The Catalan Government details the austerity measures for 2012 while Madrid questions the pharmaceutical fee
On Tuesday, the Catalan President announced a series of measures that will be included in the 2012 budget in order to meet the 1.3% deficit objective. The Catalan Finance Minister said that the fall in public spending will be smaller than that of this year. Ministers from the Catalan Government have been providing more details about the measures. The so-called “moderating ticket” to reduce the Catalan public healthcare system’s pharmaceutical bill has been questioned by the Spanish Government, as Barcelona “does not have the powers to do so”, despite managing the public healthcare system in Catalonia.
Barcelona (ACN).- The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, announced the main guidelines for next year\u2019s budget on Tuesday. They focus on reaching the 1.3% public deficit objective for 2012. In a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Mas announced a series of austerity measures which will contribute to reduce the public deficit in 2012. They include maintaining certain taxes at increased levels, raising public prices, and reducing the salaries of public employees. On Wednesday and Thursday, different members of the Catalan Executive have given further details of the measures affecting their particular government area. The salary reduction would affect more than 205,000 public employees; transport tickets might experience a price increase of 9%; university fees would increase by more than 7%; the water supply price would also jump 9%; and citizens might pay between 5 cent and \u20AC1 for a medical prescription, the fee called \u201Cmoderating ticket\u201D. This last measure provoked a critical reaction by the Spanish Government. They told the Catalan Executive that they \u201Cdo not have the power to do so\u201D. The Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega, criticised \u201Cthe excess of over-zealousness the Spanish Executive has on an area managed entirely by Catalonia\u201D. The Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, explained that the budget for 2012 will have a lower public spending reduction than that implemented in 2011.
The Catalan President, Artur Mas, announced that the 2012 budget requires a revenue increase by raising public-fixed prices and some specific taxes, and he would concentrate the cost decrease on a salary reduction of public employees. The measures are still under internal discussion in order to decide the final details, but some of the main issues have already been disclosed by members of the Catalan Government.
No budget cuts in healthcare and education in 2012, except for the salary reduction
The Catalan Government\u2019s budget for 2012 will include a public spending reduction of less than 10%, which was this year\u2019s level. The Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, refused to announce the exact figure \u201Csince it will depend\u201D on the final revenue levels. However, he added that public healthcare and education will not suffer further spending cuts, besides those related to the salary reduction already announced. Mas-Colell stressed that the Catalan Government\u2019s objective and commitment is to meet the public deficit objective for 2012, set at 1.3% of Catalan GDP. This 2011, the Catalan Executive would have already reduced its deficit from 4.22% to 2.66%.
More than 205,000 public employees will see their salaries reduced in 2012
The Catalan Vice President, Joana Ortega, in charge of public servant policy, said that more than 205,000 Catalan Government employees, including those in public companies, will have their salaries reduced in 2012. They look set to lose a part of their Christmas and summer bonus. In addition, the Spokesperson of the Catalan Government, Francesc Homs, added that public officials may lose a percentage of their restaurant tickets and would have the number of personal days reduced. Ortega announced she will meet with trade unions on November 30th to discuss the details of the proposals and try to reach an agreement. She also insisted that the salary reduction is temporary, until the general situation improves.
Paying for drug prescriptions
Another of the austerity measures announced by the Catalan President was what he called a \u201Cmoderating ticket\u201D, a fee to be paid with the drug\u2019s prescription. The aim of this measure is to reduce the pharmaceutical bill of the Catalan public healthcare system, as well as drop the excess demand for medication. The Catalan Minister for Health, Boi Ruiz, explained that one of the proposals the experts in his department are studying is that citizens would pay between 5 cent and \u20AC1, depending on their income. Ruiz explained that the measure will be designed so as \u201Cnot to become a barrier\u201D for people who are in less economically secure positions. He also stressed that nothing concrete had been decided yet, as technical studies are still being drafted.
Controversy on paying a symbolic amount for drug prescriptions
The Spanish Government is sceptical about the measure and criticised it; according to them, the Catalan Government \u201Cdoes not have the power\u201D to implement such measures. The Catalan Vice President answered its critics and said that \u201Cthe over-zealousness the Spanish Executive has regarding a power managed entirely by Catalonia\u201D. In fact, the Catalan Government manages the entire the public healthcare system in Catalonia, but according to the Spanish Government it does not have the freedom to choose the funding of the system. Ortega explained that the measure \u201Cis a tool to manage prescriptions\u201D, and does not represent \u201Cco-payment in the healthcare system\u201D.
University fees to be raised more than 7%
The Catalan Government plans to repeat the university tuition fee increase implemented in 2011. The law allows the Autonomous Communities to increase the fees according to the inflation rate and add a maximum of 4 percentage points. The Catalan Government raised university fees by 7.6% in 2011. It plans to do the same in 2012 and therefore the final increase depends on the final inflation rate for the current year, but it will be more than 7%.
Nothing decided regarding the public transport
The Catalan Minister for Transport, Lluís Recoder, stated that nothing has been decided regarding the level of the increase in public transport prices. On Thursday some media discussed that the most used transport ticket, the 10 journey ticket, would see its price increase by some 9%, passing from 8.25 euros to 9 euros. Recoder did not confirm the news and said that the final prices will be decided once the Spanish State commits to a specific amount of money, corresponding to its share to fund public transport in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area.