dijous, 2 d’agost de 2012

Europe Needs to Help Catalonia

Budget cuts are spreading all over Europe. In the United Kingdom, dozens of public services have ceased to exist. Six thousand girls and boys from Northern Ireland with severe disabilities, many of them unable to speak, have lost their music therapy because the Music Therapy Trust lost its budget. Almost 1 in 5 English councils have cut services for deaf children. NHS cuts and public sector cuts are causing anger in the UK, but the cuts coincide with funds going to other regions with budget surpluses. Ireland approved a budget with savings of 3.8 billion, with 1 billion in spending cuts. France just unveiled a €12 billion austerity plan. On the other hand, there are two exceptions in Spain: Andalusia and Extremadura.

The autonomous region of Andalusia is the biggest in Spain in terms of area and population—with 17% of all the votes in Spain. Spanish political parties give this region big benefits in order to obtain their juicy votes. As a result, Andalusia has no budget cuts. In fact, the Andalusian government is one of the few EU regions with a budget surplus! The 2012 budget increased by 1.1%. By comparison, the Catalan budget suffered a decrease of 10%.

Most of the European funds received by Andalusia are meant to improve its economy, but a lot of this money is wasted. In 2007, the EU approved the Operational Program funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with a large budget: 6.84 billion for the period between 2007 and 2013. This represents 19,4% of the EU contributions to Spain under the cohesion policy (totaling some 35 billion). Out of this, Extremadura received €1.6 billion, or 4.5% of the total. Of course, Catalonia received very little: 679 million (less than 2% of the total amount). The region of Valencia received €1.3 billion (3.8%).

Andalusia and Extremadura, Spain claims, are poor regions, but the reality is very different. For example, in the Valencia community, the ratio of computers per student is of 1 to 7.3, similar to Catalonia. In Extremadura it is 1 to 1.8—there is a computer for just under every two students! In Catalonia, only one out of every six students has a computer. Who is the richest here? Extremadura receives 4.5% of the EU funds, in contrast with Valencia, which receives just 3.8%. In fact, Extremadura has the highest ratio of computers per student anywhere in Europe. If you live in Europe, you should find out what this ratio is in your country. It will most likely be higher (meaning fewer computers per student) than in Extremadura.

Something else you can do is find out whether your region received funds from the Operational Program for the period 2007-13. If you are British, Irish, German, Flemish, Walloon, French, or Austrian, you probably paid into this program, but your region received nothing. You probably also have a higher computer-per-student ratio than in Extremadura. It’s not an exception—it’s the norm. Catalonia has a fiscal deficit of over 8.7% against Spain. Extremadura has a budget surplus of 18%. Many of these European funds end up being spent in bizarre projects, like the €365,000 for a “Museum of the Saints,” or the €858,000 to study paranormal activity in Belmez. Surely there must be lots of paranormal activity in a region where money has been disappearing for decades! One example is that of the former head of the Andalusian employment agency, Francisco J. Guerrero. He has been identified as the mastermind behind of one of dozens of scandals in the region. He is accused of swindling 900 million in false subsidies. The government of Andalusia paid €900 million to non-existent companies with non-existent workers. Some of this money, the police says, has been used to buy drugs. Talk about far out and paranormal!
The Museum of the Saints
Are Andalusia and Extremadura really poor? Or do they just waste the money they keep receiving from Catalonia and Europe? Just compare the size of their governments: in Catalonia we have 40 government jobs per 1.000 citizens—in Extremadura, they have 83 government jobs for every 1.000 citizens. Catalonia’s government jobs represent 8% of the total working population, which is still only about half the average for Spain (15.5%). In Extremadura, almost a quarter of the working population (23%) receive paychecks from the government. As we point out above, a big portion of this money comes from the money Spain takes away from Catalonia, but also from the European aid funds which many European citizens pay for. When you compare this with the big budget cuts mentioned earlier, the situation becomes grotesque—indeed unsustainable. If you are European, perhaps, by helping Catalonia, you will be helping yourself.

2 comentaris:

  • "Mohamed Manchi" says:
    3 d’agost de 2012 a les 1:37

    Moreover, Catalonia as per old tradition and good knownledge could be another powerful engine to help UE to overpass the current situation. Message is: Please help us and we will contribute to energize UE with the rest of big regions, let's not share negativism but ability to surge from today's europe situation. Help Catalonia to get free.

  • help Catalonia says:
    19 d’agost de 2012 a les 6:36

    Completely agree! :)

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