Wednesday, 16 July 2008

ENG: Who Questioned Catalan Solidarity?

"Those at the Ministry of Finance have gone crazy", is the headline of a LaVanguardia comment on what happened yesterday. Throughout modern Spanish history has it been considered foolish to reveal which autonomous communities pay more to the state coffers than they receive back and which are the main beneficiaries, but not any longer. After broken promises by various governments and many delays, the fiscal balances have been made public.

The government stresses the fact that all calculations depend on subjective evaluation. “Who benefits from one kilometre of high-speed railway in the province of Soria” asked its representative rhetorically and then answered that it was not only the citizens who live there, but also those in Madrid and Barcelona.

For that reason, the analysis and assumptions of 25 experts was presented in no less than 6 alternative versions, but all reveal the progressiveness of the transfers. Areas with a high income per capita - Madrid, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Valencia - are net payers, while Extremadura, Asturias and Galicia are the biggest receivers. (The net flows from the Basque country and Navarra, the 2nd and 3rd richest regions of Spain, respectively, are not easily captured since they, for historic reasons, have separate fiscal systems.)

To my surprise, comments on the outcome are relatively moderate, so far. As could be expected, Newspaper ABC (close to PP) underlined that Madrid and the Balearic Islands contribute more than Catalonia. Catalan TV3, on the other hand, chose to present the calculation version where resources spent on state institutions are counted as benefits to Madrid, and not to all citizens, and could therefore claim that the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and Valencia were the top contributors of the current system. It was not explicitly said, but by showing the resembling flags of these three communities, the presentation conveyed a message of unity between the so called “Catalan Countries”.

The autonomy charter of Catalonia (l’Estatut) requires for Spain's model of public finances to be revised so, within governing PSOE and main opposition party PP, voices are being raised that the publication of the fiscal balances must not influence that process, but it is obvious that it will. As long as Catalonia forms part of Spain, it has to show solidarity with the economically weaker regions – just like rich states support poorer ones within the EU. However, an absurd effect of the current system is that public services tend to be of better quality among the receivers than among the net payers. That imbalance the Catalans will not allow to continue to exist but, honestly, who would?
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Related media: LaVanguardia 1 2 3 4 5 6; Avui 1.
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Technorati tags: Catalonia, PSOE, Spain,

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