The approval of budgets, for whatever administration, always has two readings: an economic one and a political one. Often, the media and the political players themselves give priority to the political reading (who is strengthened and who is not, etc.), but the economic reading is no less important. Budgets allow us to set priorities, design investments, increase spending and seek new formulas for taxation. And, especially in a context of crisis like the present one, they allow the public sector to act as a tractor to help the rest of the economy out of the rut.
From this point of view, then, and beyond the debate that a specific item may cause, the approval of the state budget this Thursday in Congress is positive news. And the groups that voted against it will have to argue what their alternative is: to work with the Montoro budget for 2018, when there was no pandemic and investment for Catalonia was much lower? To bring down the government and provoke new elections as in 2019? And what about all the sectors that are waiting for all these resources?
It is also clear that what sets the vote in a budget is a political positioning. It is understandable that the PP and Vox voted against them because they are the opposition and aspire to bring down the current government of the PSOE and Podemos, which they consider to be social-communist and sold out to the pro-independence ERC and philo-terrorists EH Bildu, as they call them. The irritation of the right and the extreme right is understandable because the accounts give the government of Sanchez and Iglesias a run for their money and make the dream of an imminent election vanish. It must be acknowledged that, in this game, Iglesias has skilfully played his cards to take Cs out of the equation and strengthen the investiture majority.
From the Catalan point of view, the independence movement has split. On the one hand, ERC and the PDECat (17 MPs in total), which have prioritised the approval of the budgets and giving stability to the government and have begun to negotiate their support. ERC will vote in favour in exchange for increasing investment in Catalonia and commitments such as studying measures to end Madrid's fiscal dumping. And the PDECat in exchange for investment in the trains and the financial survival of the Catalan open university. On the other side are JxCat and the CUP (6 MPs), who will not support them for various reasons, even if this means they stand with the Spanish right.
It can be discussed whether ERC and PDECat have been sufficiently skilful in the negotiation, but it does not seem to us that this has to be the main parameter of assessment. Because, beyond the concrete gains in the negotiation, both parties agree that, given the alternative, it is convenient to support this Spanish government and drag it into the negotiation on the political conflict. But, as we said at the beginning, this decision, which responds to a political strategy, should not diminish the importance of what we will have in a few days: a powerful tool to fight the economic crisis.