12/09/2021

Post mortem?

3 min
Post mortem?

A post mortem analysis of the current sad moment of the "El Prat expansion" issue is necessary. The point we have reached is the result of a complicated debate in which we have seen some really curious things, such as a demonstration called in Madrid against the expansion of the Barcelona airport and applauded by the mayoress of Barcelona. I wonder if Ayuso will go under the slogan "From Barajas to the heaven". I have placed a question mark in the title because I don't want to take this moment as definitive. There are 18 days left to negotiate.

Let's review how the different parties have acted.

Aena. Although semi-privatised, the company has not lost the inertia of a classic public company. Its mood is not to consult or negotiate. It did not do so, although it was easy, with its name. Now it has found that in order to transmit its plan to the EU it needs, by regulatory provision, the signature of the Generalitat. And it has proceeded by the method that in strategic game theory is called "an ultimatum protocol". It works like this: when a decision has to be taken which requires the agreement of two parties, one of them -Aena- makes a proposal that the other party -the Generalitat- has to accept or reject. And that's all there is to it. The idea is that if the proposal benefits the party that has to consent, it will accept it, because it is the most rational thing to do: the alternative is worse. Now, it is well known and experimentally contrasted that very often, in the implementation of this protocol, the proposal, however beneficial it may be, is not accepted because emotional factors, considerations of justice or the complexities associated with collective action come into play. And this is what has happened to Aena. I express a perplexity: is Aena forgetting that it is not a purely public company? What about the minority shareholders, who hold 49% of the capital? Does negotiating in this way, leaving the table 20 days before the unavoidable deadline, serve the interests of the minority in the best possible way? When a private company needs an investment, it negotiates, negotiates and negotiates again...

Generalitat. The proposal, as I have argued several times, is beneficial for Catalonia and the most sensible thing for the Generalitat would be to accept that it be sent to the EU. With the necessary resources, the issue of La Ricarda can be managed with good results. We have competent experts to advise us and Europe would keep an eye on us. There are times when the opportunism of jumping on the passing train is opportune.

Comuns and CUP. They are the winners. They have fought passionately and effectively for the failure of the initiative. In theory they have done so in the name of European criteria. But, paradoxically, what they have tried to do is to prevent the proposal from reaching Europe, where they know it would meet flexibility and that a good plan would emerge. La Ricarda has been an excuse. The comuns-CUP raises a much more fundamental objection to the economic management of the consequences of the climate crisis. It is the doctrine of degrowth. This doctrine considers that if we have to decarbonise permanently, we have to get used to the idea that we have to be less prosperous permanently. My opinion: if the perspective is to be permanently poorer, then we will have coal. We will not resist using the cheapest source of energy. Decarbonising will only be viable if we do not permanently compromise either our level of well-being or that to which the rest of humanity aspires to. The good news is that all the evidence of scientific and technological progress tells us that this is possible. The left has traditionally believed in science. Their current scepticism is surprising.

Governments. Both governments have played a straitjacket role. Both deeply divided and both accusing the other of being divided.

In the Catalan case: the ERC's followership of the CUP-comuns could have far-reaching political consequences. ERC moves away from the centre, may lose votes on the borders with Junts and the PSC, and we shall see if it wins any of the comuns and the CUP ones. In the Spanish case: the consolidation of the majority for the investiture is moving away. How will it be possible to negotiate the state budget against this backdrop? The PP must be keeping a close watch on its weapons.

Wouldn't it be better to resume negotiations? The Generalitat could make it easier for the expansion of El Prat to reach Brussels, and Aena and the central government could modify their protocol and guarantee a more consensual operation. They would lose the CUP, the comuns and Podemos, but the Catalan economy, the governability of Catalonia and Spain, and, of course, the minority shareholders of Aena would win. And we could also make the environment win.

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