The President of the Generalitat, Artur Mas, this afternoon criticized the way the Spanish central government is allocating the public deficit targets and the sacrifices these require, a distribution which he qualified as “unfair and disloyal”. “The central administration has decided that the lion’s share of the efforts to reduce public deficit are to be applied to healthcare, education and social services, which is a mistake and an act of disloyalty which puts at risk the basic elements of social cohesion”, he pointed out.
Artur Mas thus evaluated the Conference of Autonomic Presidents held yesterday in Madrid, organized by the Spanish government. The head of the Catalan government explained that he did not want to give his views on the conference yesterday “in order not to damage the image of Spain, which should be one of seriousness and responsibility when it comes to the European Union and the financial markets”. “However”, he pointed out, “this does not mean the views on what was discussed are unanimous”. Thus, the President revealed that the deficit distribution was “one of the main points of debate during the meeting”. “I felt this issue needed to be addressed with authority, which I tried”, he asserted.
In this respect, the Catalan president complained about the “unequal distribution” decided by the Spanish government, “who has reserved 3.8% of the 4.5% deficit margin for itself, leaving only 0.7% for the autonomous communities, while these represent 37-38% of total public spending, considering that they are responsible for healthcare, education and social services”. For this reason, the President of the Generalitat demanded that “the percentage of deficit allocated to the autonomous communities be similar to the share of public spending they represent, i.e. a third of the total amount”.
President Mas also explained that during the Conference of Presidents other issues were discussed, such as the need to meet the deficit and debt targets, “which produced unanimous positions”. There was also unanimity about insisting that the European Union should comply with the concluded agreements, which should be carried out without delay. On the other hand, Artur Mas made clear that yesterday he abstained from participating in the debate on regional financing, because “if we were to continue participating in this collective financing system of “one cap fits all” (literally “coffee for all”), where everyone demands the same funding irrespective of their fiscal efforts, this would lead us nowhere”.
Statements by Minister Wert
Asked by journalists about the statements of minister Wert regarding the Catalan school system, President Mas answered plainly that “this only confirms once again that they do not understand anything, nor have the intention of doing so”. The head of government was surprised that the minister committed a mistake which is “very easy to show”, considering that, according to information provided by the ministry itself, Catalan pupils between 14-16 years old “score above average in Spain when it comes to Spanish language skills”. He therefore insisted that “a minister of Education should base his comments on facts, informing himself properly instead of displaying ignorance, as I think Mr. Wert has done”.
The right to decide
At another point of the press conference, the Catalan head of government expressed his wish that during the next term of parliament “the Catalan people will be able to decide freely, pacifically and democratically on their own future”. “This time frame should also include the possibility of achieving a Catalan state”, he asserted. And he added: “Catalonia cannot renounce the possibility of shaping its future in terms of a state of its own, within Europe, within the euro zone and obviously with bridges connecting it to Spain and other European states”. In this way Artur Mas responded to some of the questions asked by journalists, some representing international media, regarding Catalonia’s national aspirations.
On the same subject, Mas wanted to make clear that “Catalonia is perfectly viable from an economic point of view”, stating for instance that its GDP is 200 billion euro’s a year, which is similar to that of Portugal which has 10 million inhabitants against Catalonia’s 7.5 million.
Spanish bailout “inevitable”
The Catalan president also referred to the possibility of Spain asking the EU for a bailout. Artur Mas stated that “a bailout is inevitable; therefore, the best thing to do is to make the decision without delay”. He admitted though that it is the Spanish government who is in the best position to judge the situation and who has to decide. Mas nonetheless argued that “Spain has the potential to overcome the situation, but it will need assistance for some time”.
Asked whether he will run for re-election promising an end to budget cuts, the President of the Generalitat answered that he could not guarantee that no more cuts were necessary “because the entire Spanish state is forced to bring down the public deficit, which is an obligation imposed by the euro zone, so there is no way around it”. For this reason, he stressed that “any candidate running on the promise that the cuts are over, is misleading voters, because this is beyond his control”.