Editorial, Barcelona, 24 October 2021
Barcelona – El Prat airport expansion project
Fourth city belt, planned in 1966, 55 years ago; Llobregat railway junction, already planned in 1991; A-27, the highway between Lleida and Tarragona, pending since 2003; Rodalies improvement plan (2009); road and rail access to the port of Barcelona (2006), and La Sagrera station (2009). These are some of the great infrastructures designed in those years, and not yet completed, to improve communications and competitiveness in Catalonia. The delays are almost eternal. But the most serious thing is that the aforementioned projects are only the tip of the iceberg of the millionaire investment deficit that Catalonia drags. The employer association Foment del Treball estimates that the total of the long list of pending infrastructures is equivalent to a deficit of 28,000 million euros. The Chamber of Commerce goes much further and raises this figure to 45,000 million. All of this is a huge obstacle that slows down economic progress and the improvement of the well-being of all citizens.
The first thing to say to properly diagnose the problem is that not all – or most – of this enormous backlog in public investment is Madrid’s fault. Catalonia is a complex society, with a multitude of different social and economic interests, within a framework of public administrations of different political colors, and with a deficit –also serious– in the country’s project and political leadership. This framework makes decision-making and project implementation very difficult, as has just been seen recently in the case of the Barcelona airport expansion, where Madrid put money on the table and political and social disagreements in Catalonia have prevented materialize the project. Result: five years of delay, at least, in another crucial infrastructure for Catalonia. It is a story repeated in recent years with many other projects. and which is also currently manifested, for example, in the existing problems for the development of renewable energies, the expansion of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona or the extension of 5G networks.
A great political and social pact is lacking to overcome the infrastructure deficit
The great economic and financial crisis that began in 2008, the slow subsequent recovery, the political and social crisis derived from the independence process and the impact of the pandemic in the last year and a half are factors that have not favored progress on the infrastructure front . To all this, of course, is added the deficient regional financing system that Catalonia has suffered for years.
But it must be admitted that, above all this, the main problem is the difficulty in establishing great political, economic and social consensus on the large projects that Catalonia needs, both with the central Administration and, above all, among the Catalans themselves. as well as to overcome the administrative obstacles that also hold back the execution of the infrastructures that are projected.
In the new post-covid stage that is beginning, in the face of the challenge posed by the ecological, energy and digital transformation and in the face of the arrival of the millionaire European recovery funds, it is urgent to reach a broad political, social and economic pact in Catalonia between the main parties and institutions to define, promote and execute the most necessary infrastructure projects for the country over the next ten years. So that all this does not remain on paper again, it would be essential to establish a commissariat, with broad powers, to ensure the development and fulfillment of said pact. It’s now or never. Catalonia needs to catch up, join forces for the common good and, above all, stop repeating the same mistakes in which it falls year after year.