Catalan employer associations have confronted the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and demanded that he fully carry out the investments which Spain budgeted for in 2021, but did not complete, in Catalonia The business community has expressed its concern about the low levels of execution of Spanish investments in Catalonia in recent years, which, according to the Foment del Treball employers' body, "aggravates the high infrastructure deficit that the territory suffers from". Foment has called for "the planned investment in infrastructure to be implemented" and, in addition, for the "speeding up of the pending investments", in order to reduce the "investment deficit". In this regard, PIMEC, the association of Catalan SMEs, has called for a "better dialogue" between the Spanish and Catalan governments to "definitively resolve" the "gridlock" in the execution of Catalan public works. In addition, the employers' association has insisted that it is necessary to "provide for a system of compensation" through some kind of fund for the territories in cases where budget promises are not fulfilled.
Foment del Treball called today to "reverse this historic deficit", which has reached a figure of 35 billion euros in the last twelve years, according to its calculations. It proposes, firstly, "investing the equivalent of 2.2% of Catalan GDP (5.5 billion euros a year)" as other euro area countries do. And secondly, "from 2019 there should have been an extraordinary investment for 5 years to reduce the deficit", argued Foment. Meanwhile, PIMEC points out that the competitiveness of companies depends directly on the "level of public investment" in the improvement of infrastructure, making them equal to those of other countries, and responding to the need to "not lose the competitiveness of our environment."
Spanish executive plays pandemic card
The Spanish government used the justification of the Covid-19 pandemic to try and explain why the investments executed in Catalonia during 2021 were only 35.8% of the budgeted amount, while in Madrid they reached up and beyond to 184% of the amount set down. The spokesperson for the Spanish executive, Isabel Rodríguez, argued that the Sánchez executive has had "two very difficult years" in which "the world stopped" and this fact "has had an impact on the public investment of all administrations". According to the Socialist spokesperson, the low execution volume of 2021 contrasts with that of 2022, in which "Catalonia is leading the investments with 185 million euros in investments executed in the first quarter, 60% more" than last year. The Spanish government has recalled that despite this underfunding, "there is an indisputable reality" in the relationship of the PSOE-Unidas Podemos government with the autonomous communities, which Rodríguez defined as "the importance it has given to co-governance and the promotion of bilateral relations with Catalonia and other autonomous communities".
In addition, Rodríguez suggested there was a more important fact: "All the autonomous communities have received the greatest funding from the state in their history." "I'm not just talking about investments, the total funding of the autonomous communities with this government has been unprecedented, the largest in history, and since 2018 the communities have had 130 billion euros more than in the total of four previous years," said the spokesperson. She admitted that in the negotiation of the 2021 budget her government agreed with ERC to create a commission to monitor real investments that has not met. Now, she says, "we are ready to meet when possible and be available."