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Listening to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy assuring from behind the lectern in Madrid, that his government's imposition of direct rule over Catalonia via article 155 had saved the Catalan economy, one could be inclined to give a certain credibility to his words. The truth is that in the Catalan elections on 21st December, the Catalans showed rather little confidence towards him, and granted his party just four seats of the 135 in the Catalan parliament; about 185,000 people, 4.24% of those who voted, chose the Popular Party (PP). Even so, Rajoy's words will be well reported in Spanish media. But in Catalonia there is a very generalised feeling that the application of 155 has been the source of the problems for the Catalan economy rather than the path towards solutions.

Simply, two notes on this. First: the pessimistic growth forecasts for the last quarter of 2017 that emanated from the Spanish government in the middle of the Catalan election campaign had a powerful electoral component, as can be seen now. There was a desire to make the Catalan engine splutter in order to gain the benefit of a few votes. Now that the elections have passed, they say that the Catalan economy is growing at a steady rate, but the figures given earlier were indeed alarming. Retail businesses, consumption, hotel occupancy and other indicators attest to this, and the huge impact of the terrorist attack in Barcelona last August musn't be forgotten. When an event as terrible as this occurs, cities take some time to recover.

In the second place, it is clear that the economy is affected by political events that take place around it. The police violence of 1st October had a very negative impact on the image of Spain abroad, and Catalonia suffered the effects of that. The suspension of Catalan self-rule, the sacking of the government, the closure of Parliament, the placing of businesses in the eye of the political hurricane and the act of forcing the departure of many of them, even using ad hoc decree-laws to help the process, the boycott of Catalan products promoted by unionists in Spain: these are not minor matters. And the responsibility for all this is located far from Barcelona.

Yet, in spite of all this, the Catalan economy is holding up well and growing above the EU average. And Rajoy says so. End quote.

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