Stop mistreating the self-employed

Political responsibility must be taken for the mess of grants for the self-employed

The self-employed have become the weak link in the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, since their employment situation has not allowed them to benefit from measures such as the furlough scheme. The forced shutdown of activity in many sectors has left hundreds of thousands of self-employed people, who have seen their incomes drop significantly overnight, out in the cold. In many cases, as they cannot prove they have lost 75% of trade, they have not been able to access the aid approved by the Spanish government.

The Generalitat, aware of this abuse, wanted to compensate for it with a new line of aid. The problem is that both the design of the aid and its implementation have been a major fiasco. The department of Work, Welfare and Families put a direct aid of 2,000 euros at the disposal of only 10,000 of the 100,000 self-employed who met the conditions. It is hard to believe that anyone would think that there would only be 10,000 applicants. And in fact, in just one hour more than 400,000 applications for aid were registered. And on top of that, the only criterion that was established was that the first person to ask for it through a digital platform would be the one it was granted to. Therefore, it was clear that a monumental collapse and a lot of nerves would be generated among the applicants.

The initiative has also revealed the weaknesses of the Catalan electronic administration, since the avalanche of petitions collapsed a website that, in only three hours of operation, had already exhausted the 10,000 petitions. The situation has been so chaotic that the Minister of the Presidency, Meritxell Budó, had to apologise after the executive council, and hours later a meeting was held to reconsider the aid. If there is no money, let it be said and denounced in Madrid, but what cannot be done is generate more frustration among the self-employed.

Even so, this is not the first setback for the department headed by Chakir el Homrani, who was responsible for the poor management of the residences during the first wave and who created enormous confusion about teleworking when he wanted to make it seem that the Generalitat had the power to make it compulsory. It is true that in this case it shares the limelight with Jordi Puigneró's Department of Digital Policies, which is responsible for the digital platform, but the main degree of responsibility lies with whoever approved a measure destined to fail and create unease. Therefore, he is the one who should assume the political responsibility of the fiasco and put his position at the disposal of vice-president and acting president Pere Aragonès, who, let's remember, does not have the power to dismiss ministers.

Having said that, it is regrettable that these episodes should be exploited between coalition partners to gain a partisan advantage. In a coalition government, mismanagement ends up affecting the whole of the executive, since the percentage of the population who know which party manages each ministry is tiny. Therefore, what both JxCat and ERC should do is get their act together to avoid more episodes like this one, to function as a single government and to stop manoeuvring to wear each other down.

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