The Catalan government's decision to apologize to the public after the huge uproar caused over the monetary assistance of 2,000 euros offered to autònoms, the self-employed, has not alleviated the enormous anger of this important sector of Catalan society, nor has it lowered the growing tension among groups most affected by Covid-19. It is obvious that the fatigue of so many months enduring the pandemic, the incalculable economic losses impacting on so many citizens and the drastic measures taken to protect health do not help to reduce the anxiety which is now starting to be very palpable in society, as evidenced by increasingly angry protests by different groups. It is estimated that only 10% of the roughly 100,000 autònoms who should receive the aid have been able to access it, a percentage that is a long way from the real needs if we calculate that in Catalonia the total number of self-employed workers is half a million.
It is obvious that the management of assistance to the self-employed by the Catalan labour ministry has been flawed, to put it mildly; also, that the system of filling in a form and granting aid based on the order in which applications arrived was inappropriate. We will all agree that the autònoms deserve to be treated differently to this, and the anxiety they naturally feel at the moment should not be amplified by public management which covers up its own deficiencies. And that a domestic scrap among the two parties of the Catalan government is not at all edifying.
At the start of this second wave of the pandemic - in which we are still fully immersed, even if some figures are certainly improving - I pointed out two dangers that I thought likely to be more critical than they were in the spring. Above all, because at that time society as a whole was more predisposed to accept mistakes and improvisations as many thought it was all a matter of just a few months. First of all, for the Spanish government to focus on the problem of the pandemic in the autonomous communities was positive because the closer the public are to the administration responsible for tackling a problem, the better. But, as in all Pedro Sánchez's initiatives, there is no proposal without some bad news in the fine print: how do you respond to people's problems if the economic coffers of the Catalan government are empty, due to an insufficient funding system and a chronic fiscal deficit? To refrain from talking about the fiscal deficit in recent times has been a mistake, as politics is impossible, and welfare even less so, without sufficient resources. In addition, where is the Spanish government's assistance to the sectors affected, as is offered in other EU countries?
Secondly: did it make sense to hand over so many functions to the Procicat civil protection committee, when it is a body whose entire reason for existence is the need to respond to a specific emergency - whether attacks or floods - but not to steer decisions on what is, in the end, day-to-day political management ever since March? In addition, it was certain that, one day, health and economy would come conflict, and then nerves would fray. In part, that moment has come, with many sectors - from restaurants and culture, to sports organizations - demanding on the street or through the media that measures be relaxed this Friday, even while statements made on Monday were still warm, taking it for granted that Catalan Covid-19 restrictions would carry on for another two weeks. Now, the decision is much more complicated.