The ‘minister’ of Economy and Hisenda, Jaume Giró, is exultant after the agreement reached on the Generalitat’s budgets for 2022, which he will present next Thursday. He maintains that the dynamics of the parties “is one and that of the governments, another” and that agreements are made with whoever can. Imagine the path to independence by forcing the state into a binding referendum.
A Moleskine del Barca and a bound copy of the agreements of the Government. These objects crowned Giró’s desk the day before yesterday, a day after the ‘president’, Pere Aragonès, and Jéssica Albiach sealed the 2022 budgets. An exultant Giró will defend these public accounts in Parliament next Thursday.
The Bank of Spain has just lowered its GDP growth forecasts from 6.3% to 4.5% for 2021. Do you also fear a slowdown in the economy?
The crisis of raw materials, inflation and the pandemic itself, which two months ago we believed was overcome and has not been, generate tensions that reduce confidence in the recovery of the economy. These doubts will affect both Spanish and Catalan GDP. In our case, we expect to grow around 6%, slightly less than the 6.4% we expected. Nobody has a crystal ball, but I think there will be a downward revision of most of the European economies.
He cites inflation, which exceeds 5% and is the highest in almost 30 years. Do you think it will be temporary or will it last?
It is difficult to know. I am confident that it will go down little by little, in two or three months, because there are no powerful objective reasons to the contrary. Geopolitical tensions over energy in North Africa and Russia are on track to be resolved, as are the problems of raw materials. If so, in February or March we will go back to what we were used to.
The United States is already targeting rate hikes in 2022. The ECB does not, but it will shortly withdraw stimulus programs to the economy.
Yes, and you have to be very vigilant, because Spain placed almost all of its debt for free with the ECB. Starting in May or June, you will have to go to the market and finance yourself at more expensive prices. If the pandemic is not resolved soon, there will be more social spending, as I told Finance Minister María Jesús Montero. I’ll tell you again before the year is out. All communities need extraordinary covid funds.
“Catalonia will grow around 6% this year, maybe slightly less than the 6.4% expected”
In this context, the Government has just sealed its 2022 budgets. Satisfied?
Yes. December 23 will be a historic day for Catalonia. Since 2010, there have been no public accounts at the end of the year that come into force on January 1. And in the last nine years, budgets have been carried over five times. Ours arrive on time. Furthermore, they are expansive and social because we have many needs and inequalities have grown. They also ensure the recovery of the economy by giving incentives to companies and families. And at the same time they are responsible. We do not stretch the arm more than the sleeve. From the financial orthodoxy we control the public debt of the Generalitat.
To finance this spending, do you rely above all on European funds, the higher fiscal deficit ceiling – 0.6% – and taxes?
That’s how it is. European funds, above all, will be key, despite the fact that Catalonia only receives 5% of the money that reaches Spain and 12% of the money that is distributed to the autonomous communities, we deserve to reach 19% by weight of GDP. But there is a hyper-centralized state and a hyper-capital, Madrid. With regional financing, the same.
How do you assess the latest proposal from the Ministry of Finance on the financing model?
They sent us a 200-page proposal, without any mention that the State is going to give more money for the services paid by the autonomous communities. There are no more resources to distribute and that is a bad sign. Nor is there more tax capacity. Only one variable is presented that will determine the distribution of resources to the autonomous communities, the adjusted population, whose calculation is based on parameters such as aging or the age pyramid. The document explicitly discards some variables for this calculation, which coincidentally are the ones that could interest Catalonia, such as the parity of real purchasing power, the cost of living and services. Nor does it contemplate the orography, as if everything were a plateau. In my opinion, they only want to create controversy between the autonomous communities. We won’t go in there.
But will you sit down to negotiate?
Catalonia is short on resources and has enormous needs. I am always open to listen and if I have to sit at a table, I will, as long as there is a reasonable proposal and it is to improve the situation. We aspire to full sovereignty.
“We aspire to full sovereignty, but I am always open to listen”
He has just approved a reduction in personal income tax to the lowest incomes.
The Constitutional Court struck down a tax reduction for incomes below 12,450 euros and to reverse that ruling we have created two new income tranches. We have applied the discount for 80% of taxpayers, those who earn up to 35,000 euros. Others, on the other hand, may have an increase of 38 to 58 euros per year. When you charge 90,000 euros, this is only a technical adjustment. A rise is what the CUP and the ‘commons’ asked me to do. The CUP also wanted equity and inheritance. And it has been said that no.
So in equity and inheritance, no rise …
Of course not. Heritage, as the economy reactivates, we will try to lower it.
Hearing you talk about negotiating regional financing and satisfied by a budget agreed with a non-independence party, a part of the independence movement will say that you are autonomous..
Some who believe that I am an autonomist would not do or renounce what I have renounced. I serve the country in an independent government. It is not something purely emotional, it is also rational.
How do you imagine independence will be achieved?
I imagine that in the end we will be able to force the state to have a binding referendum to vote democratically. There is a mandate of 1-O that has not been able to move forward due to, among other reasons, repression and economic persecution.
“I imagine that in the end we will be able to force the state to have a binding referendum”
A year and a half ago, Quim Torra’s budgets were approved with the support of the ‘comuns’, and with the thanks of Junts to the ‘comuns’. Now the budget is agreed with the ‘commons’ but Junts maintains that it is a failure, that more should have been negotiated with the CUP.
I can assure you that the Government and the vast majority of Junts are delighted with budgets on time. In the end they are approved with whom one can …
It didn’t seem like it, two weeks ago, listening to Junts …
The dynamics of the parties is one and that of the governments, another.