The Catalan Government’s budget for 2014 is finally approved
All the opposition parties except the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), which shares a parliamentary stability agreement with the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), have criticised the Catalan Government’s budget for 2014 – which amounts to €29.31 billion – for being “anti-social”. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government, the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), the anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s) and the radical left-wing and independence party CUP all opposed the budget proposal. The CiU and ERC defended the bill and have accused the other parties of “not presenting real alternatives”. The budget’s approval was delayed by a month after the PP appealed against the bill because it includes €5 million for a consultation vote.
Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government’s budget for 2014 has been approved with the votes of the Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) and the governing Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition (CiU), which together represent 53% of the Catalan Parliament. All the opposition parties except the ERC, which shares a parliamentary stability agreement with the CiU, opposed the bill and criticised the Catalan Government’s budget for 2014 – which amounts to €29.31 billion – for being “anti-social”. The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC), the People’s Party (PP) – which runs the Spanish Government, the Catalan Green Socialist and Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA), the anti-Catalan nationalism party Ciutadans (C’s) and the radical left-wing and independence party CUP all opposed the budget proposal. The CiU and ERC defended the bill and have accused the other parties of “not presenting real alternatives”. The budget’s approval was delayed by a month after the PP appealed against the bill because it includes €5 million for a consultation vote: they fear this 0.017% of the total budget might be used to further the self-determination process. In the end the Catalan Council for Constitutional Guarantees (CGE), an independent body that rules on Constitutional issues, rejected the PP’s appeal and cleared the way for the budget’s final approval. The budget has finally been approved with 71 ‘yes’ votes (from the CiU and ERC) and 64 ‘no’ votes (from the PSC, PP, C’s and CUP).
The CiU defends the “the only possible budget”
The CiU MP, Antoni Fernández Teixidó, defended the Catalan Government’s proposal as “the only possible budget” in the current context. Fernández Teixidó asked the PP and PSC to present “a real and honest alternative” and explain how they would like to pay for the spending. “Are you in favour of significantly increasing taxes and asphyxiating the economic activity?”, he asked them. “You want fewer budget cuts. We too”, but the money has to come from somewhere in order to meet the deficit targets imposed by the Spanish Government. The CiU MP asked the Parliament “to trust” the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, “and his team”; they were right not to disclose the assets sold and companies to be privatised. They cannot put “the cards on the table” for that would weaken their bargaining position “in relation to the buyers”, he said.
The ERC supports “a budget that should be the last one for Catalonia as an Autonomous Community”
The ERC MP Pere Aragonès defended the economic “viability” of “a budget that should be the last one for Catalonia as an Autonomous Community”. “We have acted in the taxation field, we have undertaken a series of actions regarding [the taxes on] wealth, transmissions, inheritance, bank deposits, and environmental fees. Surely not all the needs can be covered, but we are working on the revenue” he said. However, despite these efforts, Aragonès acknowledged that “revenue is insufficient” and for this reason the budget proposes selling assets and privatising for an equivalent of €2.32 billion. Finally, he answered the rest of the parties by saying that “no real alternative has been received from any other group” regarding the revenue coming from privatisations.
The PSC: “it is not a credible budget”
The Spokesperson for the PSC, Maurici Lucena, accused the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, of presenting a budget that is not accurate. “It is not a credible budget”, emphasised Lucena, since it includes €2.32 billion in revenue coming from selling assets and privatisation operations. The PSC complained that Mas-Colell “has not explained” how this revenue will be obtained, which assets will be sold and which companies will be privatised. Lucena insisted that this was even an “ethical” issue. Furthermore, he “forecast that, on top of this, you will not meet the great figures of the budget you are about to approve”. He stressed that the figures “do not match” the economic reality.
Lucena also added that the budget is “the most anti-social in History”. In this vein, he said that “since 2012, the budget for Health is down by 22.46%; in Education, by 28%; in Welfare [Social Policies], 24%, and this is only done in 4 years”. Finally, he criticised the ERC for being a Social-Democrat party and supporting such a budget. Lucena stated that the budget is a condition for having the self-determination vote. “Today we are not discussing a budget, but how we satisfy ERC’s demands in exchange for a budget. Today what is being approved is a two-part question and a date for a consultation vote that will not take place”, concluded Lucena.
The PP criticises the “secessionism” inherent in the budget
The PP MP, José Antonio Coto, emphasised that the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, “is totally immersed within its separatist project, becoming a clone of Oriol Junqueras [ERC’s leader], in this matter and in ERC’s economic proposals”. “Junqueras decides and Mas executes what the ERC decides: it is Mas who gets eroded. The ERC has won the lottery with Artur Mas”, said Coto.
Furthermore, the PP MP added that the 2014 accounts are “a ghost budget, which will not be met”. Coto also criticised the “2.3 billion in revenue, about which we know nothing of where they will obtain them from”. The fact “that you present the budget without explaining what you will sell or privatise is the greatest budget fraud ever seen in this Parliament”, he added. “You cut social services as never before and you increase taxes as never before”, Coto highlighted. For the PP the budget is approved with the “wrong priorities”, and “with less Spain and less Europe”. The Spanish nationalist party criticised the budget for “not paying for the drugs of the ill people going to the chemists’ but allocating money to the separatist consultation vote, keeping grants to the separatist propaganda, while reducing healthcare, education, family support”.
The ICV-EUiA only sees “an anti-social budget”
The President of the ICV-EUiA group, Joan Herrera, reviewed the budget cuts accumulated over the last few years in order to justify the statement that “it is the most social budget in History”. This statement has been repeated in the last weeks by the CiU and the ERC. Since the CiU has been running the Catalan Government (from December 2010), Herrera pointed out that there has been a 16% budget cut in healthcare, 28% in education, 25% in fostering employment and 50% in strengthening industrial activity. Because of those figures, Herrera characterised the statement of approving “most social budget in History” as “propaganda”. According to him, the budget is totally “anti-social”.
For the ICV-EUiA, this budget is “the Troika’s budget” [referring to the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund]. According to the Eco-Socialist leader, the 2014 budget will lead towards “a more unfair country, poorer, with greater inequalities, where those having the most are not asked for a greater contribution, and public services for those who suffer the most continue to be worsened”. He regretted that “after so much noise” about increasing taxes, the reality shows that “almost nothing” has been done in this regard. He also regretted that the more than 1,000 amendments presented by his group have been rejected, including the plan to increase revenue from taxes by €2 billion.
C’s: “the budget was approved on 12 December at the Catalan Government’s Palace”
The Spokesperson of C’s, Jordi Cañas, said that the budget is not being approved today but was already approved a month and a half ago, on the 12th of December, when the CiU, ERC, ICV-EUiA and CUP reached an agreement regarding the self-determination vote’s exact question and date. According to Cañas, CiU needed “acolytes” to approve the budget and found 3 of them with the aforementioned left-wing parties (ERC, ICV-EUiA and CUP), who did not force CiU to approve a more social budget. C’s characterised the 2014 budget as “the greatest attack against social rights”. The “patriotism” of those parties make them accept budget cuts “in exchange for the masquerade” of Catalonia’s self-determination process. In this vein, Cañas deeply criticised the Government’s “obsession” with organising the self-determination vote and accused them of “dividing” Catalan society and “walking towards the abyss”.
The CUP consider the budget a “war declaration”
The CUP Spokesperson, David Fernández, said that the budget is “a clumsy chronicle of a theft, of a social pillaging and a robbery” of Catalan society. Fernández directly accused the banks, speculators and the Government’s complicity of being behind the “suffering” of people. The CUP MP referred to the Troika as “thieves wearing ties”, who should “go to jail”. He quoted Josep Stiglitz, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics, to underline that “until those who have provoked the crisis are in jail, there is no way out nor democratic restitution”. For the CUP, the Catalan Government’s budget for 2014 is “a war declaration” issued by the Troika and “its Catalan administrators” [referring to the Catalan Executive]. Finally he proposed to stop paying the debt in order to defend social rights.