Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia

Wednesday, 25 november 2015 | FINANCIAL TIMES


Catalan leaders angry at Madrid’s tightened financial control

Region being singled out for punishment after backing independence, says Mas

The Catalan government accused Spain on Tuesday of committing an act of “institutional aggression” by moving to tighten its financial supervision over the independence-minded region.

Artur Mas, the Catalan regional president, said Madrid was trying to “humiliate” Catalonia for political reasons. He told a press conference in Barcelona: “The Spanish government wants to punish us because of what we voted for, and they are making people suffer without reason. The situation is very serious.”

Political tensions between Spain and Catalonia have risen sharply after a regional election in September that drew strong support but no overall majority for parties that want to create an independent state. In recent days, however, the conflict has shifted to the sensitive terrain of regional funding, raising concerns over Catalonia’s ability to finance public services, including healthcare.

Like several other regions, Catalonia receives financial support from the central government through Spain’s FLA regional liquidity fund. Last Friday, however, the government announced a series of new FLA oversight measures that will be imposed exclusively on Catalonia. These include monthly spending reports, as well as regular assurances that all public spending measures comply with Spain’s constitution and the country’s other laws.

Cristobál Montoro, Spain’s budget minister, said the measures would ensure that “not one euro will be spent on secessionist flights of fancy”.
The latest escalation comes less than a month before Spain’s general election, which has added to the already febrile atmosphere among political leaders in Madrid and Barcelona.

Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s conservative prime minister, is hoping to sway undecided voters by presenting himself as a committed defender of Spanish unity — and by tapping into the rising anti-Catalan sentiment in the rest of the country.

But the latest spike in tensions also serves the interests of Catalan independence leaders, who are struggling to overcome internal divisions and are hoping that a more aggressive stance towards Madrid will rally support.

The issue of financial transfers between Spain and Catalonia is particularly sensitive. Catalans have long argued that the wealthy region is financially disadvantaged and should be allowed to keep more of the tax revenue collected in Catalonia.

The Spanish government argues that it was transfers from the FLA that kept Catalonia afloat during the recent debt crisis — and that Madrid remains committed to funding the region despite the flare-up in tensions.

On Friday, the central government decided to release €3bn in FLA funding for Catalonia but criticised the region’s fiscal stance. It pointed to a recently revealed €1.3bn shortfall in the region’s public finances, and to the latest warnings from Standard & Poor’s and Fitch. The credit rating agencies have downgraded Catalan sovereign debt over the past two months.

The most acute symptom of the financial crisis is the €330m in arrears that the Catalan government has accumulated with the region’s pharmacists. In a sign of growing desperation, a senior Catalan official this week advised pharmacists hoping for speedy payment to “light a candle for your favourite patron saint”, before going on to blame Madrid for the shortfall.

Mr Mas, too, blamed the Spanish government for the arrears. “If there are problems with paying the pharmacies it is because the Spanish government did not pay when it was supposed to pay,” he said on Tuesday.

Mr Montoro denied the accusation, denouncing what he called the Catalan government’s sense of victimisation.


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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.

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Col·lectiu Emma - Explaining Catalonia