The Generalitat’s budgets for 2023 will be approved this Friday in Parliament thanks to the agreements reached by the Government first with En Comú Podem and later with the PSC after the departure of JuntsxCat from the Catalan Executive in October, which seals the end of the bloc policy that has characterized the alliances in the Catalan Chamber in the last decade.
This movement already started halfway in 2021 when the commons replaced the CUP to approve last year’s accounts with Junts in the Government and with Jaume Giró, piloting the budgets at the head of the Ministry of Economy.
But the real turnaround took place after the abrupt departure of Junts. Until then in Esquerra they did not even want to hear about agreeing with the Socialists. From ERC gestures were demanded and they reached the end of the year with the repeal of sedition and the reform of embezzlement in Congress. From then on it was the Catalan socialists who were hard pressed. They imposed ERC commitments regarding large projects such as the expansion of the El Prat airport, the Hard Rock and the B-40, companies repeatedly rejected by the Republicans, which delayed any possibility of an agreement. No one gave their arm to twist.
An intervention by the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, in the Parliament reluctantly committing himself to the B-40, also known as the fourth belt or round of Vallès, unraveled the negotiations and, in the end, allowed the Socialists to agree to process the accounts, which will see the final green light today.
But beyond the change in parliamentary arithmetic, in the accounts you will not see a trace of one of the measures that the Executive of Aragonès has been trying to carry out since 2021, the universal basic income, a social benefit without conditions, the result of the agreement of investiture that the president signed with the CUP, and for which the Catalan Cabinet has designed a specific structure in the Department of the Presidency directed by Laura Vilagrà.
The measure, for which the Executive had planned to allocate 40 million euros, has the frontal opposition of the PSC, despite its progressive nature, and also of Junts, which prevents its parliamentary validation, but has led the political clash between budget partners until today.
ERC considers that what they want to do is simply a pilot test to find out if granting an “individual”, “universal” and “unconditional” monetary allocation, it is possible to reduce the rates of poverty and social exclusion, which in the case of Catalonia, after the outbreak of the pandemic, they reach rates of 25%. But the Republicans admit that the high cost of implementing this measure for the entire population makes it “unrealistic”, according to the Minister of Social Rights, Carles Campuzano.
Even so, the Government is determined to keep the idea and the organizational structure that supports it alive. The office for the universal basic income pilot plan was created in June 2021 and is directed by Sergi Raventós, a doctor in sociology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), who earns 88,113 euros a year. This office has a scientific committee of 20 people and an advisory council in which another twenty participate, and in the 2022 budgets, approved with the commons, the Government allocated four million to launch the office and the pilot test.
In the Government they handle the theory that this measure “could contribute to reducing spending for the public treasury” because it would allow “to have fewer social benefits but more useful, with more impact”, and is based on the fact that in countries such as Finland, the Netherlands , Iran, India, Canada, Namibia, the USA, Denmark, Germany, France or Scotland have considered it, although none implement it. Raventós and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Meritxell Serret, traveled to Finland at the beginning of the year to present the Catalan pilot plan, which received the congratulations of the Minister of Social Affairs, Hanna Sarkkinen, but Finland ruled out universal income in 2019, after two years test, and there are reports from the OECD that doing so would require increasing taxes on wages by almost 30%.
In the PSC they cling to the high cost and the utopian nature of the measure to discard it. They put figures: “40 million in a pilot test…. It is double what Catalonia spends to fight against sexist violence. And 50,000 million would be needed to implement it, which we don’t have”. They do not discuss its social democratic aspect, but rather its usefulness, but they also have political reasons for vetoing the proposal, taking into account its origin, the pact with the CUP; the flag that ERC has made of the idea, and the character that the PSC has printed on the budgets with its demands on infrastructures.
After the departure of Junts from the Government, the basic income was one of the vestiges of the investiture agreement of Aragonès that remained alive. Of the rest of the demands of the anti-capitalists few have seen the light. In the PSC they do not hide their desire to bury all traces of that pact and to show the frank weakness of ERC through the budgets. Projects such as the B-40, the Hard Rock or the expansion of the airport exemplify the transfers of the Government, which the PSC has put on the table with the strategy of transcending the progressive voter and retaining the center-right space that Ciudadanos has left, in dispute now with Junts, Vox and PP.
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