The president-elect of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, announced this past afternoon to the Parliament that “during this legislature, the Government will ask the People of Catalonia to decide the political and national future of their country in a referendum” in order to “guarantee its economic, social, and cultural development as well as to ensure its survival, strength, and improvements in its state of well being.”
Artur Mas underlined that, with regards to the last elections, “the country is focused on the right to self-determination” and the demand of the people was “to come together to design a proper roadmap that will lead us there”. For that reason, he was definitive that the referendum would “take place under the corresponding legal framework” and with “the will of achieving the widest consensus possible of all of the political and social forces in the country”.
“I call on the responsibility of this Chamber, and to all of those here, to facilitate negotiating, talking out, and researching the corresponding necessary legal frameworks, with the aim of arriving at a consensus about the procedures and processes that must be undertaken in order to guarantee its execution,” declared Mas, directing himself to all of the political representatives in the chamber.
At the same time as the referendum is prepared, the head of the Executive explained that the Government will also work to “explain the democratic process that Catalonia wants to initiate to Europe and to the world” and will also “define and develop the state infrastructures that must be made ready for the new situation.”
Among other things, the President spoke of measures like the transformation of the Tax Agency and the Catalan Institute of Finances into a public bank for Catalonia; the adaptation of the police corps [Mossos d'Esquadra]; the new territorial organization of Catalonia, or the future law for the Catalan civil service.
With this message about the national transition, Artur Mas, as a candidate for re-election, opened the investiture debate of the 10th Legislature this afternoon, after being nominated by the President of the Parliament, Núria De Gispert.
The head of the Executive pointed out that we are beginning a legislature that is marked by the worst economic recession and the worst financial crisis in decades and the most important political operation for the country in centuries. Under these circumstances, he underscored that the challenges can only be overcome “if the institutions and the people are in close harmony, almost in symbiosis, in an environment of shared responsibility and leadership.”
The President remarked that the legislative agreement reached by CiU and ERC “is open, in a spirit of dialogue and collaboration”, to all of the political parties who “without denying the current reality, wish to transform it in a positive way, and who, at the same time, are committed to the right of self-determination for the People of Catalonia.”
“We must act very responsibly” with respect to the budget
With regards to putting the public accounts in order, the president outlined the efforts the Government has made to reduce the deficit and to straighten up the Government’s finances. Looking toward the future, he asked all of the political forces in the Parliament to “jointly decide on common objectives for the country in order to get through the crisis as quickly as possible and with the best guarantee of protecting our citizens’ social services.”
To this end, Mas proposed standing together to ask that EU institutions loosen the deficit criteria for the economies in the South of Europe; that the Spanish State takes a new look at the unfair distribution of the deficit levels for the Autonomous Communities; to communicate to the European institutions and the international community Catalonia's good faith efforts with respect to austerity, and that the Generalitat demand that the Spanish State act fairly by paying what it owes to Catalonia.
The president said that the objective of the budget was that "Catalonia be fully able to manage all of the tax revenue generated by Catalans”. But he underlined that while that is not yet the case, it is necessary to "find wide consensus, in both the political and social arenas, on the criteria for allocating the budget, and to act very responsibly".
With respect to the budget, the head of the Executive remarked that "it's necessary to combine adjustments and cuts with increased income policies" and he announced that the Government wants to introduce new measures like a tax on bank deposits, adjustments to the property tax, a limited reform on the inheritance and charitable donations tax, and the implementation of new taxes related to the environment.
These policies, according to the president, must allow us to “soften the spending cuts”, while remaining aware that the definitive solution “must include managing all of the taxes ourselves” and that “the current budget and financial model for the country is unfair and unsustainable over time.”
Policy summit to protect the people’s well-being
The complicated political situation in which we live affects all sectors, and President Mas noted that, despite the efforts already made, the 2013 budget “would not be able to allocate more resources—in absolute terms—to social programs". For that reason, he said, “we will have to make a huge effort to prioritize the public services that we consider most important and the policies that affect the largest number of the most vulnerable and those who have the highest risk of falling through the cracks.”
This effort, said the president, “is an enormous responsibility” and we will only succeed in protecting our welfare system if we “act together as a country, with generosity and a vision of solidarity for the future.”
Therefore, Artur Mas announced that, before presenting the 2013 budget, he will call for a "summit of the parliamentary groups in order to debate and come to agreement on the main areas of these budget priorities.”
The legislative agreement between CiU and ERC, explained the president, already contains some outlines for action in this area, such as: promoting a National Pact against poverty and social exclusion; improving the regulation of financial products and non-recourse debt; creating a fund and service for rescuing families, as well as mediating between financial institutions and families who are in the midst of an eviction, and the defense of the Catalan education system and linguistic immersion, among others.
Keys for an Economic Recovery
Next to the inevitable budget adjustments, the president has also underlined the keys for an economic recovery in order to look toward the future with hope. In that vein, Artur Mas said that “reducing unemployment is the principal challenge that the new Government faces” and that, despite the fact that most of what needs to happen doesn't depend directly on the Executive, he was committed to “supporting all of the reforms that go in the proper direction”.
The president declared that the country's recovery depends on three basic things: "entrepreneurial spirit, innovative spirit, and international spirit".
The president said that there were a number of key steps to take: facilitating credit for producers, supporting industry, promoting businesses who export, continuing investments in the continued transformation of Catalonia into an important logistical platform for the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, developing the role of vocational schools; and promoting agrobusiness, cultural businesses, and eco-entrepreneurs.
The other major area of action for the economic recovery are the policies that encourage and support the self-employed and entrepreneurs. In this area, the president announced that he wants to promote a program of support for the self-employed, the program Catalonia Emprén (Entrepreneurs of Catalonia) that will earmark 200M€ for 3500 entrepreneurial projects and will promote a new Entrepreneurship Promotion Act.