It seems like a new problem, but it isn’t. It is actually an issue
that has never been properly resolved between Catalonia and
the Spanish State: the fi scal defi cit. The enormous difference
between what Catalonia pays the central government and what
Catalonia receives in return has been a common thread throughout
history. There are many incidents that offer convincing proof of this
imbalance all the way up to the present.
For example, in 1843 Lo Verdader Català (‘The True Catalan’) was
launched: a magazine dedicated to denouncing Catalonia’s economic
problems. The cover of the fi rst issue shows a disheartened Catalan
and the following caption: “On the ground the Catalan observes his
industry, commerce, and agriculture with sadness.” The magazine
went bankrupt almost immediately due to a lack of funding and
because the founders came under signifi cant pressure. It wasn’t
until the beginning of the 20th century that the economist Guillem
Graell became the fi rst person to carry out a careful study of the uneven fi scal balances and… he felt a chill when he saw how much
discrimination Catalonia suffered from. The arrival of the Second Republic didn’t solve anything either. And paradoxically, in the middle
of Franco’s dictatorship in 1961, a young economist, Ernest Lluch (future Minister of the Socialist Government of Felipe González) asked
himself: “does Catalonia exploit Spain?” The answer he found was that although 25% of Spain’s tax revenues came from Catalonia, only
45% of the Catalans’ contributions were returned to Catalonia, thus making it impossible for the Catalans to fund adequate economic and
social services. In 1967, the fi rst exact fi gure of the fi scal defi cit is supplied by Ramon Trias Fargas (future Finance Minister of the fi rst
democratic Generalitat of Catalan President Jordi Pujol): 15 billion pesetas.
The Spain that sails into democracy disembarks with the economic and social formula ‘café para todos’ (‘coffee for all’). It is an unequal,
imbalanced, model that waters down autonomies like Catalonia. The result is that today Catalans suffer a fi scal defi cit that has reached
18 billion euros, some 2,400 euros per person each year. What does this mean?


(InTransit Newsletters; Issue 4, summer 2010)