2022 budget continues path in parliament after lone anti-austerity party support

Complete amendment to spending plan motion fails after deal with opposition force despite discrepancies within cabinet


Economy minister Jaume Giró talking in parliament on November 22, 2021 (by Gerard Artigas)
Economy minister Jaume Giró talking in parliament on November 22, 2021 (by Gerard Artigas) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 22, 2021 07:46 PM

After reaching a deal with the government, left-wing party En Comú Podem (ECP) has withdrawn its support for a complete amendment motion, thereby allowing the spending plan to move forward with its parliamentary procedures in a vote that took place on Monday evening.

President Pere Aragonès, of Esquerra (ERC), applauded the agreement between the government and the anti-austerity force that will open a new opportunity for negotiations until the final vote takes place on December 23.

A successful vote on Monday would have meant that “the government would have to re-do the whole budget proposal,” said economy minister, Jaume Giró, on Monday afternoon in the Catalan Parliament; either that or the current budget would have to be extended. He made these comments in the chamber soon before the complete amendment motions were rejected.

Lack of pro-independence unity

Despite President Aragonès’ celebratory tones, the junior government partner, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) is far more skeptical about engaging in talks with parties who are not explicitly in favor of Catalan independence – En Comú Podem is the only party not strictly aligned on the independence issue, favoring a referendum but not necessarily a split with Spain. 

As such, JxCat rejected participating in talks with ECP, despite the fact that they are in charge of the economy ministry under Giró. Hours after the government deal with the anti-austerity party was announced, party spokesperson Elsa Artadi expressed disappointment over the agreement. 

According to the JxCat politician, "the pact with ECP alters the pro-independence majority that made the government possible and this will come at a price." Artadi requested an "urgent" meeting with Esquerrra's leadership. 

The far-left pro-independence party, CUP, called for "a horizon for independence” after the deal between the government and ECP. The anti-capitalist party defended its relationship with the executive despite voting in favor of a complete amendment to the budget. The reason they gave for this is that the budget bill is still focused on “macro-projects and tourism,” rather than a “government for the people.” 

Unionists welcome discrepancies within parties for split with Spain

The pact between the two forces is completely "improvised” and it is a breaking point for the executive, said Socialist MP Alícia Romero, who added that "these last six months of government have only given us misgovernment, instability and political tactics."

The far-right party, VOX, addressed the chamber by reminding the government that they were supposed to be "the 52% super-legislature”, in reference to the percentage of pro-independence votes in the election held during the Covid pandemic, which saw a 51,29% turnout rate.

Catalan People’s Party, leader Alejandro Fernández, said that the budget is an ongoing example of political instability. Similar to the speech by unionist Ciudadanos spokesperson, where he defended that far-left CUP control Catalonia.

Public transport, reindustrialization: content of the agreement

En Comú Podem's MP Jéssica Albiach confirmed the deal on Monday, saying that it includes a mobility plan to boost the use of train and tram, an increase of housing policies up to € 1 bn – something the cabinet had already offered to far-left CUP, but no overall agreement was reached –, an office to help local councils manage back water service, and an increase in the allocation for an industrial reactivation. Launching a public energy company is also confirmed, after the cabinet announced it at COP26.

"The budget is not about independence or not independence," Albiach told the press. "This is about making life a bit easier to Catalans."

Although none of the opposition parties have guaranteed it – and at least the abstention of one is essential –, Aragonès took for granted that "Catalonia will have a new budget by January 1" for the first time in 11 years. 

Public spending up by 17.3% in two years

The 2020 budget, the last one approved, was the first one that surpassed the levels seen prior to the post-financial crisis cuts ten years ago.

In 2022, the upwards trend continues with a significant surge compared to two years ago, 17.3%, and an even more remarkable difference compared to 2014, the post-crisis low: it is up 46.3%.