The Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) has put its foot down, after 14 hours of meetings with the Catalan government on the 2023 budget. Salvador Illa's party has sent its proposal to the president, Pere Aragonès, this Wednesday, with the "key elements" that will need to be included in the budget project for it to get Socialist approval. "They are common sense proposals and I cannot imagine that the government will not accept them if it is true that it wants a budget for next year", warned the PSC spokesperson, Alícia Romero, who has repeatedly insisted that the responsibility for taking the project forward lies with the executive of Aragonès. Although the PSC did not want to talk about ultimatums, the forcefulness of the relative position of the parties leaves the Aragonès government in a tight spot, after it has until now avoided including in the negotiation proposals that the Socialists have today stated are irrevocable.
"We will continue to work, but this is the framework. A negotiation in which the two parties have the same weight [33 deputies] has to be assumed in the budget. We will not agree to four tweaks to the project, we want to negotiate the budget. The government knows this, and also knows that these are our key elements to be able to move forward with the budget", said Romero when asked if this proposal was considered as an ultimatum. For its part, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) government has chosen to ignore the PSC challenge and has limited itself to asserting that the talks continue discreetly and that the public insistence of the Socialists does not represent "any relevant change."
The Socialist spokesperson asserts that her group is ready to "rescue Catalonia in a very complicated moment, but not to rescue president Aragonès", and expressed her confidence that the president would agree to the proposal presented to him today, in which the PSC demands that the territorial will be respected in projects that have the support of Parliament, like the case of the Hard Rock proposal near Tarragona; and that taxation is not touched.
The proposals include a chapter dedicated to transparency in which the Socialists propose, among other issues, that a parliamentary committee be in charge of validating the government's subsidies and aid to private media or that the public polling agency the Centre for Opinion Studies (CEO) depends on Parliament.
Faced with the fact that some of these proposals contradict those agreed by the government with Catalunya en Comú (Commons), Romero criticized the negotiating strategy that Aragonès has carried out - "which is exclusively their responsibility" - and which has been dedicated to working out proposals with other sectors, or with the Commons, without sharing them with the PSC. "If there is no budget by January 1st, the responsibility is solely and exclusively that of president Aragonès and ERC, who are the ones who must present the budget," warned Romero, having just begun the appearance.
Airport and Ronda Nord
The PSC's proposals fall into three major blocks: economic, "protecting people" and transparency. In the first, it emphasizes that the budgets must be used to "channel opportunities", and highlights the contributions of the Spanish state destined to different projects, including the expansion of the airport, where the Spanish government wants to invest 1,700 million of euros - which would increase Catalonia's GDP by 2% - so they demand that the government get involved "firmly". The other big project is the Ronda Nord, a planned highway connecting Sabadell and Terrassa, which "has the support of the territory", which is why its impetus and the beginning of the works are called for; thirdly, she referred to the contractual programme with Renfe to make effective the purchase of commuter trains in two months.
The PSC criticizes, in the second point of the economic block, the way in which the EU Next Generation funds have been executed; and they are disappointed because only 1 billion of the 13 billion euros that have been allocated have been awarded.
The third point of the economic block relates to private investment in Catalonia and that must be "accompanied", as in the case of the Hard Rock Entertainment World, an "important" project for the Camp de Tarragona area, which would signify more than 1,000 million euros investment, as the PSC highlight. "We don't understand the hurdles that mean that they are not approved, we don't want to think that they are electoral elements. But it is important and we want it to be cleared up, because it involves budgeted sums and tasks to be carried out", she responded, underlining a project that the PSC has labelled as a red line for the agreement from the first day.
A fourth economic point that Romero indicated is the budget itself, worth more than 33 billion euros, over which the PSC raises questions about economic deployment, productive and industrial model; knowledge; and renewable energies, one of the points where there is most distance with ERC.
Health, social rights...
The second block of the proposal, under the title "Protecting people", is dedicated to the areas dedicated to health - to increase primary care to 84% of the budget, a plan to combat waiting lists; proposals on social rights - with the opening of 2,000 new residence places, eliminating waiting lists for the dependency law, until it is reduced to six months; a series of investments in education; and investments in infrastructure, such as a new desalination plant, public transport and mobility.
The third block is dedicated to transparency, based on an analysis of the functioning of the administration with specific proposals to be incorporated in 2023, including reducing the number of entities in the Generalitat de Catalunya, of which there are 300; eliminating the territorial delegations in Barcelona and considering the status of the rest; suspending the growth of Catalan government offices abroad, since despite the PSC's support for these offices, they consider that the situation needs to be studied to rationalize their operation; in this chapter it is also proposed that the ACN news agency become part of the CCMA Catalan public media conglomerate; that the CEO polling agency depends on Parliament; and that subsidies to the private media should be reviewed by a parliamentary committee.
The PSC calls for a monitoring commission to meet every two months to check the deployment of the budget, and a commitment from the Catalan government to "legal security and order, with respect to the current legal framework" in the sense that nothing will be incorporated into the budget that contravenes it.
After weeks in which the Pere Aragonès government has assured that agreement was close, the movement of the PSC has now left the ball back in the executive's court.