Interview
Politics 01/08/2021

Jaume Giró: "I trust that the banks will reconsider their position on the guarantee"

6 min

BarcelonaThe Minister of the Economy, Jaume Giró, has had an intense start to his term in office. This very week, the Consell de Garanties and the Parliament have validated the decree to face the bonds of the Court of Auditors, and in the Council of Fiscal and Financial Policy he has known the figures that will allow him to make the budget.

You have been a successful banking executive. What are you doing in politics?

— Out of a vocation of service to the country that I have had for a long time and following a tradition in many Anglo-Saxon countries. I know it generated some surprise.

You have vindicated politics and warned of the wear and tear that people who enter it suffer.

— The current situation makes people think twice about entering politics for many reasons, some of them particularly bloody in Catalonia. They have to do with the persecution and repression that has taken place.

Do you have to be brave today to enter politics?

— Yes, all people who dedicate themselves to politics have a certain generosity, they take risks. We are living in a momentous time in our country that historians will not overlook and that is why we have to take decisions that stand the test of time and the weight of each person's conscience.

The Parliament has validated the decree of the bonds of the Court of Auditors and you charged against PP, Vox and Cs.

— Every time I enter that chamber I get excited because it has a history behind it that those of my generation lived very closely with the restoration of the Generalitat. I am surprised that there are parties that decide to abandon the political debate and outsource it to the courts. The courts, which I respect, are not a place to take any political issue with the sole intention of getting headlines.

But the complaints have already been filed.

— There is a race between Cs, Vox and PP to see who runs the farthest to place complaints instead of doing something as simple as reading the decree, put it in the hands of any neutral jurist and see that it is impeccable.

When you presented the fund that creates the decree, did you believe that it would have the agreement of any bank?

— I was certain that most of the banks in Catalonia would say no, as has happened, and I had doubts about one bank in particular, which has also said no for the time being. I have the utmost respect for them, but I would also say that, after the Consell de Garanties has unanimously validated the entire decree law and the Parliament has voted 74 votes in favour and only 19 against its processing, I trust that they will reconsider their position. Entities have been growing in the country and those who have been in Catalonia for many years should reconsider if they deem it appropriate. Having said that, we are looking at other avenues and they are going very well.

Have you spoken, for instance, with La Caixa?

— I spoke with the six main entities that have a presence in Catalonia. We had little time and a lot of noise. During the press conference a deliberately false story was created about the illegality of a decree law that is not illegal. I have had to read some really big things where the truth is mistreated and prostituted for certain interests. It is very easy to generate fear, to threaten, because we have been like this for a few years now.

Do you think the independence of the Catalan Finance Institute (ICF) has been compromised in this process?

— Not at all. The ICF belongs one hundred percent to the Generalitat. The independence it has is that of a public entity that depends on the Generalitat.

And at this moment, is getting the bank card for the ICF closer or is it just as far away?

— It is just as difficult, which is very difficult. There is a report from the Bank of Spain from when before the decree was published that tells us that the application for the bank card that was requested in March is still not even admitted for processing.

What happened to the ICF board that was divided?

— The only thing that happened is that I knew the day before that there were three independent directors whose mandates had expired. These directors, having seen all the headlines and all the threats, despite the fact that we had agreed that they would stay until 28 or 29 July, asked to end their term of office and, therefore, they resigned.

Will the CEO continue?

— I don't know. After the holidays we will talk and see if he and I are comfortable and we agree on where the ICF has to go.

Good GDP growth figures have come out: 2.8% in the second quarter. What is your forecast?

— Around 6% and 6.5% GDP growth in 2021 and another 6% or 6.5% in 2022.

The recovery from the previous crisis was made with an increase in inequality. Will the same thing happen now?

— I fear so. The Government, with all the tools it has, which are meagre, is doing everything it can. We approved 70 million euros more for the guaranteed minimum income. There are many people who are having a hard time and I explain wherever I go that we have a huge fiscal deficit that the citizens of this country do not deserve.

What will be the lines of the budget of the Generalitat?

— I will not do it alone. It has to be decided by the entire Government. There are issues that are of emergency and there are issues that are for the future. It is what we could call expenditure and investment.

What guarantee do you have that the Generalitat will be able to decide anything about European funds?

— I said that we had to try to co-manage the funds. I am not optimistic. Of the 24 billion euros that should have been allocated, 1.4 billion will go to Catalonia. But do not believe that these 1,400 will be decided in Catalonia because they will come in defined projects. That is why what we are asking for is that, in europe's most decentralised state, we should at least be able to decide a part of it.

Would you like more complicity in business environments?

— I would like to see that we do not only mobilise for the big infrastructures that are good for Madrid. I would like to see us also mobilise for things that perhaps the headline would not be so much to Madrid's liking. We have a fiscal deficit and an investment deficit that affects us all, but businesses first and foremost.

Will the coalition partners -ERC and JxCat- vote the same to the general budgets of the State (PGE) in Parliament?

— I would like them to. It would be great if we could also agree when negotiating with the Spanish government.

Some autonomous communities are starting to talk about regional funding. What will you do?

— I will be at all the tables where I can try to recover part of the money that corresponds to us. The other day I was at the Fiscal and Financial Policy Council and, within the very moderate expectations I had, the balance is positive.

Do you have more expectations in the Bilateral Commission than in the dialogue table?

— We have to go to all the tables with the desire to reach agreements and I think that from the outset we have the commitment to trust that there will be at least two years of trying to negotiate and take advantage of a climate that seems favourable to negotiation. If we didn't trust in it, we wouldn't go to the meeting, believe me.

What margin does Sánchez have to come to agreements with Catalonia?

— He has more room than VOX, Ciudadanos and PP. But a climate of opinion is created that generates this fear of taking certain decisions, a fear without any basis because we have never asked anyone, not even now the ICF, to do anything irregular, anything illegal. No one has asked for black cards to be signed or for loans to be given to development companies with a very high level of arrears. No one has asked them to make irregular contracts.

Will you try to bring the headquarters of large companies back to Catalonia?

— There are all the reasons to return, but I will not do anything in the sense of asking for it. It is a decision for each company to take. I will be happy and I will go out to welcome them if they come, but it is their decision. I've heard the debate of: Do we make tax incentives for them to come back? We have to do them for a lot of things, but what would the companies that stayed say if we now do tax incentives to bring back the ones that left?

What was the state pressure for the change of venues?

— It is not for me to go into details, but if there has been all this pressure (pressure, headlines, lawsuits, complaints - I have several) for a decree law on a fund to preserve the presumption of innocence of public servants who were going to give lectures around the world, imagine putting up ballot boxes and voting freely. Imagine that.

What are the Generalitat's relations with the economic world like?

— We are all in what we call a business friendly situation, because we know that this is part of stimulating the country's economic dynamism, but as always in life, relations go in two directions. Governments also deserve the respect of being properly informed and with a relationship of each one in its place.

Do you mean that in recent years the Generalitat did not know what was going on in large companies in the country?

— Not through any fault of its own.

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