(Image: Barcelona, “Queen” of the Mediterranean)
In the Spanish region of Catalonia, serious efforts are being made to reduce poverty and to reduce inequalities. Last week, on the 17th of November, the Catalan Economy and Tax Office presented a thorough study on social policies, which includes the contributions of 30 academics and other experts and technicians.
The document points out that current restrictions on the Catalan regional government public policies are stalling necessary changes, such as the implementation of more redistributive measures. This is due, in part, to the fact that the main tax revenue is managed by the Spanish State. The Catalan regional government is making attempts to address poverty and inequality, with the 2017 regional budget considered to be “the most social ever”. Under the new budget, more tax will be collected from both large property transfers and non-productive assets, and put into a budget that surpasses all other previous budgets in terms of social spending (education, health and social affairs). Despite this, Catalan officials recognize that the government should do even more to reduce poverty and tackle inequalities.
Although Catalonia’s poverty rate (19%) is lower than the Spanish average (22,1%), it is still above the European Union’s average poverty rate (17,2%). Catalonia also faces a persistently high unemployment rate (11,2%), despite the economic recovery in recent years.
The document presented by the Economy and Tax Office in Catalonia recommends profound changes to the regional social benefits scheme, which has been inadequate in poverty alleviation and prevention. At one point, it refers to basic income as a possible solution to this structural social problem. The regional basic income would amount to an unconditional allowance of 7471 €/year for every adult citizen, plus a 1494 €/year for every child (under 18 years of age) in Catalonia.
According to the study, replacing all current benefits which are valued below the basic income amount would save around 90 thousand million euros per year, in 2010 numbers. The study also states that basic income would reduce inequalities and allow young people to enjoy a larger degree of freedom and emancipation.
Pere Aragonès, the regional Secretary for Economy in Catalonia, a region with 7,5 million inhabitants, said at the 17 November meeting that his department and the Tax Office and Employment, Social Affairs and Families one are working on the development of a new set of social progress indicators, which can complement the economic variables (such as GDP).
More information at:
Catalan News Agency, “Catalonia not able to fight poverty within the “autonomic framework”, report finds”, 17th November 2016