Barcelona and decadence
For decades the traditional apostles of Barcelona's decadence have been announcing the approaching apocalypse. So far, Nostradamus incarnated in successful novelists with an intense linguistic superiority complex have not got away with their invocation of the Titanic, nor has the city ceased to be -yet- open and attractive to international talent. Their political adventures with Ciudadanos have been shipwrecked before the bad omens and the expectations of seeing the city provincialised have not been fulfilled. Neither is Barcelona a provincial city today, nor does sovereignism threaten the ambitions of the Ciutat Condal. Nor is anything happening to it that is not happening in the main European cities after the hecatomb of the long pandemic.
Barcelona is still a dynamic and attractive city, but it is time to ask whether it has an ambitious plan for the future to match its past.
Ready for the future?
Is it well managed to compete in a world where no one is waiting for it or will give it anything for free?
Today, when culture has barely recovered its full capacity and foreign visitors are beginning to be seen, Barcelona has to ask itself where it wants to go and who can best take the reins of a city that has made of its uniqueness and heterodoxy its treasure. An enterprising and original city with natural conditions that give it a unique quality of life, but which today needs to recover its joy.
Now that we can begin to say that the pandemic is being left behind, it is time to review what lockdown has meant and what consequences we are dragging along. Barcelona closed 2020 with a 11.5% fall in GDP, and the first quarter of 2021 the decline has moderated but continues in the red by 4% year-on-year. The city's economy is in line with the state's downturn, but it is much higher than the average fall suffered by the European Union, which has been 1.2%. The commercial and service fabric of the city has been affected and, despite the fact that unemployment is starting to decrease and entrepreneurial activity is beginning to recover, all Barcelonians can see the atmosphere in the streets and where are those who sleep night after night in the doorways of our homes.
In an interview with ARA, the mayoress of Barcelona attributes the criticism of the city's decadence to the start of the election campaign. She is right, but only partly. Barcelona is not sinking, today, but it would be a mistake to act complacently or defensively. Not everything is about electoral interests, or a superiority complex, and when the new generation of the Cercle d'Economia warns that "we could be trapped in a spiral of economic irrelevance, of slow but inexorable decline", it must be listened to. To get out of this crisis we must join forces and identify projects that go beyond political singularities
Those who ask to think in the medium and long term and to put the different agents to negotiate and work on great transforming projects are right.
The general interests are identifiable, the great assets and the great deficits are more than diagnosed, and it is the responsibility of the municipal government to promote the projects and work on the consensus that makes it possible to execute them with the rest of the administrations. It is necessary to untangle the issues trapped in an eternal loop, such as the expansion of the Clínic, the Hermitage and the airport. The case of the airport expansion contains all the symptoms of the bad policy of the various administrations and the lax management of Aena in El Prat. Without negotiating it is impossible to reach an agreement and without listening to the parties involved it is impossible to get out of mutual reproval. Without a courageous communication policy it is impossible to have an adult debate, and none of the administrations involved - none of them - can escape criticism. It must be possible to have the best infrastructures with the minimum ecological impact and to promote an economic model that does not favour low-cost tourism.
Is Barcelona a vibrant, open, rich city that cares for entrepreneurs, which has a social network that avoids fracture? Does it have a plan for the future to achieve this with a vibrant way out of the pandemic trauma?
Barcelona is sad and the people of Barcelona want reasons to be proud of the city where they fight and build day by day. The way out of the crisis will not be the work of one mayor or another. It will be possible with a change of attitude that involves the cooperation of all parties with all social agents. It is not impossible, Barcelona has done it at other times in its history.