• The president said the Catalan government would have its economic recovery plan ready to present on 21 July and that the contingency plans of all Catalan ministries would be approved by 31 July
  • Vice-President Aragonès said raising the deficit ceiling to 1% was “imperative”
  • Catalan government ministers reported on actions taken by their ministries during the Covid-19 pandemic
In a plenary session of Parliament yesterday, Catalan president Quim Torra said the government had worked to ensure that citizens get the best healthcare possible.
President Torra during his speech in Parliament. Photograph: Jordi Bedmar

In a plenary session of Parliament yesterday, Catalan president Quim Torra said the government had “worked 24 hours a day for 7.5 million Catalans” during the Covid-19 pandemic “to ensure that citizens get the best healthcare possible”. “We’ve given it our all for all Catalans” during the Spanish government’s “unilateral” state of alarm, the president said.

The head of the executive said the Catalan government would have its economic recovery plan ready to present on 21 July and that the contingency plans of all Catalan ministries would be approved by 31 July. At the same time, he stressed that the Government of Catalonia needs more resources, and that it is difficult to safeguard a welfare system given the gap between what Catalonia pays in taxes to the state and what it receives back in spending. Torra said the central government should authorise an increase in the debt ceiling to 1%, allow local councils in Catalonia to use any surpluses they generate, and cover the extra €5bn that the Catalan government has had to spend to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. “I can’t wait for the European funds to arrive in 2021; we need the financial resources now,” he said.


Vice-President Aragonès: Raising the deficit ceiling to 1% is “imperative”

During the plenary session, the Vice-President and Minister of Economy and Finance, Pere Aragonès, once again stressed the importance of the Spanish government approving new deficit targets. He said it was “imperative” to raise the deficit ceiling to 1%. “Otherwise, many of the measures we approved in this Parliament on Friday won’t have funding, and measures that don’t have funding don’t exist.” The vice-president stressed that Catalonia should be responsible for managing European recovery funds and said that €30m of the €140m the Spanish state is expected to receive should go to Catalonia.

Minister Budó: “We’ve worked side-by-side with the people”

Minister of the Presidency and government spokesperson Meritxell Budó said that a broad project for Catalonia needed to be defined “to build a new, disruptive future in the wake of Covid-19”.

The Ministry of the Presidency has launched two instruments to help Catalonia recover: the Catalonia 2022 strategy and the Plan for Economic Recovery and Social Protection (CORECO). The minister said: “These are two powerful, complementary instruments to support Catalonia’s recovery and prepare for the reality of a world that will be very different.”

In reference to measures approved to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, Budó said that the government had worked in cooperation and coordination with the sports sector, local authorities, the Catalan Institute for Women and the media to ease liquidity and counteract the economic impact of the pandemic.


Return to normal school year with special health measures

The Catalan Minister of Education, Josep Bargalló, said that the next school year “should be a normal school year with special health measures and full face-to-face learning – prepared for e-learning and with more resources”.


“Economic recovery must be oriented towards the green agenda”

The Minister for Territory and Sustainability, Damià Calvet, estimated the economic impact of the measures implemented by the Ministry to minimise the economic impact of the Covid-19 health crisis at €120m. He said this was the total amount invested in measures such as a rent moratorium for public housing, a 50% discount on water rates and waste disposal charges, and free public transport, among others.

Looking ahead, the minister said: “Economic recovery must be oriented towards the green agenda, and social protection in housing and public transport.” He reported that, within the framework of CORECO, “We’re designing eight groups of proposals aligned with the eight key areas of the European Green Deal: climate action, generation of clean energy, moving industry towards the circular economy, efficient use of energy and resources in building construction and renovation, sustainable and intelligent mobility, an environmentally friendly food system, preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity, and zero pollution.”


Ministry of Culture acted quickly to implement rescue plan

The Minister of Culture, Mariàngela Vilallonga, emphasised the precarious situation in which the culture sector finds itself. To alleviate the deep economic crisis that the sector was plunged into as a result of stay-at-home measures, the Ministry of Culture acted immediately to implement a rescue plan. She said the response had involved activating lines of credit to provide liquidity in the sector, creating extraordinary grants, and opening channels to provide advice and support. Steps were also taken to provide liquidity for large cultural facilities with the aim of preventing job losses.


Respect for fundamental rights and freedoms in emergency situations

The Minister of Justice, Ester Capella, said a group of experts has been formed to consider how fundamental rights can be safeguarded in emergency situations.

Government has offered support and resources to those hit hardest

The Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Families, Chakir el Homrani, said actions taken by his ministry to deal with the Covid-19 crisis had focused on four main objectives: providing resources and material assistance to those most affected, offering support, promoting good quality jobs, and defending rights.

He went on to list some of the main actions the Ministry has implemented to date:

  • Emergency grants of €200 to cover basic necessities for 100,000 economically affected families, with a total budget of €20m
  • Emergency grants of up to €2,000 for self-employed workers economically affected by the state of alarm, with a total budget of €7.5m
  • An emergency action plan to support employment and economic recovery, with a budget of over €59m
  • An emergency action plan, with a budget of €74.6m, to support labour market integration of people with disabilities and those suffering from mental illness
  • A €1.4m line of grants to support the hiring of care workers employed on the basis of informal arrangements
  • An emergency action plan to combat violence against women, with an additional budget of €2.9m envisaged for 2020

“We’re working to ensure the viability of companies”

The Minister of Business and Knowledge, Àngels Chacón, said that the health crisis has also led to an economic and social crisis due its direct impact on people’s lives. “While the stay-at-home order was in effect, a lot of economic activity came to a standstill. The crisis triggered by the pandemic has had a major impact on sectors such as industry, trade and tourism. Our goal has been to prevent a liquidity crisis from becoming a solvency crisis. That’s why we responded quickly by reorienting residual budget balances, launching various lines of grants for different sectors, and prioritising support for small and medium-sized enterprises,” the minister said.

Chacón said the Ministry was working to “ensure the viability of companies and safeguard 21st-century jobs. We have enough assets to be a player in the new knowledge economy. That’s why we’re promoting public policies aimed at supporting an economy that’s innovative, sustainable, inclusive and open to the world.”

“The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the importance of digital policy”

The Minister for Digital Policy and Public Administration, Jordi Puigneró, said: “We’ve focused on three main priorities in this crisis: keeping our digital infrastructure up and running, keeping the Government of Catalonia running by encouraging telework, and keeping Catalonia’s economy and the productive fabric from coming to a stop.” The minister said the Covid-19 crisis had “demonstrated the importance of digital policy”. He added: “During the Covid-19 crisis, the digital sector has continued to offer opportunities and support Catalonia’s progress.”

Puigneró also said the Ministry had accelerated the deployment of the Government of Catalonia’s fibre-optic network. “This summer we’ll complete work to connect all of Catalonia’s county capitals. By 2022, all of Catalonia’s counties will be connected to the fibre-optic network.”

Comprehensive sustainable food strategy for Catalonia

The Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food, Teresa Jordà, focused her comments on a comprehensive sustainable food strategy for Catalonia that is being advanced by the Ministry to accelerate transformation of the agri-food and maritime sector within the framework of Catalonia’s reconstruction.

To date, the Catalan Ministry of Agriculture has allocated over €12m to support the agri-food sectors most affected by the decline in activity.