Thursday, 23 July 2009

The price of elasticity

Has everybody got a price? Most likely so. And countries, have they got a price? Probably, especially one, called Catalonia, North-East Spain, it is being sold on the cheap, a real bargain. After some years without "Budget", the agreement that has to happen every year with the capital, Madrid, the Department of Finances of Catalonia, endorsed the terms and conditions of "a paper" that has been labelled "the Budget", with the intention of being the financial framework of the region for the next few years, until 2011 or 2012.

In front of the Catalan claim for a fairer management of the finances among the Spanish autonomous communities, it has been shown to Catalans, once again, who is in control of the country and who is to receive more or less of these monies, depending on their loyalty to certain principles, only understandable to whom has studied History of Spain in depth, as they are not principles of equality, sustainability or fair distribution of wealth but similar to vassalage. Otherwise, unconceivable to human mind, how is possible that a region that has been plundered an astonishing 10% of their GDP, as recognized by the Spanish Government in 2008, is still keeping head above water? Similar fate and equivalent plunder are being suffered by the Valencian Country and the Balearic Islands.

It is logical that the Catalan Financial Councillor presented the agreement as "the best they could get" from the Spanish Ministry of Finances, but is very surprising that all political parties in the Catalan Government quickly approved the "agreed Budget", and all as one, with unity, in the heat of the summer, are campaigning to stress its unbeatable conditions, in spite of the opinion of eminent personalities like Xavier Sala i Martin, professor of Economics at the University of Columbia; Francesc Sanuy, lawyer and Catalan politician, and commentator to Catalan media; Muriel Casals, professor of Economical Analysis at the Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona; Alfons Lopez Tena, judge and politician, as well as so many others who have already claimed that this agreement looks between a farce and a sarcasm.

With so much division between the Government and the society, why do still exist political parties that are consenting such monumental robbery to the Catalan Nation? Is it more important their position in the Government than the defence of the people who voted for them in the last Election? It appears so. Or perhaps we have an idealistic approach to what politics and advocacy for the people -also called voters, must be. Perhaps I am antiqued to expect that if I vote for a candidate, I want my rights fought by them on my behalf, and not only their rights as representatives of the community.

As it seems it has happened, once again, in Catalonia, with similar result. One more genuflexion and one more bow from the Catalan government to Spain, to preserve stability within the Government and to remain in the same chairs -empty of power, which the Spaniards reinvented in 1979 to please ingenuous Catalans. I cannot compare the actual Financial Councillor of Catalonia, Antoni Castells, with Joan Fiveller, who, in 1416, made the King Ferdinand accountable of paying taxes to the meat, like every citizen of Barcelona under his rule. Since then, Fiveller signifies the paradigm of the power of the people in front of the power of the King.

Both men achieved something, but I can guarantee that Antoni Castells will be not remembered in the same way. Perhaps because Fiveller showed no elasticity in front of the bigger power he was challenging. Should Fiveller, like Castells, had failed in this task and who knows if the King, affronted, would have executed the Councillor at dawn. Nowadays, at least in Western countries, people are not executed for dissent, but it does not stop them from being humiliated and exhibited as losers.

And this is the main difference among the old and the new Catalans. History has shown, time after time, that people who win show no elasticity and has no price for it. Keeping their temper and never capitulating to bigger powers. Josep Maria Batista i Roca said in 1976 that "Spaniards robbed our wallet. Now they have returned it to us -but empty". The situation could not be more graphically described, more than 30 years ago.

Jordi Margalef i Turull
United Kingdom

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