Catalan Government’s 2015 budget continues its parliamentary approval process
The left-wing independence party ERC has joined the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU in allowing the Catalan Government’s budget bill for 2015 to continue its parliamentary approval process. Although critical of the budget proposal, the ERC backed the centre-right coalition in the hope that Catalan President and CiU leader Artur Mas will call early elections in the coming weeks, which are likely to be transformed into a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence. The CiU and the ERC have a different approach towards any such elections and have been negotiating for a number of weeks. The approval of the 2015 budget has become an additional element of the talks, a fact which has been criticised by the other parties. On Thursday, the CiU and the ERC rejected the full amendments filed by the rest of opposition parties.
Barcelona (ACN).- The left-wing independence party ERC has joined the governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU in allowing the Catalan Government’s budget bill for 2015 to continue its parliamentary approval process. The ERC is critical of the budget proposal since it considers it should allocate a greater amount of resources to build the structures of an independent state. However, it decided to back the governing centre-right coalition in the hope that Catalan President and CiU leader Artur Mas will call early elections in the coming weeks, which are likely to be transformed into a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence. Mas and the ERC’s leader, Oriol Junqueras, have a different approach towards running together or separately in such elections and also concerning the road map towards independence. Their parties have been negotiating for a number of weeks and, after Thursday’s vote, announced an immediate meeting between the two of them, following the one they held last week. In fact, the approval of the 2015 budget has become an additional element of the talks, a fact which has been criticised by the other parties.
On Thursday, the CiU and the ERC rejected the full amendments filed by the rest of the opposition parties against the budget bill and the complementary bill on fiscal and financial measures. The ERC had also filed an amendment, but it was withdrawn in the morning. Now, the bills will be debated at the corresponding parliamentary committee, where parties can file partial amendments. If elections are not called, any such partial amendments would be voted on between the 19th and 23rd of January, with the plenary session to approve the definitive budget being held on the 4th or 5th of February. However, in order to hold elections in March, the Catalan President would have to call them before the budget approval’s final vote (at the latest) and dissolve the Parliament in the process. Therefore, despite the ERC’s support on Thursday, it is uncertain whether the left-wing party will still support the budget in early 2015 and whether the Catalan President will dissolve the Parliament before its approval. In fact, the ERC has already warned that if an agreement has not been reached about the elections, they will vote against the budget during the week beginning the 19th of January.
The Catalan Government defended its budget proposal
On Wednesday, the Catalan Parliament held the first plenary session on the budget proposal. The Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, defended the bill, which foresees a total spending of €22.5 billion and a public deficit of 0.7% of Catalonia’s GDP, meeting the strict deficit targets unilaterally imposed by the Spanish Government. Mas-Colell emphasised Catalonia’s right to include in the budget the €2.14 billion worth of pending debts from the Spanish Government. “We can go with our heads kept high to demand what is ours”, emphasised Mas-Colell, one of the world’s leading experts in micro-economics, and a former professor at Harvard and Berkley universities. This amount comes from adding up the legal compensation for the tax on global bank deposits (created by the Catalan Government, but immediately replicated by the Spanish Executive and therefore cancelled), the money from the competitiveness fund (a mechanism still in place), and the funds to legally compensate a lack of investment in infrastructure during the year 2008 (which should have already been received in 2011).
Mas-Colell complained that Catalonia generates much more resources than it spends, but due to the non-transparent inter-territorial fiscal scheme, the Catalan Government is posting a deficit. He praised the budget adjustment carried out since 2010 and stated that, if interest payments are not taken into account, the Catalan Government would in fact post a budget surplus in 2015.
Opposition parties criticised the budget
The ERC has criticised the budget proposal, despite not having blocked its approval so far. According to the second-largest party in the Parliament, the budget is “unviable”. They urged the Catalan Government to call early elections in order to start to build an independent state after receiving the support from the citizens via the ballot boxes. “A problem of political dependence is solved through political independence”, they stated.
The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) stated that the budget bills “are a mere fantasy” since they are based on receiving funds from the Spanish Government and therefore on a political negotiation that is not likely to be successful. “Beyond propaganda, they do not reflect the values of the CiU”, they added.
The conservative People’s Party (PP), which runs the Spanish Government, said that the budget is “a masquerade”. “The Catalan Government is only interested in independence, but they have to come back to reality”, they emphasised, and also added that budget priorities are “random”.
The Catalan green socialist and post-communist coalition ICV-EUiA, which supports self-determination, rejected the budget proposal because it “extends the budget cuts through time”. In addition, according to the ICV-EUiA, the new budget is “anti-social” and “continues eroding the Welfare State”.
The Spanish nationalist and populist party Ciutadans (C’s) accused the CiU and ERC of “not believing that the budget can be implemented, neither it can be approved”. C’s stated that the debate and approval of the budget bills is “a comedy and a fraud”.
Finally, the alternative left and radical independence party CUP totally rejected the budget proposal because of the budget cuts and austerity measures in public services. According to them, “the budget is a war declaration against the popular classes”.