Following an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Council yesterday, President Torra announced that the Catalan government will set up a committee to develop an economic reactivation and social protection plan for Catalonia to address the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. “Right now, the Catalan government’s priority is the fight against Covid-19,” the president said. “We can’t allow the negative effects to drag on and become chronic, especially when it comes to social inequalities and economic activity.”
The head of the executive said that a strategic vision and coverage of needs related to the plan would be defined within one week, that the plan would be based on proposals put forward by the ministries involved, and that actions would be carried out based on the evolution of the economy and social factors.
Torra said the plan would take into account input from all of Catalonia’s social and economic actors and that all political forces would be invited to contribute. “If we don’t take care of the productive fabric and key sectors of our economy, the social and economic crisis will be much harder to tackle.”
The Vice-President and Minister of Economy and Finance, Pere Aragonès, said a technical committee would also be set up to build cooperative capacity, coordinate measures put forward by the ministries of the Catalan government, and define criteria and priorities. The vice-president said the role of the economic reactivation committee would be to integrate these measures in a broad project for Catalonia that would restore “safety, health and vital economic projects. […] In 2008, the financial sector was bailed out; now it’s time to bail out people, workers and the companies that make up our productive economy.”
President Torra said the Catalan government will take action in three stages, in line with recommendations from EU institutions. The first two, currently under way, are aimed at tackling the health emergency and ensuring the liquidity of companies and workers. The third, which is being set in motion with the formation of the new committee, will focus on economic recovery and reactivation. “We’ll focus especially on the sectors hit hardest by the crisis, such as culture, trade and tourism.”
The members of the economic reactivation committee will be President Torra; the Vice-President and Minister of Economy and Finance; the Minister for Territory and Sustainability; the Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Families; the Minister of Business and Knowledge; and the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food.
President Torra hopes for real dialogue and cooperation
In reference to the central government’s proposal to move forward on the basis of dialogue and cooperation, President Torra lamented that “this hasn’t been the case up until now” despite the Catalan government having acted “responsibly and loyally and participated in meetings every Sunday in which Prime Minister Sánchez tells us about measures he’s announced on Saturday”. While welcoming the offer of dialogue, Torra said he hoped that this time it would be acted on “in a serious manner”, stressing that the Madrid government could not continue to take all decision centrally. “We’ve seen that this approach doesn’t work. We need to take decisions in Catalonia, based on the experience and knowledge we have after managing the Catalan health system for 37 years, and based on health regions.”
Vice-President Aragonès welcomed the announcement of a €16bn reconstruction fund by the Madrid government but said it would be important to look at the “fine print”. He stressed that the funding should not be repayable, that it should be provided immediately, and that it should be distributed based on the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on each region. The vice-president also said the funding should be free of conditions so that the Catalan government “can implement social and economic reactivation policies decided in Catalonia”.
President calls on citizens not to let down guard
Commenting on the easing of lockdown measures that began yesterday, President Torra noted that he has repeatedly urged Prime Minister Sanchez to extend the period of home confinement in order to “protect the health system and the health and lives of citizens”. The president called on members of the public not to let down their guard and to do everything possible to minimise risks.