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1 d’ag. 2012

Current Affairs in Catalonia (August 2012) Part 1

We recommend an article entitled "El Setge" ("The Siege") by La Vanguardia columnist Jordi Graupera. It was published on July 28th. This article should not be confused with the one written by Manel Cuyàs, with the same title, published in El Punt Avui on April 15th 2012: http://www.elpuntavui.cat/noticia/article/7-vista/8-articles/528207.html (see my English translation here: http://miquelstrubell.blogspot.com/2012/04/siege.html)


El setge (The Siege)

Jordi Graupera

(our translation)

The immediate reactions of the Spanish parties to the fiscal pact adopted by the Catalan Parliament last Wednesday coul lead one to think that a period of political confrontation between Catalan and Spanish institution is about to begin. However, the truth is quite another: the conflict broke out some time ago and the Government in Madrid has been working for months on the basis of the most radical hypothesis, taking for granted that the "uncharted territory” that CiU says we are entering is a secessionist operation.

The most graphic way of describing the Spanish Government's maneouvres is to talk about the Catalan civil servants' payroll. The State – that claims to have guaranteed cashflow until December –, instead of paying the money it is bound to do, as a lump sum for Catalan minister Mas-Colell to administer, makes monthly payments, with which the Generalitat (Catalan Goveernment) pays the payroll. But these are not made on 25th, as would be logical were minister Montoro to have the intention of negotiating something, or of “cooperating”, as he puts it. He makes the payments on the 31st, at 11.30 pm.

If you want to talk to the top officials in the President's Office or the Catalan Minitry of Economy, I recommend that you phone at the end of the month, late at night: you'll be sure to find them, they're always there, just in case the cash doesn't arrive. That's if they're lucky. Last month it didn't, and the money wouldn't have arrived in time; the Catalan minister warned that the Government might default – in which case complete political intervention would have ensued –, and Cristóbal Montoro said fine, it's your problem, you solve it. A short-term loan from a Catalan bank allowed the month to be saved. And this month the payroll will be met by the annual tax on fortunes - a feature of the Catalan tax system –, but I've seen mayors rushing because they won't have enough money to pay for services they have contracted. Next month, noone knows yet.

This situation means that the Government lives drowned by urgency, rushing to and fro putting out fires. We have a full Harvard professor acting as accountant and a whole political generation buried by bureaucracy. Moreover, any audacious moviment by our political representatives is immediatately neutralised by the civil servants' payroll. Any default would mean that 250,000 people's salary would not be paid, and that the domino effect would shatter everything. And put any end to self-government. And this is just one example. There are plenty more: yes, the siege has begun.

The only relevant question, then, is whether the Catalan Government is doing anything so as not to have to rely so drastically upon the Madrid agenda, which consists of empoverishing the Catalan Government (Generalitat), firstly to have it under its control, and then without any maneouvring leeway to dig in its heels and negotiate. A social explosion in Barcelona would be perfect for centralizing once and for all, with the assent of the world, and the only way out for Artur Mas is to appeal to the people, through any early election, and on a clearly pro-independence ticket. Time, however, is on Madrid's side: for every month he has less room in which to manoeuvre.

See previous current affairs postings on this weblog: http://estudiscatalans.blogspot.com/2012/06/current-affairs-in-catalonia.html

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