Chronic deficit of state investment in Catalonia worsens
Catalan Government, Barcelona Chamber of Commerce and employers' associations demand explanations from the Spanish government
BarcelonaLess than 36% of the investment the State had budgeted for Catalonia in 2021 was carried out. The data published on Monday by the comptroller general have angered the Catalan government and economic institutions. "An explanation is needed [for the low execution of the budget] item by item," the director of infrastructures of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Alícia Casart tells ARA.
These explanations are also demanded by politicians. Catalan president Pere Aragonès tweeted: "before these unacceptable figures, it is necessary that the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, gives immediate explanations to the citizens of Catalonia". The Catalan Government met on Tuesday and decided to formally request explanations from ministers Isabel Rodríguez and Raquel Sánchez, as well as from the Spanish government's delegate in Catalonia, Maria Eugènia Gay. Government spokesperson Patrícia Plaja affirmed that these data are "the confirmation the State has abandoned Catalan citizens". "The data released is a clear sign of contempt for Catalans," she thundered.
Catalan Finance minister Jaume Giró described this data as a "terrible injustice" and said the economic and fiscal treatment Catalonia receives from the State is so "persistent and humiliating" that it justifies wanting "Catalonia to be a new state in Europe". "It is quite incomprehensible that this has happened with the most progressive government in history," Giró commented in allusion to the PSOE and Podemos government.
The PDECat has requested Minister Raquel Sánchez appear in the Spanish Parliament to give explanations. On the other hand, JxCat has taken the opportunity to criticise its coalition partner. Spokeswoman Mònica Sales urged ERC to "give explanations to citizens" for the investments not arriving, which she considers "contemptuous" and a "humiliation". Sales has not only demanded explanations from "those parties that are part of the Spanish government such as the PSC or En Comú", but also from those which "support them by giving them parliamentary stability", as is the case of ERC. "Pedro Sánchez has never kept his promises to those who support him", she warned.
For the moment, the Spanish government's explanations are meagre. Government spokesperson and Minister of Territorial Policy Isabel Rodríguez said the low investment is due to the pandemic. "This has had an impact on all the public investments in all the administrations", without mentioning that in Madrid almost twice as much as was budgeted has been invested. Rodríguez, moreover, said that this year "Catalonia leads investments with €165.9m executed in the first quarter, that is, 60% more than last year".
Alícia Casart admits that there may be a combination of several factors that can lead to an execution of investment below what had been budgeted, such as the rising cost of materials, tenders that do not go ahead, unforeseen problems in expropriations, changes in projects, inflated budgets and other aspects, but in no case does she consider these factors sufficient to explain the low execution of investment. "Explanations and answers have to be demanded, but nobody understands it," this infrastructure expert explains.
In fact, publishing this data without giving sufficient explanations is like "shooting itself in the foot" for Pedro Sánchez's government, according to Casart. "If they want to win citizens over, they have to give explanations," she said. In addition, she recalls that the data for 2021 are "scandalous", but the average execution of the State budget in Catalonia is around 60% in recent years. "It is a basic structural problem and an explanation is needed to see where the problem lies," says Alícia Casart. And the explanation "must be convincing".
This low execution the Chamber of Commerce representative considers structural is the one that leads to key infrastructures for the Catalan economy being delayed or put on hold for years. The most emblematic, in her opinion, are the road and rail accesses to Barcelona's Port, the intermodal station this infrastructure needs, the B-40 highway, the Mediterranean Corridor or the investment in El Prat airport.
The budget execution data for 2021 are even more scandalous if we look at what Catalonia receives. Madrid, which contributes 19% of Spain's GDP, received 25% of all regionalised state investment. Catalonia, which contributes more or less the same to GDP – and which has 16% of the state population – only received 9% of this investment. The difference has always been in favour of Madrid, but in the last fiscal year the difference jumped to an all-time high.
The two main Catalan employers' associations, Foment del Treball and Pimec, backed the Chamber's criticim. Foment has asked that planned investments be carried out and that pending investments be accelerated in order to recover from the deficit in infrastructure the region suffers. Pimec has indicated that there are several investments that are "urgent and necessary for the proper functioning of society and the economy".
Deficit of billions
In fact, several studies quantify the investment deficit in Catalonia. Foment del Treball updated the document The deficit of investment in infrastructures in Catalonia 2009-2020, in which it states that this deficit has risen from €28bn in 2018 to €35bn, based on the investment made in European countries of 2.2% of GDP. On the other hand, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce calculated that Catalonia needs an investment of €45bn until 2030 to eliminate the infrastructure deficit. However, these reports do not refer only to the State administration, but to all administrations.