Isabel Garcia Pagan, Barcelona, Salvador Enguix, Valencia
03/29/2020 00:56 | Updated at 03/29/2020 11:46
Interview with the president of the Valencian Government
Ximo Puig has turned his calm and conciliatory spirit into a business card and recipe to face a crisis like that of the coronavirus. The president of the Valencian Community responds to La Vanguardia by videoconference, convinced that the fight against Covid-19 has served to park ideological differences between communities and strengthen the autonomous state.
“It is a success that all presidents speak freely and with mutual respect”
What is the situation in the Valencian Community?
We are not yet at the peak, unfortunately. Expectations are still for growth of infections and victims. We are obviously very concerned.
The autonomy’s concern is concentrated on the lack of sanitary material.
We have a lack of supply, especially in the protection equipment for health personnel and social workers. And we need a clarification on when we can receive the rapid health tests. It is a very complex issue and we must move away from the political confrontation between the communities and the Government.
How do you solve it?
We have reached an agreement with a Chinese businessman who has provided us with equipment that has already arrived; more will come this weekend, and next week too. We don’t know for sure what those planes will bring. We hope that the government purchase of more than 400 million euros of material arrives as quickly as possible.
The image is that of an autonomic save yourself if you can.
We are in an exceptional situation. But since the beginning of the crisis, the good health of the autonomous State has been demonstrated, each one with its competences. Also think that it is not affecting some communities in the same way as others. That is also an expression of the reality of Spain.
Does coordination work?
Yes. It is not a save yourself if you can, but each one tries to find solutions in the different markets. In Catalonia or ourselves, we try to generate maximum self-sufficiency. We have companies that can produce those products. We must prepare for a long game while there is no vaccine.
But criticisms of centralized purchasing are mounting.
Obviously things can always be done better, but I am convinced that the Minister of Health and the Government are doing everything possible. And the centralization of purchases does not mean that the autonomous regions cannot acquire supplies.
The Minister of Health asked for solidarity with Madrid. Would the Valencian Community give up material if asked?
We would love to be in solidarity with others, but right now our priority is to have enough equipment to protect our professionals and deal with infections that will continue to grow. If at any time we can, we will help anyone, but now our obligation is what it is. We are working to have 1,200 ICUs that we do not have.
President Sánchez has announced that he will apply tougher containment measures, in line with what Catalonia was asking for.
Confinement must be accelerated as much as possible. In the current legal framework, there are complementary measures that can be activated to limit unnecessary activities. There are others that cannot logically disappear or stop.
What measures are those?
We must push for people not to leave home, scrupulously enforce that unanticipated economic activities stop, protect workers well, bring public transport and face-to-face work to a minimum.
There was discomfort for the departure of people of Madrid to the Valencian coast. Do you think that dispersion spread the coronavirus?
When all this happens we will have to make a calm analysis of the adopted decisions, but it is indisputable that the problem of the dispersion clearly affects the spread of the virus and there are things that we would do differently now.
You suspended the Fallas.
There were many who did not agree and others believed that we should suspend them earlier. We have always acted taking into account the criteria of the scientists, and also their own discrepancy.
What are presidents’ conferences for?
Now the most important thing is the unity of action. It is already a success that all presidents speak with absolute freedom and express our concerns, with mutual respect. It is a sample of the power that a decentralized State has that is capable of responding to such a situation.
President Torra has had unexpected allies, for example in
Madrid or Murcia.
It has been highlighted that there is much more that unites us than what separates us. Furthermore, with all the diversity and plurality. This also means that for Spain to have a future there must be a certain recognition of the other, and in this dramatic situation it is taking place. You would be amazed at how the dialogue is going on at those conferences, and how some realize that we are all very normal.
The central government’s economic measures are considered insufficient by employers. Can they be tightened more?
It should be tightened further in the future, but not all measures can be taken in minute one. The Government must act with prudence. There will be a drop in collection of tax and we must be aware of the difficulties that will come. What we need is a Marshall plan, we are facing an economic situation like after the Second World War.
But there is no European consensus.
Without a powerful Europe that helps to rebuild the EU economically and socially, we are in disaster. All the measures that we are taking from the Government or the autonomies are plaster. We need structural measures and a change in economic policy in Europe.
The first test for communities is to pay providers.
The State must guarantee the operation of the fundamental public services, and in this case it must be helped to do so. I think the government is aware and the news I have is that it will be like that in a few days. The best service that the Generalidad Valenciana can do is pay what it owes; if we pay, many SMEs may have more capacity to respond to this crisis.
Where will these funds come from: financing advances, liquidity funds…?
I do not care how it comes, but we need to pay the people, and then the reformulation of the old debate on regional financing, of our financial survival, will come. The question is how public services are financed. In 2016, experts already said that there was a structural deficit of the system of 16,000 million euros.
You are an advocate of the federal model. Do you think this crisis shows that Spain would work better?
Yes I believe it. Now the fight is to get supplies, but the federal space enriches the whole more. Both in the area of territoriality and in that of ideological plurality, I believe that it is necessary to create spaces of unity, of cohesion, not always to be angry, which is what most damages democracy.
But what there is now, instead of praising the autonomous
state, are criticisms of a recentralization.
Recentralization produces no benefit. Now it is seen perfectly, it is easier to serve citizens from a proximity space than from a centralized way. The State of autonomies has been a success, and those who have the recentralizing drive correspond to an ideology that does not match reality.
The coronavirus crisis now concentrates all efforts. Do you think that the dialogue between the Government and the Generalitat de Catalunya will recover and come to fruition?
There will be a new day later, everything will pass and all dialogues must be recovered. It is the only way. In these moments it is seen that together we are doing better, respecting ourselves, and with understanding and empathy, knowing how we are.
So there is no need for a referendum?
In the end the “Valencian formula”, the union of the left, has been imposed on the Spanish Government. Do you think it works?
Yes, but this tsunami has suddenly come. What it is all about now is to have a Government with a granite cohesion, as ours is. And achieve the unity of all social actors; that is to say, unity of Government and country, there is no other way or another look.
Will Spain emerge stronger or weaker, politically, from
The bottle is half empty and half full. It depends on us. If we succeed, there are many positive lessons to learn. If we do not succeed, it will be a great decline as has happened in history with other civilizations.