Psychological fortitude and strength of character
Given the current difficulties and those which lie ahead, the Head of Government called for "psychological fortitude and strength of character" from the people of Catalonia and warned that because of the "many challenges and tests in the coming weeks and months”, the Catalans could “either we have psychological fortitude as a country or we will end up with our heads down".
Economic recovery with a Catalan accent
In the section devoted to the creation of jobs and economic growth, the President noted that "the economic recovery of the Spanish economy as a whole had a Catalan accent", recalling that Catalonia is leading in job creation, exports, foreign tourism, patents and scientific production in relation to the rest of the Spanish state.
In this regard, the President noted that "Catalonia, which is often judged harshly and required to satisfy tremendous demands, is the autonomous community making economic recovery possible for the Spanish economy as a whole".
Referring to the central government’s cuts affecting Catalan funds, the Chief Executive affirmed that "there have been many spending cuts over here” , “but if a sound strategy is put into place to attract European funds, we can regain what we have lost from the State” citing as an example the funds aimed at youth policies.
The mockery that is the Dependencies Act
During his appearance, President Mas outlined how one of the main priorities set by Catalan government was to protect those most vulnerable. In this regard, Mas reiterated his criticism of the Dependencies Act which was approved in by the Spanish government in 2006, describing it as a "joke" and recalling how the State was meant to contribute half of what the autonomous communities put in. However, as it stands, the Government of Catalonia is currently contributing 83% while the State is provides only 17%. "The State passes laws, obliges the provision of services but it does not put in the corresponding funds”, he concluded.
Artur Mas also highlighted the efforts made by the Catalan government in its fight against poverty and social exclusion, with a contribution of 950 million euros, the budget for minimum insertion income being raised from 130 to 173 million euros, 70,000 subsidies for school meals and a contribution of 44 million euros to specialised work centres.
The President underlined how the Government of Catalonia is “doing everything it can do so as to not make any more spending cuts”, assuring that the harsh austerity measures which have been applied in Catalonia have given “the right authority to say that we cannot go any further, if we do, we would be putting at risk essential public policies which are directly tied to the welfare state”.
In this year’s first semester report, Artur Mas also emphasized the progress being made in education and healthcare. In terms of the former, the president announced that “we are starting to win the battle for success in schools” as shown by a fall in academic failure from 20% to 14% as well as a reduced dropout rate from 33% to 24% during the last six years. President Mas made a special mention to the contribution of teachers whom despite "being paid less, have worked harder and have obtained better results".
Fighting tooth and nail for public healthcare
Regarding the field of public health, the chief executive insisted that the weight in the healthcare budget has “never” been as heavy as it is now for the Government of Catalonia, declaring that "we are fighting tooth and nail in very precarious conditions”, furthermore, despite having fewer resources, scheduled surgeries have increased by 4.2% while waiting lists have decreased by 9.8%.
Mas also pointed out that the Catalan Government is the only territory of the State which submits its citizens to public health services assessment. According to this evaluation, 9 out of 10 Catalans are satisfied with their treatment and 8 out of 10 believe they are in good health.
The fifth and final area in the Government’s first half of year report is the one regarding transparency. Recalling that according to Transparency International, within a year, Catalonia went from being the tenth most transparent autonomous community to being the first, along with the Basque Country and Castile and León. "Now the challenge,” Mas declared “is to remain at the top".
The president stressed the commitment of the Government to use dialogue and reach agreements so accords can be made. Citing the Catalan Consumer Agency as an example of this willingness "thanks to the Catalan Consumer Agency, through agreements and arbitration, financial entities have returned 282 million euros to 25,000 people who had fallen into the preferreds trap".