Opposition criticises the Catalan Government’s budget and the Spanish Government warns of not meeting the deficit objective

After the presentation of the Catalan Government’s budget proposal at the Catalan Parliament, opposition parties criticised its content and the lack of debate on the subject. The Catalan Government needs support from opposition MPs or at least their abstention to approve the budget, which foresees a 2.66% deficit for 2011. The Spanish Vice President for Economy Elena Salgado insists that the mechanisms of deficit control “will be strictly implemented”.

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

June 1, 2011 12:03 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- Opposition parties did not react in an enthusiastic way to the Catalan Government’s budget proposal, quite the contrary in fact. However, the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Coalition ‘Convergència i Unió’ (CiU), which runs the Catalan Government, cannot approve the budget by itself, only with its simple majority at the Catalan Parliament. CiU has 62 MPs, but the absolute majority is 68. Therefore, CiU needs support or at least the abstention of 6 MPs from the opposition to pass the budget. In the next few weeks, parliamentary negotiations will be held and theoretically the budget could see some changes. However, on Tuesday all the opposition parties except one isolated MP stated that they will not give their support to the current budget proposal. The current budget proposal cuts public expenditure by 10%; Health and Education have expenditure cuts between 6.5% and 7.4%, but together with Social Welfare they have a global budget cut of 1,089 million euros. In addition, the budget foresees a public deficit of 2.66% of Catalan GDP and not the 1.3% demanded by the Spanish Government but not agreed on by the Catalan Executive. The Spanish Vice President for Economy and Finance Elena Salgado reacted in a cautious way but sent a warning.

Elena Salgado refused to make a detailed assessment on the Catalan budget proposal at this stage. However she warned that the mechanisms to control the public deficit “will be strictly implemented”. This basically means not allowing the Catalan Government to issue new debt and thus asphyxiating it financially, obliging it by force to reduce its expenditure. Salgado insisted that she prefers to wait for the Parliamentary approval of the Catalan budget and for the budget execution before taking any decision regarding prohibiting issuing new debt.

At the moment, the budget would no be approved by the Catalan Parliament

After the Catalan Finance Minsiter, Andreu Mas-Colell presented the budget on Tuesday morning at the Catalan Parliament, opposition parties reacted.

The main opposition party, the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) announced its full opposition, as the budget “does not fight against the crisis” and “the budget cuts are structural”. PSC Spokesperson for Economic Affairs Rocío Martínez-Sampere also criticised the Government’s plan to delete the Inheritance Tax, a measure that according to her “will only benefit 529 families” that inherit more than 1 million euros and “will damage 7.5 million Catalans”.

The Conservative and Spanish Nationalist People’s Party of Catalonia (PPC) also announced that they do not support the budget and they are considering presenting a motion against them. The PPC Parliamentary Spokesperson Enric Millo asked the Catalan Government to rectify and “not act as if they had the absolute majority”. Millo criticised a lack of dialogue in order to present a budget proposal counting with some previous consensus in the Parliament.

The Catalan Green Socialist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) underlined that the budget focuses the “budget cuts on the most vulnerable”. Joan Boada, ICV-EUiA Spokesperson, criticised not focusing on revenues by raising taxes.

The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC) announced their “no” vote if the Government does not change its current attitude and begin discussing the budget cuts. ERC Parliamentary Spokesperson, Anna Simó criticised the Catalan Government for asking the other parties to abstain, “asking for abstention is not enough, because the first responsibility parties have to watch out that the budget social cohesion is not damaged”.

Most of the mixed group, divided in three, announced their full opposition to the budget. Only one MP actually said he will give his support: Populist and Pro Catalan Independence Joan Laporta, former President of the FC Barcelona. His former colleagues in the electoral coalition, from ‘Solidaritat per la Independència’ (SI), announced they will present an alternative budget, “the budget of an independent Catalan State”. Finally, the Anti Catalan Nationalist and Populist ‘Ciutadans’ (C’s) criticised the Government’s proposal for cutting health and education expenditure but continuing to spend money on “building the Catalan nation”.