Politics 06/02/2021

The pending debates of the 14-F campaign

7 min

1. Environment: the law on climate change awaits its deployment

The climate emergency is a reality recognized by the Generalitat and by the Parliament since 2019, long before the pandemic broke out, but the palpable response to this urgency is still awaited. The first task of the next Government - whether or not it has its own Department of the Environment, as demanded by environmental movements - will be to put into practice the goals already set by the law on climate change, a pioneering law passed four years ago that has been trapped in its deployment. The carbon budgets are pending, which will set the effort that each economic sector of the country will have to make to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gases (GHG). The horizon is very ambitious: a Catalonia in which 50% of energy comes from renewable sources by 2030, and where zero emissions are achieved by 2050. The deployment of wind and photovoltaic energy must be accelerated, but it must be done with guarantees that the projects are compatible with other essential activities, such as agriculture, to guarantee food sovereignty or the protection of areas of great ecological value. Decarbonisation is a requirement that will determine, to a large extent, where the coveted European funds go, and it will be necessary to discern priorities well. However, beyond this, Catalonia also has to deploy its own taxes to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. At the end of this year the tax on CO from vehicles is due to be introduced. The other two planned taxes, on the most polluting economic activities and on large ships, have not yet been deployed. The draft law on waste prevention, and the adaptation of European standards such as disposable plastic, is also pending. And, as temporary storms like the Filomena or the Gloria remind us, the plan for the protection and management of the coastline cannot be postponed any longer.

2.Education: complying with the law to reach the 6% of investment

Catalonia's education law is not being complied with. It was not an easy law to pass, nor is it easy to implement it, especially in terms of the budget. For this reason, one of the electoral promises that all parties repeat in each election is to invest at least 6% of GDP in education, as established by the LEC. The truth is that more than a decade has passed since its approval and we are still too far from that goal: Catalonia now allocates 3.67% of its GDP to the classrooms of schools and institutes. This lack of investment means, for example, that the inclusive school decree, which would have to guarantee special attention to more than 130,000 students with specific educational needs, cannot be implemented, or that thousands of students continue to attend classes in more than 1,000 barracks, or that there is a huge lack of public nursery places for children from 0 to 3 years of age. Nor is it fulfilled that compulsory education is free. Neither in charter schools - monthly fees are paid - nor in public schools, where families pay 148 million euros each year for services that should be free, according to Fapac. The Catalan Ombudsman concluded that the system lacks 1.163 billion euros to guarantee free education, 20% more than the current budget. All this causes many inequalities between children and young people, to the point that school segregation -which occurs when there are socioeconomic imbalances between pupils in the schools of a territory- is considered the main problem in the sector. Already two years ago, the same parties that signed the LEC signed the pact against school segregation, but it is also deployed in dribs and drabs - despite not all the measures provided for in the agreement require an increase in investment. Now the Catalan Government is about to approve a new decree of admission to avoid school ghettos. Nor is the budget an excuse when it comes to curricular reforms, such as the one being promoted for high-schools and vocational training, or to make action plans to reduce school dropout rates. In these elections, a new promise has become strong in the programs of many parties: more devices to reduce the digital divide, a problem that experts warn cannot be solved only with more computers or connectivity, but that it is necessary to work better on digital competence in schools, training students and also teachers. What continues to appear in most programs is the role of Catalan in schools, an issue that has been instrumentalized even more with the approval of the Celaá education law.

3. Poverty: the impact of covid puts social services on edge

The hunger queues make visible the poverty that in pre-pandemic Catalonia already affected two out of every ten people and one out of every three children under 16 years of age. In addition to structural poverty, there are also thousands of citizens who for the first time have had to resort to social assistance due to the closure of businesses and companies and the collapse of the informal labour market. The demand for food has tripled, as has the demand for help to pay for electricity, rent and scholarships. Oxfam forecasts rates never seen before due to what it has dubbed "the inequality virus", which aggravates a social gap that cannot be reduced either with social aid or with hastily approved compensations. Third sector entities have exhausted their budgets to cope with the increased demand of new users and municipal social services are saturated by citizens seeking a response to the emergency. Both are urging to reverse the cuts and to promote a social housing policy and a Catalan plan against homelessness. Young people, women and immigrants are the face of this unprecedented pandemic of poverty (energy, housing...). They are the groups that were already the most precarious and those who are employed in the most affected sectors. The situation is aggravated among undocumented migrants, who are banned from receiving benefits because of the obstacles to registration.

4. Infrastructures: the eternal promise of the Mediterranean Corridor

The millions of euros promised by the State in infrastructures in Catalonia still has not materialized, a grievance that has become one of the maximum criticisms of the Government towards the Moncloa. The main claim is the completion of the Corridor, as it is key to improving the competitiveness of the Mediterranean axis, both for various productive sectors and for the ports of Barcelona and Tarragona, which also have to improve road and rail access. Among the list of pending issues, one that is also urgent - due to its effect on the daily mobility of thousands of people - is that of the Rodalies train network, which has been mistreated by the drought of resources from Fomento. The network is not being extended, the promised dual carriageways, such as the R3, are not being built, and the Generalitat is calling for the transfer of competences to be completed. Beyond Rodalies, however, the first tolls will soon expire, and the struggle between the Generalitat and the State to see who gets to manage them does not cease and there is still no model that guarantees the maintenance of these roads. Besides, the Generalitat also claims not to centralize through Aena the management of the airport of Barcelona and has started a fight for the train to El Prat with Renfe, and has already entrusted the management of the latter to Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat. On the other hand, the management of the L-9 of the subway of the Catalan capital has unraveled.

5. Depopulation: putting an end to territorial inequalities

5G is about to arrive in Barcelona, but in many parts of Catalonia there is not even mobile coverage. This is one of the big differences between the most populated areas and those that are further away from the four metropolitan areas of the capitals. But it is not the only one. To put an end to the territorial inequalities that have encouraged depopulation, a national strategy is needed, developed from the municipalities and comprising different areas. On the one hand, housing: in many small towns there are empty houses and flats. And, in the more touristy areas, the problem is the exorbitant prices and the fact that many properties are only designed for holidays, not for living in. The other elementary point, especially in the case of families and the elderly, is the proximity to educational and health centres. There are municipalities where the doctor only visits once a week or where there is no school or high school, and every day they have to travel many kilometres to go to school or to have a medical test. And, in addition to a good internet connection, there is also a need for a public transport network that connects small towns and large cities. Not forgetting the electricity infrastructure: in many places, at the slightest chance of rain or wind, the power goes out for hours, leaving residents and businesses stranded. Finally, once the basic needs are covered, it is important to have within reach other essential services such as supermarkets, shops, leisure, language schools, cinemas or theatres. A whole series of policies that need to be promoted at a national level, before it is too late and many villages lose their last remaining neighbours.

6. Equality: the challenge of moving from theory to practice

Women only hold 35.4% of management positions despite being in the majority in universities. The difference between the average salary of men and women is still 23%, there are more women than men unemployed, and women are poorer: the poverty risk rate is almost six points higher for women than for men. And women spend twice as many hours a week as men on housework and care. With the data in hand and despite the milestones achieved, inequalities between women and men persist. And despite the fact that they affect half of the population, equality policies are never at the centre of the political debate, beyond the proposals that each party has in its programme. There is still work to be done. To begin with, to deploy and provide resources for the Catalan equality law. In 2020 Parliament passed several laws in favour of equality, such as the law for equal treatment and non-discrimination and a modification of the 2008 law to eradicate sexist violence, which recognises digital and obstetric violence as such. Lockdown has revealed an increase in gender-based violence, despite the fact that it is less reported due to fear and mobility restrictions. Shelters cannot cope and there is a lack of places where women and their children can live away from their aggressor.

7. Culture: recovering a sector in emergency

Even when the era of facemasks and lockdown will be far behind us, the cultural sector will probably still be suffering from the effects of the pandemic. This is a sector that, due to its structural fragility, suffers sharper and more prolonged crises than other productive areas. The main objective of the next legislature will have to be the reactivation of the activity: in terms of business, between 10% of turnover (books) and 70% (cinema) has been lost in just one year, but the situation is critical when we talk about cultural workers, who have been left without income and with necessarily limited aid. The increase in the culture budget is the only promise that has appeared in some meetings - to go from 0.7% to 2% of the budget - but this is an agreement already approved by all the parliamentary groups and with the horizon of 2026. Before that, it would take injections of adrenaline to rescue concert halls, night clubs, theatres and cinemas; to rethink aid for festivals and equipment; to improve funding for creation; to recover the audiovisual production capacity of a more muscular TV3; to normalise the Catalan language in key areas such as cinema, dubbing and platforms, and to push for the approval in the Spanish Parliament of the law on patronage and an artist's statute that guarantees decent working conditions. The icing on the cake of so much essential but unglamorous work will be the new Museum of History and Archaeology, which has to be reborn in new headquarters.