Shapes of Things


For months and months now, what has been common knowledge on the increasingly down at heel Catalan street -  that the local economy is being leeched cadaverous by the Spanish state – was confirmed on the 26th of April by the Wall Street Journal, which said of the Principality's 9% fiscal deficit (i.e. the percentage of Catalan taxes paid to Madrid and never returned in any form or guise): 'Nowhere else in Europe or North America do intranational transfers of such size occur as a matter of course'. OK. So that would explain the plethora of empty business and shop premises – the businesses and shops in question having crashed to the wall - all over Barcelona, which are now being hawked at 1980s prices (and still getting no takers); or the hundreds of drivers who are daily refusing to pay tolls on Catalan motorways which were paid for long ago (but which are now subsidising their bankrupt cousins in central Spain, where a plenitude of free dual carriageways have left the toll motorways virtually unused); it would also explain the astonishment of those Catalans who have friends or relatives in other parts of Spain, when they find out that crisis measures merely being mulled over there, were implemented here with a ruthlessess bordering on the guillotinish, many moons ago (if not before). And so forth. Not for nothing has Catalonia's most voted political party, Convergència i Unió – having previously embraced a policy of appeasement with Spanish Central Power whose wholesale namby-pambiness (the policy's) would have delighted Neville Chamberlain – has now made it more or less clear that it will opt for secession if Madrid doesn't pay back its acknowledged debts and proceed to make a fiscal pact with Catalonia on the Basque model. Which Madrid won't. Which means that the only alternative to said secession –which latter would, according to the ex-chief economist of the IMF, Kenneth Rogoff, make us 'one of the wealthiest countries in the world' – is for all of us here to go with what you might call the Greek flow and pour ourselves over the pecuniary precipice. As it happened, circumstances took me to Greece last month not long after the Wall Street Journal published its above-mentioned article on Catalonia. What is Greece like? Well, if we leave to one side the beauty of its remoter countryside and the inexplicable friendliness of its inhabitants to foreigners rich enough to visit their country, it is, economically speaking, well... Let's not even go there. 

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, Juny de 2012

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