The agreement between the ERC and the PSOE to approve the General State Budget provides that Catalonia will receive €2,339 million in 2021. As ARA explained yesterday, the increase in investment was one of the issues that had been negotiated in recent days and this Wednesday the party made public the terms of the pact with the Spanish government. Thus, this agreement foresees that Catalonia will receive 100 million euros more than the 1,999.3 initially foreseen in chapter VI of the General State Budget. Thus, Catalonia would receive 2,099.3 million euros from this chapter, which would be 17.2% of the funds that are handed out to the different regions by the central government, 0.7% more than initially budgeted.
In addition, Catalonia will receive €240.1 million in capital transfers, bringing the total amount of investments and transfers to €2,339.4 million. Within these €240.1 million in transfers there would be €200 million pending from a Supreme Court ruling that obliged the Spanish government to pay part of the investments committed and not executed in 2008. In a bilateral commission between the Spanish government and the Generalitat, it was agreed that this payment would be divided into four phases. The first (this 200 million) was to be made earlier, but could not be carried out until a new budget was approved.
The national coordinator of the party and vice president of the Catalan Government, Pere Aragonès, appeared on Wednesday after a meeting of the executive of the party to analyse the agreement and the first thing he did was to highlight these figures. As he explained, these €2,339 million mean that the percentage of investment of the State in Catalonia will reach 19.13%, which means that for the first time Catalonia will receive an investment equivalent -even a little more- to its weight in the Spanish GDP. Even so, in accounting terms, the 200 million euros derived from the Supreme Court ruling cannot be counted as investment since it is an outstanding debt.
Be that as it may, the 2,099.3 million euros foreseen in territorialised investment represents a significant jump with respect to the investments budgeted in recent years. This figure, which the State plans to invest in Catalonia, is the highest in recent years, and doubles the investment planned in the State budget for 2015. In fact, during the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, no budget was agreed in which the percentage of regional funds awarded to Catalonia reached 17%. "It is an exceptional figure", Aragonès said.
Thus, the agreement goes beyond the four points announced yesterday by the ERC spokesman in Congress, Gabriel Rufián - extension of the moratorium on self-employment until February 2021, payment of €18 million outstanding debt in grants, end of the Spanish government's supervision of the Generalitat finances, and the fight against fiscal dumping in Madrid. In fact, according to sources consulted by ARA, the last details of the agreement were closed on Monday in Madrid by a delegation of ERC led by the Deputy Secretary General, Marta Vilalta.
Management of the minimum vital income
Thus, in Wednesday's performance, Aragonès revealed some more details of the pact in comparison to what had been explained on Tuesday. In addition to these 2,339 million euros in investments and transfers, the national coordinator of ERC has also explained that they have agreed with the PSOE that the Generalitat will directly manage the minimum vital income, a benefit recently created by the Spanish government. It will transfer the resources that it will later have to distribute among the citizens who are entitled to it, but it will not have regulatory capacity over the benefit.
For Aragonès, this is a good agreement that will help to ensure that "nobody is left behind". Finally, another new fact explained in his appearance is that the Generalitat will be able to manage €596 million directly from the European funds that will arrive in Spain to fight the pandemic. Of these, more than 300 will be for environmental policies and 225 for housing policies. "It is a good agreement for Catalonia", insisted the vice-president.
Clause to monitor
One of the historical problems that several Catalan parties have denounced is that the State has often not complied with the budgetary agreements with Catalonia. For this reason, the pact with the PSOE includes a "clause" to analyse whether the Spanish government complies with what has been established. Thus, the joint commission on State-Government infrastructure is expected to meet every four months to see if the committed investment is fulfilled. One of the most controversial parts of the agreement is the fight against fiscal dumping in Madrid. Aragonès explained that what will be done is to create a working group to put an end to "unfair competition" between territories, for example with regard to property tax. "We have to break with this diabolical dynamic", he defended.
A difficult month
It will be a month until the budgets are finally voted on in Congress. ERC is aware that it will not be an easy path and, according to Aragonès, there will be attempts to "destabilise" the agreement. ERC will also use this period to defend that having agreed on the budget does not mean that they are giving up on their project for independence: "We want the tools of a state but we will not give up on achieving improvements for citizens at a time of such anguish", concluded Aragonès. The leader of ERC in Congress, Gabriel Rufián, also spoke, appealing to the words of the last day in which the president of the party, Oriol Junqueras, was able to appear in Parliament (January of this year). "Our obligation is to talk to everyone," he said. According to Rufián, they have followed that advice to the letter and the result has been the budget agreement.