The Catalan president, Quim Torra, today took stock of the first year of his mandate, during which, he said, the government had managed to “relaunch the Generalitat’s institutions after they were shut down by Article 155” and “continue the economic dynamisation” Catalonia had achieved in recent years.
The head of the government said that today Catalonia is “a country on the move, dynamic and resilient, despite an environment that’s been anything but normal” and that has been marked by the “judicialisation of politics and by repression, right up to the present day”. He also stressed how well Catalonia is performing, despite “permanent obstacles” that stand in its way and are a “drag on its future”. Specifically, the president cited “a fiscal deficit that would be unbearable for any country, debts owed by the Spanish state, a chronic shortfall in infrastructure investment, and the policy of recentralisation pursued by Madrid, regardless of who’s in power”.
“Catalan society has a lot to be proud of. We’ve achieved 2% GDP growth over the last year, reduced unemployment by 2.6 percentage points, increased employment in almost the same proportion (2.7%), increased business creation by 4.1%, and increased industrial production for the sixth consecutive year and exports for the eighth consecutive year, continuing to set new records,” Torra said. According to the president, these figures “justify a positive assessment of the last year and optimism about the outlook for the coming years”.
The president took stock of the last year at a press conference held at the Palau de la Generalitat, setting out the actions taken by the Catalan government within the framework of six key ideas: A reactivated country, A vibrant country, A country that’s ready, A fair country, A country of equality and equity,
and A global country
. He referred to some 60 of the 264 measures included in a report considered today at a meeting of the Executive Council
A reactivated country
In this section, the head of the government emphasised “the restitution of Catalan institutions and the launch of a new administration”, steps that have remedied some of the “severe damage done to the Catalan economy”, which he said was estimated at over €1.8 billion in losses. The president thanked public employees for their efforts to maintain the administration during the period that Article 155 was in effect and put it back into operation after self-rule was restored.
The president also stressed the “achievement of the deficit, debt and expenditure rule targets” that had been set, the solution of “a series of problems that had become chronic as a result of cuts”, and the “effort put into achieving consensus and engaging in dialogue with trade unions in order to start tackling challenges that had remained unaddressed too long”. He also noted the launch of a process to recruit 6633 public employees after years in which no new places were offered in some sectors, such as fire services.
The president was also positive about the recovery of social legislation that had been suspended by Spain’s Constitutional Court. According to Torra, eight laws have been recovered: four are currently before Parliament, and in two cases the government is awaiting rulings by the Constitutional Court to determine where it can take action.
A vibrant country
Quim Torra explained that the slogan A vibrant country encapsulates “a strategy of local dynamisation – a country of opportunities, where we want to build a new culture of engagement with Catalonia’s counties. We want everyone to be able to live wherever they want and pursue their life or professional projects with full support from the administration,” he said.
Actions under this heading include the new Single Catalan Works and Services Plan 2020–24, which has a budget of €250 million and envisages the deployment of 626 km of fibre-optic cable to connect all county capitals by 2020 and all municipalities by 2023.
A country that’s ready
The president stressed that leading the technological revolution is one of the keys to Catalonia’s future. He noted that Catalonia played a leading role in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century and said: “Once again we’re ready and on the move to meet the challenge and position Catalonia as a hub of knowledge, training, innovation and leadership of the coming technological change.” On this point, the president said the government has approved a 5G strategy and the STEMcat programme (aimed at getting students interested in science, technology and mathematics), and adopted laws on Catalonia’s energy transition and digital strategy.
A global country
In this section, the president reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda. “We all have a responsibility to improve conditions on the planet,” he said. He also explained that the government has opened the Finestreta Brexit, a service “to advise Catalan companies on the fallout of Brexit, identify risks, minimise impacts, and take maximum advantage of opportunities”. According to Torra, the worldwide offices of the Agency for Business Competitiveness (ACCIÓ) are playing a key role in tackling this challenge.
A country of equality and equity
The 2019–21 Inter-Ministerial Family Support Plan, investment of €20 million in employment policies, and 37 actions to improve school facilities (€152 million) are some of the social policies carried out by the government, which Torra said were intended “to make Catalonia a country where everyone has the same opportunities”.
A fair country
The president cited a pact against school segregation and a national pact to support people with disabilities as examples of the “fair way that the government must treat citizens, which is reflected in these actions aimed at ensuring equality of opportunity”. Torra also noted the “€138 million that we spent on social policies related to housing in 2018, an increase of 8% over 2017, and a decree adopted by the government to limit rent increases”.
Policy of dialogue and consensus
In his assessment of the first year of the government’s mandate, Torra emphasised that “rigorous management” had played an essential role in putting Catalonia back on its feet and complying with “unfair impositions related to the fiscal deficit, the expenditure rule and public debt”. He also stressed the importance of “social policies as a driver of republican change” and the government’s focus on “a policy of dialogue and consensus”.
On the latter point, he said the Catalan government has always been open to dialogue with the Spanish state, and that “if this dialogue hasn’t been possible, it’s because somebody walked away from the table. And it wasn’t us.”