Andreu Mas-Collel, the regional government of Catalonia's economy chief, on Wednesday urged "joint responsibility" between the central government and the regions in order to help the latter reach deficit-reduction targets laid out by the administration of 1.3 percent of GDP this year.
Speaking after a meeting with Economy Minister Elena Salgado and Socialist Party Chairman Manuel Chaves, Mas-Collel stated that Catalonia would be unable to meet its target without assistance amounting to 1.35 billion euros from a competitiveness fund set up by the government to aid cash-strapped regions. Salgado on Wednesday stated that Catalonia, Madrid, Murcia, the Balearics and Valencia would be denied access to the fund.
The regions have been hard hit by the recession and posted record debt levels of 115.455 billion euros at the end of last year, equivalent to 10.9 percent of GDP. As in the case of Catalonia, where frantic efforts to trim the public wage bill have been played out to the backdrop of street protests against cuts in healthcare funding, most of Spain's regions are unable to finance their own debt. Catalonia has committed to reducing its debt level to 1.1 percent of GDP "or less" by 2013.
On Wednesday evening, the Senate voted in favor of demanding the government hand over the 1.35 billion euros to Catalonia. The Popular Party leader in Catalonia, Alicia Sánchez Camacho, noted that the government paid the fund in 2009 and 2010, when the tripartite administration of Catalan nationalist bloc CiU, the Socialists and the Republican Left of Catalonia was in power.
"This is the story of a permanent deception, a story of Rodríguez Zapatero's betrayal of Catalonia. He did it with the Statute and now he is doing it with funding."