How much is Catalonia owed?


pparently, the main argument of the Catalan nationalists, sentimentality aside, is based on what they are owed, how much they pay and how little is returned to the region. Then, there is some historical and confusing tales: comparisons to the English colonies in the eighteenth century and their struggle against the metropolis over fiscal impositions, for instance, should make feel ashamed those who use them. If Francesc Cambó could hear them, he would send them back to school.

In Catalonia, some have played with the fiscal balances until they've come up with the conclusion that an actual pillaging is going on, an accusation repeated year after year to the indifference of the supposed pillagers. A benign version would depict the situation in more humane terms, saying that being always on the receiver end of a charitable partnership cannot be granted forever.

But following this reasoning, let me ask: how much is Catalonia owed? Since when? How would the bill look like?

Perhaps it is time for this debt to be paid. Because it is uncomfortable to live with creditors who feel they haven't been acknowledged as such. Before tackling the conflict and its consequences, it should be a duty both politically and academically to do the sums.

Then, there is a more complex argument, that of the difference. When the Catalan president Artur Mas attended a recent meeting of all regional presidents at the Spanish Senate, he did so out of politeness. He did not took part in the debate, though. His logic is based in the fact that the 'coffee-for-everyone' policy, as Catalonia's nationalists call the regions' system in Spain, is at the root of our current problems. Catalonia, their line goes, is different.

Is Catalonia very different? In what way is it different? Some would reply that Catalonia is different and there is no possible discussion about it, because it's a sentiment, but if it is a sentiment, any kind of transaction that tries to take it into account will be rendered impossible. Difference is hardly quantifiable.

Thus, this necessary debate seems implausible because precisely those who identify themselves as plundered don't explain themselves with enough clarity to their plunderers. Let's bear in mind that the latest disagreement came about after the Catalan authorities made a proposal in which a fiscal pact was wrapped up with sovereignty and pillage issues, that is, a labyrinth where one doesn't know the entrance from the exit…

The data of the fiscal balances are at the core of this conflict, in any case, and although they may look like a dangerous artefact, we need to unlock them with a neutral, scholar hand. We could use some help from international auditors. In Catalonia, this misunderstanding is emotional but folded under layers of alleged discriminations and attacks to its difference. It is an emotional affair in Spain, too. But we need the figures.

We need to know how much it's owed, to whom and why. I'd rather pay president Mas, because it isn't fair that he could call me names before I even start to talk


About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.

4 Comments on "How much is Catalonia owed?"

  1. Where have you been looking at so far?! All sorts of figures
    published for a decade at least. The politicised Spanish Constitutional
    Tribunal slashing the will of the Catalans in 2010, re-centralisation at
    high-speed, poverty growing in Catalonia, 1.5 million on the streets of
    Barcelona claiming an own state… and many Spanish commentators like you seem to get awake just now!

  2. Miguel Navascués | 10th October 2012 at 4:48 pm |

    It is imposible to debate if one part doesn’t asume some logic. If te final argument is 1,5 million people in te street, We can’t talk about fiscal and económic consequences of Artus Mas. Please, let’s to talk about economic, not sentiment.

  3. miguel Navascués | 10th October 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    I don’t know if Catalonia is different. I’m sure that Spain and Catalonia will Look very worse if Mas’ plan follow up.

  4. Miguel Navascués | 30th October 2012 at 7:30 pm |

    ¿Cuanto se debe? Jajajajajaja

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