expectation and excitement about the arrival of the euro, Balearic banks decided last week to open a few of their key branches between 11am and 2pm for clients wanting to withdraw euros. Ramón Calafat, head of Sa Nostra's single currency department, said that the public's response had been far greater than anticipated. The bank opened six branches across the Balearics and Ramón Calafat confirmed that large queues started to form outside each branch long before the banks opened. In Palma, over 100 people queued outside the banks, but at no point did any of our branches run out of euros, Calafat said. In order to meet demand over the next few days, Balearic banks are holding 210 million euros, around 35.000 million pesetas, a third of which is being distributed by Sa Nostra. Ramón Calafat said that while the banks were busy yesterday, hundreds of people had already got their hands on euros, withdrawing notes from cash machines. Within minutes of the clock striking midnight on Monday, people were withdrawing euros and that by 11am, 75.000 euros had been withdrawn from the bank's 20 cash machines stocking euros.However, despite the long queues, bank staff reported no problems and that the euro's first day in circulation proved a success. The majority of people who got their hands on the new currency yesterday were also keen to use it. As the morning developed, bars, bakeries, pharmacists and petrol pump operators across Palma were having to think euro with consumers eager to pay in euros. Petrol stations made it clear last week that they would prefer consumers to pay in euros from day one and were yesterday encouraging and reminding people that next time they fill up, pay in euros. Taxi drivers, carrying change in both currencies, were also carrying out euro transactions and the majority of cabbies hope that the two-month introductory period speeds past quickly so that they can ditch the peseta and return to operating with a single currency. All banks across the Balearics will this morning be ready to deal with the euro frenzy in earnest as trading returns to normal. For the region's shop staff and businesses, the real test comes today. Two weeks ago, a Balearic University survey concluded that around 20 per cent of Palma businesses were still not ready for the euro, today they will find out.
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