Mas warns in the FT about a "growing divorce" with Spain if Catalonia is not respected and its needs not attended
The Financial Times has published an interview with the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas. The Financial Times stressed Mas’ request for a new deal between Spain and Catalonia, which would reduce Catalonia’s contributions to the rest of Spain by half. The FT explained that between 8% and 9% of the annual Catalan GDP, which represents between €17 billion and €18 billion per year, goes to the rest of Spain to pay for solidarity funds for poorer regions. The newspaper also praised the “pioneering” austerity measures implemented by the Catalan Government.
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, discussed Catalonia\u2019s austerity measures and the need for a \u201Cnew deal\u201D with Spain in an interview with the Financial Times issued online on Monday and published on paper on Tuesday. The Catalan President, who is the leader of the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition \u2018Convergència i Unió\u2019 (CiU), warned the Financial Times about \u201Ca growing divorce [between Catalonia and Spain] because in a continuous, repeated way, Catalans have the sensation \u2013and they\u2019re right\u2013 that we are not respected on identity or language issues and not helped on economic and social issues\u201D. \u201CIf Spain helps us, Catalan society is not against belonging to Spain, although there\u2019s a part, yes, that\u2019s clearly pro-independence\u201D, Mas clarified. \u201CBut if the Spanish state denies us respect and assistance, the feeling that Catalonia needs its own state will carry on growing\u201D, he added. The Catalan President insisted on the \u201Cfiscal deficit\u201D Catalonia suffers from: \u201CCatalonia cannot carry on supporting the fiscal drainage that we have at the moment, which is roughly equal to 8% or 9% of the gross domestic product every year\u201D. This means that each year, between \u20AC17 billion and \u20AC18 billion leaves Catalonia and never comes back, as it is used to pay for investments made and services provided in poorer regions of Spain. The Catalan Government and CiU aim to negotiate a "new deal" with the new Spanish Government chaired by the new Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Mas explained that their aim is to put a \u201Cfiscal pact [...] on Mr Rajoy\u2019s table in 2012 or early 2013\u201D through which Catalonia would raise all its taxes and would see the money transfers to poorer regions halved, explained Mas. Catalonia would continue to contribute to inter-regional solidarity, but not to a level that the Catalan Government is obliged to drastically cut public spending and rationalise services in order to cut the public deficit. The public deficit is projected to be 2.66% for 2011 and 1.3% for 2012, while the so-called fiscal deficit represents between 8% and 9%. If the \u201Cfiscal pact\u201D proposal is not taken into consideration by the Spanish Government, Mas insisted that the \u201Cdivorce\u201D between Catalonia and Spain would grow even further. Mas stressed that the new fiscal agreement with Spain has broad support in Catalonia.
During the interview with the Financial Times Spain correspondent Victor Mallet, the Catalan President drew some parallels with Scotland. According to Artur Mas, both in Catalonia and Scotland \u201Cthere are similar demands for independence or greater devolution of powers\u201D, reported the FT. Furthermore Mas added that both Scotland and Catalonia lost their independence at a similar period in history, in the early 18th century, just five years apart. However, Scotland has a smaller weight within the UK\u2019s economy than Catalonia, which is the richest region in Spain after Madrid, explained the FT. The Catalan President said that Catalonia\u2019s GDP is roughly equal to \u20AC200 billion, and thus the Catalan economy is similar in size to that of Portugal or Finland.
Catalonia wants to become \u201Cthe Holland of the south\u201D
\u201CWe want to be the Holland of the south, and we can be the Holland of the south\u201D, affirmed the President of the Catalan Government. \u201CHolland is a very open society, with an industrial base, and it has made a big effort in innovation and science\u201D, he explained.
\u201CThe status quo doesn\u2019t work\u201D
\u201CThe [current] status quo doesn\u2019t work\u201D as there is a \u201Cgrowing divorce\u201D between Catalonia and Spain. Mas explained that Catalans are divided on the independence issue. The division between those supporting independence and those opposing it makes the split with Spain less likely in the short term. However, Mas insisted that a large majority of Catalans consider the current situation unworkable and want greater autonomy for Catalonia, greater devolution of powers, particularly fiscally. \u201COur project in the short term is fiscal sovereignty\u201D explained the Catalan President. \u201CIn the longer term, we\u2019ll see\u2026\u201D he added. Therefore, a large majority of Catalans (more than 75% according to the latest opinion polls) support a new fiscal agreement between Catalonia and Spain, giving Catalonia more powers and money. \u201CWe want more Catalonia and more Europe\u201D, Mas concluded.
The FT considers Catalonia\u2019s austerity measures to be \u201Cpioneering\u201D
Finally, the interview quickly reviews the austerity measures Artur Mas\u2019 Government has been implementing in Catalonia, \u201Call pioneering moves for a Spanish region\u201D, according to the Financial Times. Mas underlined that the Catalan Government was the first to adopt severe austerity measures, when he took office a year ago.Victor Mallet stressed that Catalonia will cut public employee salaries by 5%, which will be added to the 5% cuts that were already implemented across Spain in 2010. Furthermore, the Catalan Government will introduce a drug prescription fee and will \u201Csell as many of its assets as it can\u201D, said the FT. The economic newspaper concludes with austerity under way, Catalans now want their new deal\u201D.