Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Monday, 17 january 2011 | Financial Times


A Public Reply to the Financial Times (VI)

Regarding the FT’s article about Spain’s intention to curb the regions’ powers (“Zapatero warns on regional spending”, January 16, 2011), Col·lectiu Emma has already called attention to a few critical facts that apparently need to be repeated.

First, Spanish regions now provide most public services and manage around half of total spending. And yet, their combined deficit in 2009 was only around 2% of the country’s GDP, while the central government’s was over 9%.

Second, some regions are more efficient than others. In Catalonia, for example, the civil service represents about 8% of the working population, while the figure for Extremadura is 23% and the Spanish average 15%.

Third, the Spanish devolution system doesn’t contemplate any measure of fiscal responsibility by those who get to spend the money. Since most regions are net recipients, their governments have little incentive for wisely managing their budgets, while net contributors like Catalonia have no say in the way that funds are distributed and are required to foot the bill regardless.

Fourth, the Catalan debt (around 40 billion euros at the end of 2010) amounts to twice the sum that the central government collects from Catalonia every year and uses for its own purposes outside the region – a total estimated at over 20 billion euros, or 10% of the region’s GDP. If Catalans had a chance to spend that money for their own needs, their deficit could be easily squared up, and in very little time. This, more than anything else, explains the present difficulties in Catalonia, and also points the way to their solution.

When former Spanish premier Aznar said recently that a state with 17 regional governments was not viable, implying that the autonomous system in place needs to be rolled back, he failed to explain how a recentralized Spain could be made to work. Catalan president Artur Mas replied that he couldn’t speak for Spain, but that he knew for sure that Catalonia was viable. Especially, one might add, if Catalans didn’t have to bear the cost of a system that is stacked against them.

More complete information on this matter can be found at "A Public Reply to the Financial Times (V)" and "A Public Reply to Business Week".

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Col·lectiu Emma is a network of Catalans and non-Catalans living in different countries who have made it their job to track and review news reports about Catalonia in the international media. Our goal is to ensure that the world's public opinion gets a fair picture of the country's reality today and in history.

We aim to be recognized as a trustworthy source of information and ideas about Catalonia from a Catalan point of view.
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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia