Manel Manchón 1/12/2020
Is it something old or is it the newest thing in the world? The Catalan business community has no doubts: it does not matter how the project represented by Ximo Puig, the president of the Valencian Community, can be described, but it is the one that must prevail, “the only possible one”. A message that resonated over and over again in the auditorium of the Círculo de Economía. A bet that could have a name: “convergent”, the same as always, the one that is defended now in Valencia – although from the same family in the Valencian government and in Moncloa: the socialist one – when it has practically disappeared in Catalonia . Although it has suitors like ERC or PDECat to take over the spirit of a way of doing politics: agreeing and seeking progress.
Ximo Puig defended this Tuesday in the Circle a new stage that is presided over by dialogue and the will to build “bridges”, far from the confrontation that has prevailed in Catalonia against the State since the beginning of the independence process. Puig showed, under the watchful eye of its president, Javier Faus, and that of Foment del Treball, Josep Sánchez Llibre, along with other leading figures from the business world, that the solution is possible and that it must go through the economic representatives, to be negotiated, agree and seal agreements in different areas.
One of them must address the tax issue. Puig, who in Valencia has the complicity of a leading businessman like Juan Roig, calls for a tax reform that will lead to reconsider the role of Madrid so that it does not concentrate all the political and economic power of Spain. Turned into a champion for this issue by criticizing the “abuses of the effects of capitality”, a message that Catalan nationalism launched a few years ago until it decided to change into independence, Puig advocates clear reforms. In conversations with the Catalan business community, his idea appears again and again: the property tax “does not make sense”, and if you want a fiscal harmonization, a process that the European Union is also experiencing –although slow and with many contradictions- – Successions and Donations should be reformed, in addition to the Heritage. A tax that does not exist in most European countries and that in the Community of Madrid has been completely annulled.
That message is liked in Catalonia, but nobody defends it clearly. The push comes from Valencia and the Catalan businessmen embrace it, to verify that the party that can govern the Generalitat, ERC, does not quite understand that to get out of the well, to rebuild the Catalan economy, it will be necessary to count on large companies, with the economic fabric, with the financial world. And taxation must also be rethought, without prejudice or preconceived ideas. Puig is clear about this in Valencia, and offers that support to the Valencian business community to go hand in hand with Madrid and demand their own policies, but which “are also in the interest of the whole of Spain.” Such as the Mediterranean Corridor and a new regional financing model.
Valencia “needs” Catalonia
With what instruments, in what forums can the territorial and economic balance in Spain be reconsidered? That was the approach of Antón Costas, former president of the Círculo de Economía, to Ximo Puig. And the Valencian president made it explicit: “Catalonia should be present on all boards.” Specifically, in the Conference of Presidents which, after being used every week in recent months by President Pedro Sánchez with all the regional leaders, may now be the most suitable playing field.
However, those in charge of the Catalan government, until now, have not wanted to know anything. Since 2014, no Minister of Economy of the Generalitat has been present in the Council for Fiscal and Financial Policy. After many years, in which Catalonia always led the debate to generate the different models of regional financing, now there is no proposal. And that is paid by communities like Valencia, without the specific weight of Catalonia. “Valencia needs Catalonia, it needs it to lead these issues,” said Puig. The Valencian president met, hours later, with the vice president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès. The two noted their differences, but also showed their common concerns so that Madrid does not concentrate so much economic power and also facilitates it with tax cuts. In a joint statement, Puig and Aragonès pointed out that Madrid’s strategy harms the rest of the communities.
The lever of European funds
What has been established, in any case, is a “convergent” way of doing things, although with variations. Puig repeatedly called for “territorial cooperation” and dialogue, and pointed out that the independence movement leads nowhere else. The sooner it is rectified, the better. That was his message for the Catalan business community and for ERC that, despite taking risks before its electorate with compromised decisions – the approval of Pedro Sánchez’s budgets – can be dragged by the siren songs of Junts per Catalunya.
The first secretary of the PSC, Miquel Iceta, was present in the auditorium. His warnings have also penetrated the Catalan business community, after noting that it is not only Madrid that has surpassed Catalonia, due to its greater economic dynamism – in addition to the fiscal advantages or its tax policy – but that Valencia was behind with much strength. This idea that Catalonia can go into decline, if it is not already due to many factors, but among them due to the independence process, it has become internalized. And the only thing that is at hand is the “Valencian road” and take advantage of the lever of the Government of Pedro Sánchez and European funds, which will provoke a race to obtain them.
The central role of the Círculo de Economía
Ximo Puig’s intervention in the Círculo de Economía is part of a cycle organized by the business lobby with the aim of finding political and economic solutions for the whole of Spain. With the title of Spain in the geopolitical context of the post-pandemic, the institution chaired by Faus will address the knots of the State in the institutional, economic and territorial spheres, with the participation, among others, of the president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juan Manuel Moreno – born in Barcelona -, the Governor of the Bank of Spain, Pablo Hernández de Cos, or the former Foreign Minister Josep Piqué.
The Círculo de Economía wants to occupy a central space to open a new period in Spain marked by a change in the economic model, in the territorial model – with a commitment to peripheral Spain – and in the institutional one. The idea, as Ximo Puig pointed out this Tuesday, is that “it cannot continue like this.”