The Catalan Welfare State (IT In Transit #17)


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Data: July 2013.

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The Catalan Welfare State (IT In Transit #17)

  1. 1. In favor of the welfare state, against its enthusiasts The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013 Catalonia is a latecomer to the welfare state. It appeared at the end of the 1970s, together with democracy, out of a dictatorship that was far-removed from a post-WWII Europe that was a society that demonstrated compassion towards the poorest and most needy. This new social welfare was presented as a victory of the Spanish Constitution (and the now-defunct UCD), with a significant dose of fiscal illusion as well as naivety on behalf of the citizenry about the cost of sustaining it. And now Spain itself, as it has become more decentralized and has delegated responsibilities on social spending (and the financing problems associated with it, especially), is now threatening the survival of the welfare state. When conservative ideological thinking starts to emphasize the need for a more or less uncontrolled reform (or dismantling) of the welfare state, they make it appear as though the spendthrift Autonomous Communities are the ones responsible for this same welfare state’s demise. So the story is told. It is important to point out that the economic crisis, which has made it more difficult to finance the varying levels of expenditure undertaken by the Generalitat de Catalunya, should be seen as an opportunity. Arriving late means we can avoid mistakes. The path we had been on –support for social spending but no desire to pay for it with more taxes or with a more solidary culture of tax compliance— was making us “spoiled.” Civil society receded and we chose to delegate our responsibilities (that ranged from those related to family to those that involved the whole community), to impersonal entities that were administrated politically more than publicly and were hardly participatory. Changing now is certainly not ideal. Reinvesting should matter more than “making cuts.” Refocusing spending on preventing these precarious situations for the most vulnerable collectives (an investment that would likely mean future savings) today collides with our inability to ignore the reactive expense of all those collectives that were not prioritized by that investment. Together, the combination stretches our available funds (the result of the harsh fiscal consolidation that we all have be obliged to follow) to the breaking point. In addition, paradoxically,ifwelookatthedataofferedbyEurostat,between2009and2012Spain—despiteeverything—has not managed to balance the budget. In terms of GDP, with regard to revenue (fiscal pressure) and expenditure of the Public Administrations, we are stuck at 47%, with a deficit at the same level as in 2009 (almost 10%). This fact contrasts with what Portugal has done, cutting its deficit in half and increasing revenue and lowering spending, or the case of Ireland that, determined to not raise its low tax ratio, has sharply lowered its spending, while Greece, unable to cut spending, has managed to increase revenue. In reality this doesn’t mean that we haven’t made spending cuts or tried to raise taxes here in Catalonia. What has happened is that the cuts per capita (suffered by the population) have simply been swallowed up by the decreasing GDP. And regarding revenue, despite the rise in rates, the loss of tax bases (evasion and fraud) has made it impossible to increase revenue. This highlights just how important economic recovery is for maintaining –and increasing, if society has the political will to do so— our welfare state. Policies that reorient welfare (the public sector today only offers its support if the person is not working) should gradually be substituted by workfare policies that provide support only if a person is working! This subsidy should be a supplement, not a substitution; it is linked to work (mini-jobs, part-time, or full-time) so that between the two incomes a guaranteed minimum is reached (social minimum income?). Linking welfare policies (that would otherwise have little impact) to not having any formal income makes it easier to understand why in order to reach a decent minimum income, the beneficiaries of this welfare see themselves obliged to work in the informal economy. And the process of revenue loss simply creates a feedback loop. In conclusion, in our country we often hear people linking the deficit or fiscal spoliation of Catalonia by the Spanish state to the possibility of building a ‘utopian’ welfare state. Without a doubt, the fiscal deficit is a social deficit. But a social deficit is not a public deficit. If the Generalitat were to have better access to Catalonia’s own revenue it would likely make it easier for the Parliament to reorient our taxation towards growth, lower taxes (and give money back to society) or in the least, improve social spending. But all the options are legitimate if they are decided in the Parliament. Which is why I find somewhat undemocratic the position of certain sectors of society that condition their support on the structures of a new state, on ending the fiscal deficit, or on using the financing margins that are obtained exclusively on more public spending. This is something that we have to decide together, without excuses, if we are truly in favor of “the right to decide.” Guillem López Casasnovas (Ciutadella, Menorca, 1955) is an economist. He is a tenured professor of economics at the Pompeu Fabra University, and since March of 2005 he has also been on the Board of Directors for the Spanish Central Bank. Photo by Margaret Luppino Translated from Catalan by Margaret Luppino Guillem López Casasnovas seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter EDITORIAL
  2. 2. «Catalonia will be loyal to the ideal of social justice, or it will not be» Building Catalonia 1958 The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013 “Catalanism will be social, or she will not be”. Or,“Catalonia will be faithful to the ideal of social justice, or she will not be”. This was the language of the time – the fifties and sixties – when Catalan nationalism was being redefined after the downfall of the thirties and the despondency of the forties and the fifties. These asseverations were entirely characteristic of Catalan nationalism. The ideological turmoil of the sixties and the seventies (across Europe but also very present here) introduced variations to this approach. Which time and reality have gradually sedimented. Yet the essence of that approach remains. Textually and in a language of that time. “Catalonia will be faithful to the ideal of social justice, or she will not be”. This spurred parties and Catalan nationalist movements into action. Some ideologically radical sectors of the sixties and the seventies unsuccessfully sought to exploit it with a view to stoking social and political dissent. However, most groupings embraced it. Such was the case of the communists of the PSUC, the socialists, social democrats, Christian democrats and liberals. And the proposals stemming from a nationalism that was always defined as communitarian. Without explicitly stating it, everyone was influenced, fortunately, by the idea of “Community and Person”, which some had learnt from Péguy and other writers. Fortunately. ------------------------------ I say fortunately because Catalonia could only be saved from disintegration, a loss of cohesion, a weakening of cohabitation if this outlook – with some variations – prevailed. Only thus would it be possible to safeguard and strengthen a collective personality that could be useful to her people. The raison d’être, motive and duty of a country is to help give its people content, form, perspective, collective dimension and social harmony. People –individuals – need to be what they are individually. A person is an individual. But a person can never be complete if he or she cannot communicate and have dealings with other people. So, as Aristotle noted, a person is also necessarily social. And this still holds true despite the many theories that have since emerged. And there are other aspects– language, culture, memory, among others, but the experience of a country necessarily responds to a communitarian ideal rather than merely an individual one, namely, that this country is the home of which each and every person forms part. Today, with this in mind, forward-looking countries do not seek to provide responses in just one way – they do so through a number of mechanisms- although the welfare state remains vital. In other words, through action and a system that gives each citizen the living conditions, the potential for economic advancement and social mobility, health, and personal and family security for which, in fact, most people yearn. Already in the first third of the twentieth century, this approach, which in Europe was being debated just before the Second World War, and then spread rapidly. This line of reasoning had already begun in Catalonia as well. Yet it was cut short by our war and the post-war period. But it resurfaced to rekindle a sentiment of country and social justice. And this involved politics, social action and the notion of country that prevailed in Catalonia – thanks to a diversity of contributions – from the seventies to the restoration of democracy and the Generalitat. It has not been the work of one sector or a single party. The result has been the setting up of what is known as the welfare state with a remarkable degree of breadth and advanced European criteria. We can say without presumption that it has been the accomplishmentof a unity of social sectors and of political parties. ----------------------------- Besides the usual arguments in many European countries in support of the welfare state, Catalonia has had to add another highly important one: the need for an internal cohesion that all countries normally enjoy. In Catalonia this is of utmost importance due to the influx of immigration over time. Immigration that is received without having many resourceful elements of cohesion and integration that countries with a State have. It is to Catalonia’s merit that she has been able to undertake this task, to the general benefit of the country and the people in question who have settled here over the last one hundred years. Without the state’s instruments to fall back on, this has been achieved thanks to the efforts of Catalan society and the attitude of the people who have made their home here. Jordi Pujol - Centre d’Estudis Jordi Pujol seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter FURTHER READING
  3. 3. In essence, the fact that Catalonia has gone to considerable lengths to create a society and an outlook that, beyond the purely administrative aspect, fosters positive and creative contributions with prospects for progress. While the welfare state is a requisite for justice and cohabitation across Europe, Catalonia also has a need for cohesion and identity. And, more than elsewhere, a requisite for viability. For the viability of this country. ------------------------- When it comes to the funding of Generalitat – on which in in large part the existence of the welfare state in Catalonia rests - some sectors question whether Catalonia can or cannot maintain a fair social policy, cohesion and her identity. Whether it is due to a complete lack of understanding or a deliberate distortion of reality,one often hears claims to the effect that the Government of the Generalitat and Catalan nationalism in general are not prioritising the welfare state, though these voices ignore the financial stranglehold to which Catalonia is being subjected.There is an evident will to dash Catalonia’s national project with her identity, outreach and creativity and, above all, her cohesion and social harmony. Jordi Pujol served as president of the Catalan Generalitat and party leader of the nationalist coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU) from 1980 to 2003. He was consecutively re-elected in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1995 and 1999. At the first, fifth and sixth legislatures CiU won the parliamentary elections with a relative majority, and at the second, third and fourth, by an absolute majority.
  4. 4. Catalonia contributed with 8.5% of its GDP to infrastructures and services in the rest of Spain in 2010 The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013 Barcelona (ACN).- In 2010 the Spanish Government took €16.54 billion away from the taxes and fees paid in Catalonia and redistributed the money to the rest of Spain and abroad, while the Catalan Government was significantly under-budgeted and had a €8.3 billion deficit. On Tuesday, the Catalan Government posted the so-called fiscal balances for 2010, which show the difference between the money paid in Catalonia in taxes and fees to the Spanish Government and what comes back in the form of funds, services and infrastructure. Using the monetary-flow formula, which takes into account investments and transfers made directly in the Catalan territory, in 2010 Catalonia had a fiscal deficit representing 8.5% of its GDP. This means that Catalonia had a €16.54 billion deficit in a single year, which is more than half the budget of the Catalan Government. Using the benefit formula, which also takes into account investments made in other parts of Spain that theoretically also benefit Catalan citizens – such as the army, Madrid’s Prado Museum, the civil-servants based in the Spanish Capital and the high-speed railway between Seville and Ciudad Real – Catalonia had a fiscal deficit of 5.8% of its GDP, representing €11.26 billion. The Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell – who is a former Harvard and Berkeley Economics Professor – stated that both formulas “are complementary” since they measure different things, but he finds the monetary flow formula to be “closer to the reality” it evaluates since “it is difficult to quantify in which way an investment made in Madrid’s Prado Museum benefits Catalonia”, as “an investment in the Louvre Museum” could also theoretically have an indirect effect. In addition he stated that the monetary flow formula, which is much more direct and simpler to calculate, is particularly relevant “in times of economic crisis and high unemployment”, since it takes into account all the pensions and unemployment benefits. Mas-Colell emphasised that the difference between the money Catalan tax payers bring in to the Spanish Treasury and what they receive back “is a negative shock”. For the last 25 years, Catalonia has been giving away 8.1% of its GDP The figures are similar to the results from previous years as well as to the study published in 2008 by the Spanish Finance Ministry with data from 2005, which is the only time during democracy the Spanish Government has published such a report despite several petitions from the Parliament. Mas-Colell also reviewed the historical series, showing that the Spanish Government has been obliging Catalonia to give away an average of 8.1% of its annual GDP each year between 1986 and 2010 (the period accurate data is available for) using the monetary flow formula. The year Catalonia contributed less was 2001 and it gave away 6.7% of its GDP. The year contributed the most was next year (2002) and it gave away 10.1% of its GDP. Mas-Colell also emphasised that in the years of the economic crisis, Catalonia has been contributing beyond the 8.1% average (8.6% in 2008, 8.5% in 2009 and 8.5% in 2010). With a fairer fiscal redistribution, the Catalan Government would not have a budget deficit Inaddition,healsoexplainedthatifSocialSecuritywasnottakenintoaccount,Cataloniawouldhavecontributed 19.5% of the Spanish Government’s revenue in 2010 and would have only received 11.3% of the spending. With a fairer fiscal balance, Mas-Colell stated that “we would not have to undertake budget cuts”, since the Catalan Government would not have a budget deficit.such as identity and cultural tourism have become crucial, in its broadest sense2, intangible and emotional factors and the ability to live new experiences3. In this current stage, the consolidation of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the tourism industry value chain generate the overwhelming need to manage the avalanche of information that surrounds the decision to purchase in order to design products that meet the needs of a micro-segmented demand, in which ICTs play a key role. Here, the paradigm of tourism competitiveness centres on innovation and sustainability, understood in the triple sense of economic and social, cultural and environmental and a capacity to generate unique and authentic offers. Catalans paid €61.87 billion and received €45.33 billion While Catalans contributed to the Spanish Government with €61.87 billion in taxes and fees, they only got back €45.33 billion, a difference of €16.54 billion (€16,543 million). This means that Catalonia brought in 19.4% of the Spanish Government’s revenue, despite the fact that it represents only 18.6% of Spain’s GDP and 16% of the population. Mas-Colell stated that this difference is “somewhat to be expected” since Catalonia is wealthier than the Spanish average. However, the Catalan Finance Minister stated that “what is rather surprising” is the fact that Catalonia only receives 14.2% of the Spanish Government’s direct spending, using the monetary flow formula. Catalan News Agency - 21-5-2013 seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter FURTHER READING
  5. 5. Using the cost-benefit formula – which measures the impact on citizen welfare in a given territory and requires more assumptions to be made – Catalan taxpayers brought in 18.9% of the Spanish Government’s income, representing €60.58 billion. Catalan citizens received 15.4% of the Spanish Executive’s spending, amounting to €49.32 billion. This made the fiscal deficit €11.26 billion, 5.8% of Catalonia’s GDP, using the cost-benefit formula. Without taking Social Security into account, the Spanish Government spent 11.3% in Catalonia The Catalan Finance Minister also wanted to consider the sub-balances, in particular that referring to Social Security, which is directly managed by the Spanish Government. Mas-Colell explained that the Social Security payments come from personal rights, since people contribute and they directly receive money from it in the form of pensions or unemployment benefits. Therefore, payments made by the Social Security should not be politically biased. Without taking Social Security into account, Catalans contributed 19.5% of the Spanish Government’s revenue. Instead, they received 11.3% back, which significantly increases Catalonia’s fiscal deficit. According to Mas-Colell, this shows the “political will” behind the allocation of funds made by the Spanish Government. Furthermore, looking at the historical series, without taking into account Social Security, Catalonia contributed 19.7% of the Spanish Government revenue between 1986 and 2010. In these 25 years, it received an average of 11.2% of the spending. This lack of investment, carried on for decades, undermines Catalonia’s economy and public services. An independent Catalonia should have at least €11.26 billion more, according to Mas-Colell Asked about the costs of an independent Catalonia and if the fiscal deficit would cover the difference, Mas- Colell stated that this required a more detailed calculation. However, he stated that the benefit formula already takes into account the cost of the civil servants, embassies, the army, etc. Therefore, according to him, the difference between both formulas “is a quite good and fast approximation to the costs” of the additional costs of an independent Catalan state. This means that the government of an independent Catalan state would have at least additional €11.26 billion with the current tax levels and public services offered (using the hypothesis that they were maintained). A different debate to the deficit targets, according to Mas-Colell The Catalan Government’s study comes in the middle of the debate regarding deficit targets for 2013, although it is published each year. However, Mas-Colell wanted to “unlink” the two issues, since the fiscal balances and the fiscal deficit are a debate for the “mid- and long-term”, affecting the relationship between Catalonia and Spain. He also emphasised that they are published each year. The Catalan Government’s finances are under stress Over the last few weeks, the Catalan Government has been holding hard negotiations with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to be allowed a €2.1% deficit, representing €4.1 billion. The Spanish Government raises the majority of taxes and partially funds the Autonomous Communities, which have quite limited fiscal capacities. In addition, it imposes extremely strict deficit targets and it does not honour the regular funding of the Catalan Government, foreseen by the current legislation. In fact, the Spanish Executive owes Catalonia more than €2 billion in unpaid debts. In addition, instead of honouring those debts, it offers loans to the Catalan Government through the Liquidity Fund for the Autonomous Communities (FLA) – which will have to be paid back later with high interest – and it presents them as financial assistance. This generates additional costs for the Catalan Government, as do the other Spanish Government’s decisions such as raising VAT. All these decisions put the Catalan Government’s finances under severe stress and oblige them to undertake drastic budget cuts in order to keep the budget deficit under control. In the last two years, the Catalan Government has significantly reduced its budget and has implemented many austerity measures reducing the deficit by €4 billion, with consequences for the services offered to Catalonia’s population. The Catalan Government ended 2012 with a 1.96% deficit, representing some €4 billion, but it did not meet the 1.5% target imposed by the Spanish Government despite many budget cuts. Barcelona had previously warned that a 1.5% deficit target for 2012 was not realistic. Regional leaders from largely-subsidised Autonomous Communities criticise Catalonia Now, in the context of the economic recession, with drastic revenue reductions, the Catalan Government refuses to undertake a €3.5 billion adjustment in a single year in order to meet the 1.2% deficit objective set for the Autonomous Communities by the Spanish Government. Therefore, since the Autonomous Communities represent 36% of Spain’s total public spending and Spain is forecasting a 6.3% deficit in 2013 for its entire public sector (although some international organisations foresee at least a 6.5% deficit), the Catalan Government is asking for a third of the amount, which would be a deficit target of 2.1%. However, regional leaders from Rajoy’s People’s Party (PP) from largely-subsidised Autonomous Communities – such as Extremadura, Castilla-la- Mancha and Galicia – are accusing Catalonia of not making enough fiscal consolidation efforts and being subsidised by the Spanish Government’s money. In addition, they state that Catalonia would be “privileged” by Rajoy if such a deficit is allowed. The wide majority of Catalans demand a fairer fiscal agreement, with the Catalan Government collecting all the taxes Taking the historical series into account, which state that Catalonia has been obliged to give 8.1% of its annual GDP to the rest of Spain and abroad each year between 1986 and 2010, many Catalan citizens demand that this money transfer be reduced since Catalonia’s public services are under-budgeted. This undermines the Catalan economy and society, having negative consequences for Catalan companies and citizens, especially the less favoured ones. In addition, many think that in the context of economic crisis Catalan citizens cannot transfer between €11.26 billion and €16.53 billion to the rest of Spain, while severe budget cuts are being undertaken in Catalonia. Therefore, they would like this imposed solidarity to be reduced.
  6. 6. In this context, a large part of the Catalan society – which represents around 77% according to the latest polls – are backing a specific fiscal agreement for Catalonia, by which the Catalan Government would collect all the taxes and would pay Madrid later for the services delivered and investments made, as well as an amount for territorial solidarity with poorer Spanish and European regions as well as for international cooperation. A similar agreement is in place for the Basque Country and Navarra, which contribute much less than Catalonia to the Spanish Treasury. However, setting a specific economic agreement for Catalonia was refused in September by Prime Minister Rajoy. This refusal and the lack of recognition of Catalan taxpayers’ solidarity with the rest of Spain are feeding support for independence in Catalonia. In fact, Mas-Colell stated that the demand for a specific economic agreement is now over.The success of the PETC lies in the decision to prioritise certain aspects of the agenda, which has created the need to move beyond the plan itself, as some programmes have been overtaken by circumstances and have exceeded supply through the implementation of their policies and actions.
  7. 7. Public Administration Reform The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013 The Popular Party government has undertaken several reforms that were driven –or enforced, a few of them—by the European Union. We have seen a labor reform and a financial reform, there is a project in the works for a reform of the education system, and yet another is being planned for the pensions system. But what about a reform of the public administration? When will that happen? So far there is only one proposal on the table to reform the local administration that primarily affects the municipalities of fewer than 20,000 inhabitants. Yet I doubt that this is the main problem of Spain’s public administration. Instead, it seems that because it is the lowest rung in the administrative structure, lacking organization and any real clout, it is simply the easiest to tackle first. To be honest, although I believe we need a reform of the local administration to make it more efficient, I don’t think that the current proposal will be sufficient. I also don’t think that the small municipalities are the big problem of Spanish public administration. The reform should be made up of big changes with the objective of preserving the welfare state and basic services. Until today the strategy has been to make spending cuts, lower the salaries of public workers, not renew the contracts of those where were working on an interim basis, apply constant and lineal replacement taxes (percentage of new contracts in relation to retirements). But no attempt has been made to attack the underlying problem of how to make an efficient, quality, transparent administration that is accountable to citizens. The measures that have been taken are the easiest, but they only make sense at the start, when urgent action must be taken to balance the public accounts. This is a poor solution. It is completely inefficient because it lowers the incentives of staff working in public administration, and because in many cases the youngest, most well-prepared and productive employees are the ones whose contracts tend to not be renewed. We need to take a valiant and decisive step forward regarding the human resources policy of public administration. If we want a modern administration it makes no sense that today in order to gain access to jobs we still use a system of public examinations and tend to reward a person’s ability to memorize a syllabus more than other factors. Luckily there are many selection processes that are much more advanced that would be good to introduce to the administration. At the same time, it also makes no sense that once someone passes a public examination then this person has the right to have that job for life, because the need for certain job positions varies over time in function of different necessities and priorities. The reform will inevitably involve establishing a much more flexible hiring system that is based on more modern selection criteria, which in no case means more subjective, but just the opposite. Regarding a person’s professional career, we need to set up a system of merits that are objective and accredited by an external agency, and not defined by political affinities or favoritism. Posts of political appointment should focus only on the first rungs of the organizational structure of public administration, and the appointees should have to demonstrate their capability and their suitability for the position. Technical staff, not political, should fill the remainder of the organization’s positions. And finally, the compensation system should reward the productivity of public employees, not seniority. For this to happen it is necessary to establish procedures for evaluating the activity of all the public administration employees and link compensation arguments to the results of these evaluations. In the majority of administrations today, the productivity salary bonuses are lineal, equal for everyone, and they are defined according to seniority, independently of how an employee carries out their work. This is an employee policy that is inefficient and unfair, since it doesn’t incentivize productivity or the improvement in the provision of public services, and it treats all workers in the same way, regardless of their professional quality. Today, therefore, a thorough reform on these matters requires a broad consensus among different political parties and, above all, the approval of the unions. We all need to be able to put the preservation of the welfare state before any other objective, and the only way to do so is to increase the efficiency and productivity of the public sector. Therefore, when will we finally see a real reform of the public administration? Marta Espasa is a professor in the Department of Public Economics at the University of Barcelona. Translated by Margaret Luppino Image courtesy of Diari ARA Marta Espasa - Diari ARA - 03-06-2013 seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter OPINION
  8. 8. Young People Fallen by the Wayside The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013 It is a ticking time bomb. It hasn’t exploded yet, but it won’t be long before it will. We have an entire generation (and soon it will be two) living outside of the protective umbrella of the system. This is the principal threat to the stability of the —until recently—comfortable welfare state that we had built in Europe. For 15 years now the young people in our country have been living — by a vast majority—outside of the parameters of work, housing and social assistance of the rest of the population. If we have advanced in anything since the years of the Transition it has been in care for the elderly (through pensions, early retirement and improvements to healthcare) and a stronger defense of those workers who already had jobs (the unions will one day have to offer a mea culpa for having put workers ahead of the needs of the unemployed). We have consolidated what in OECD parameters is called a “dual welfare system”: those inside are covered (all the benefits of the system are linked to having a job or having contributed) and those outside have nothing to hang onto (unlike France, Germany and the UK, in Spain there has never been serious support for promoting more births, social housing, dependency care...). Before the economic crisis young people could not move out of their parents’ homes because the prices for renting or buying a place were excessively high for such low salaries and unstable contracts. Does anyone remember when we spoke indignantly of the mileuristes [(those who earned around a thousand euros a month)]? All of this was just before the start of the financial crisis of 2008 and the bursting of the housing bubble. At that time youth unemployment was already rising to worrisome levels, but the family safety net, so important in Southern European countries, played an important role. Today, with unemployment worldwide surpassing 26% and youth unemployment over 50%, it would be easy to point a finger at the economic “crisis.” But we would be fooling ourselves: we need to change the roots of our priorities, as solving this desperate situation of our young people isn’t like getting over the flu. And when it comes to the rest of workers, the lack of competitiveness will also make the system languish and become less and less economically sustainable. François Hollande promised to create 100,000 public jobs each year for young people. I don’t mention this because I see it to be a merit of Hollande, no. In fact, a colleague of the French president has confessed that Hollande made this promise primarily to gain more votes: “it is clear that young people are the least reliable voters in an election, but since young people are worried about unemployment, promising them jobs means getting the votes of their parents and their grandparents.” This is just how bluntly one of Hollande’s advisors explained the star measure of the campaign that won him the presidency one year ago. Over the next few weeks we will be hearing a lot of people talking about the so-called New Deal for Europe to combat youth unemployment. We’ll talk about the details of this plan some other day: what is important is to recognize that European leaders are aware that after the bursting of the housing and financial bubbles, what is most important now is to avoid a much more dangerous social explosion. It is the biggest injustice and it is the most painful of frustrations. Our young people, after having done everything their parents, teachers and the authorities told them to do, find themselves without hope of a job and, at the same time, without hope of professional and personal realization. What is most worrisome here? Is it when they lower salaries? Close hospitals? Raise taxes? No, what is most dangerous is the passiveness with which we are leaving our young people by the wayside. Toni Cruanyes (Canet de Mar, 1974) is the correspondent of Televisió de Catalunya in Paris, and prior to this he worked as their correspondent in London. He studied Journalism and Political Science at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He collaborates frequently with the French new channel France 24 and he was editor for the BBC World Service (1999-2004). He has also published El llarg adéu de Pinochet (“Pinochet’s long good-bye”) (2008) and De Tony Blair a Zapatero. Una autòpsia de l’esquerra europea (“From Tony Blair to Zapatero. An Autopsy of the European Left”) (2010). Translated from Catalan by Margaret Luppino Photo by AEGEE Europe Toni Cruanyes - El Punt Avui - 06-06-2013 seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter OPINION
  9. 9. And Now, the Pensions The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013 TwoweeksagotheEuropeanCommissionrelaxed Spain’s deficit limit to 6.5% and offered a two- year extension to meet the 3% goal. In exchange, Brussels demanded that Madrid continue its labor reform, revise the VAT and finish the reform of the pensions system that it started in 2011 with the extension of the retirement age. The Spanish government’s response was immediate, yet again: like a good student, it acted right away. Last week it presented the report on the sustainability of pensions that had been prepared by a committee of twelve experts that, among other issues, proposed lowering the purchasing power of pensioners. So it’s become quite clear: now it’s the pensions’ turn. Aftercutstohealthcareandeducationononehandandattentionandsupportfordependentsatabareminimum on the other, all that’s left are the pensions. It’s one of the three historical pillars of the welfare state and it had appeared immune to cuts, but now all of a sudden, it seems to be in urgent need of reform. The pensions case is a very clear example of what Eloísa del Pino, political scientist at CSIC, has identified as the fourteen strategies governments use to convince the public of the benefits of cuts. It is the strategy of assuring people that “at least one good thing will come out of it.” This strategy can be used to justify the reform of the pension system, a reform that would guarantee pensions in the short term but would leave the future of pensions in doubt. Behind what the experts’ report says about their sustainability, it is important to recognize that there has been a reduction in pension amounts that has combined with the extension of the retirement age that began with the 2011 reform. All of this would certainly guarantee current pensions but it would leave future pensions as a big question mark because it doesn’t even touch the third side of the triangle—how the system is financed. The measures that have been proposed so far represent a cost to the public, which sees the retirement age go up and pension rates drop. The Spanish state benefits from this insofar as it doesn’t apply measures to expand the revenue base beyond salary contributions via, for example, taxation. Thus, what we are really seeing is a further erosion of citizens’ rights and not a reform of the pension system. We should remember that the cost of pensions to the Spanish GDP (10.7%) is below the European average (13.1%). As Eloísa del Pino explains, the pensions debate can be analyzed based on the theory of what is called “framing”, which stresses how powerful subjective interpretations of reality can be. In the public debate on pension reform, demographic and economic projections are what are being used to determine the sustainability of pensions. The looming retirement of baby boomers in the context of the economic crisis is wielded as the principal political argument that justifies a new and accelerated reform that is based on the reduction of pensions. There can be many interpretations of our reality, but the central government emphasizes certain ones in particular. One is that demographic projections point to an aging of the population because the birth rate has stagnated and immigration is diminishing. The government also focuses on the economic projections that foresee a decrease in the number of taxpayers and an increase in the number of pensioners, without considering other forms of financing. Thus, the political interpretation ends up being that the pension system is unsustainable and that an immediate reform is necessary. But the government is forgetting that these demographic and economic projections can fail: few predicted the baby boom of the 20th century or the big migratory wave at the start of the 21st century. Nor are they aware that delaying the aging of the working population by extending the retirement age, and reducing the economic gap between taxpayers and pensioners by lowering pension rates are not the only ways to keep the system afloat. In fact, the experts’ report (tentatively) suggests the possibility of other options beyond adjusting spending (pensions) based on resources (taxpayers). But the option of reforming the pension system through financing (revenue) is not part of the framing of the central government. Thus, the government perceives the banking system to be sustainable and finances it with new revenue, while it considers the pension system to be unsustainable and reforms it with new cuts. Sara Moreno is a Professor of Sociology at the UAB (Autonomous University of Barcelona) Image by Susana Subirana Sara Moreno - Diari ARA - 11-6-2013 seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter OPINION
  10. 10. Interview with Joaquim Maria Puyal “The concealment of the truth exceeds the journalist’s ability to uncover it” The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013 JoaquimMariaPuyal(Barcelona,1949)isacommunicator from head to toe. He is a presenter who seduces the listener with his gaze, his voice and his gestures. He holds a PhD in Linguistics from the Universitat de Barcelona, he presented and directed numerous programmes on Catalan public television which are still missed by the viewers twenty years on. The Puyal brand is a guarantee of quality, a job well done and a passion for journalism. His work for both radio and television has done a great deal for the linguistic normalisation of the Catalan language, which for forty years suffered persecution at the hands of the Franco regime. Puyal’s commentaries on Futbol Club Barcelona matches have been broadcast in Catalan since 1976. In his book ‘Aicnàlubma’, this veteran journalist reflects on television’s social responsibility and defends the viewer’s rights. You’re seen as a master journalist. Are you comfortable with this role? I feel responsible for passing on my experience to people who want to do this job. I see it more as a commitment than a compliment. The transfer of knowledge is characteristic of humans: the older generation teaches their craft to apprentices. You are a benchmark for generations of communicators. Did you aspire to this when you started? It seems to me you’ve always wanted to go a little beyond the day-to-day routine. I have always had a sense of the importance of our work, rather than for myself in particular. A person who speaks on the radio or TV influences the way events are viewed, whether they like it or not. I belong to the generation that was at university when Franco died. It was down to us to start using Catalan in the media. Not because we were charged with doing so by the gods, but because it was our job at that historic moment. It’s in this vision of transcendence where my great disappointment lies. I can’t complain about anything on a personal level: I’ve worked for many years with a lot of enthusiasm, with a lot of success and with a lot of plaudits. But I am hugely disappointed to see that the industrial fabric of our society doesn’t sufficiently reflect our identity, our culture, our way of seeing the world and life. When I refer to ‘us’ I mean the Catalans, and I appreciate that catalanitat is a value which (like all identites) is not monolithic, not fixed, not self-contained, which is evolving and has imprecise limits. But we understand each other when we talk about ‘us’. If we didn’t it would mean we don’t exist as a group any longer. You say that journalism is an endangered profession. Can it still be saved? I believe in human evolution: throughout history humans have overcome critical situations, and current threats can also be overcome, though don’t ask me how. However, the concealment of the truth exceeds our individual ability as journalists to uncover it. It is in a dirty alliance with the economic, social and political structures. The system makes people believe what it wants them to believe, via the media. When it’s convenient to make us believe Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, when it’s convenient for a military coup to be seen as an uprising of salvation, when it’s convenient for a self-confessed terrorist like Bin Laden not to stand trial but to be killed outright and for them to tell us he wasn’t assassinated. Faced with all this, we can’t be anything more than a docile means of transmitting power. The figure of the free, committed journalist is in crisis and the economic recession does nothing to help the survival of this type of professional... Often liberty and commitment end where the mortgage or the children’s school fees begin. I’m very lucky because, as a result of the success my work has had I don’t have economic problems and I can state my opinion with more freedom. But journalists can’t do much on their own, we need platforms through which we can express ourselves (our companies and the media in general) and which have a certain capacity to accept the alternative view and to be complimentary, as well as diverse. This is incredibly difficult to achieve as they are normally related to pressure groups or large holding companies. It’s true that freedom of thought and individual freedom of opinion have more or less been in crisis in all cultures and in all societies. Gay Talese, a pioneer of new journalism, said a short time ago that it would be tragic if journalism was reduced to Facebook or blogs. Therefore we have to find the solution between everyone. For my part, in ‘Aicnàlubma’ I suggest a social idea: journalism and television are social activities which have to provide social returns. The viewer has rights. Does a journalist have a social responsibility above all else? I repeat that before anything else the journalist has a mortgage and children to support. We have to keep our feet firmly on the ground; our activities form part of a profession that is part of a system. But, within this system, the media has an enormous influence on our social perception of reality. For this reason I believe that there should be ways to protect the media and the rights of the consumer. A private group can have a clinic, but the clinic can’t do whatever it wants: good medical practice has to be maintained. Good journalistic practice also has to be guaranteed by social coverage. We need to progress in our right to reliable information. The profession ought to act against the publication of lies. This would penalise the media empires that think there are no limits and that they can conduct business as they like. Calling for rules of this kind isn’t an outdated Eva Piquer - Catalan International View - Fall 2011 seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter IN DEPTH
  11. 11. romantic attitude, but rather a healthy idea for the future. ‘There are a lot of people who worry about the death of newspapers but few people who worry about the death of journalism’, you once stated. This is due to the strong influence of the economic interests from the business world. Through a process of osmosis we have come to believe that their economic interests are also our own. People ask me if I’ve sold a lot of books. I’d rather that less people bought them and the readers tell me they’re interesting than sell more and that they’re not read. A book is not a simple commercial product. Now Barça [Barcelona Football Club] are going to wear a shirt publicising the Qatar Foundation. They say that it’s for economic reasons and no one objects. But maybe a significant number of club members would have preferred to pay a higher membership fee or that they recruited one less player a year so they could continue with UNICEF on their chests. You’ve never stopped being a radio man, and following the dictatorship you were one of the pioneers of radio in Catalan. Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to address, communicatively speaking, right from the start? I come from an immigrant family. My father was from Aragon and my mother was half Aragonese and Catalan. They had a really hard time during the war, one of my uncles died in a concentration camp and my grandparents had to emigrate. When I was born, they didn’t talk about politics much in my house. I went to a school run by priests who taught in Spanish. When I began to work for the radio and went to university, everyone spoke Catalan at home and in my neighbourhood, but on the radio and at university everyone used Spanish. After working on the radio for a few years, one evening I suddenly thought: ‘I speak to all my colleagues in the office in Catalan, so how come we speak Spanish on air?’ . This incredibly simple question opened my eyes. When the dictator died it occurred to me that I could suggest we broadcast Barça matches in Catalan. I was working for a company in Madrid, Cadena SER, and couldn’t count on the management agreeing to the idea. However, at the time I had the support of the director of Ràdio Barcelona, Manolo Terán, who was a free-thinking democrat, who has been unfairly forgotten. He told me that we could try and present the idea to Madrid, so long as it didn’t cost them money. We were lucky enough to have La Caixa [savings bank] as a sponsor. We went to Madrid and asked if we could broadcast football in Catalan on an FM frequency (which at the time almost nobody used). The managing director asked me, ‘will they understand you?’ . That question underlines the complete lack of appreciation of our reality in 1976 by someone in charge in Madrid. We’ve made very little progress in this area in the last 35 years. Why do they still not understand us? Because we’re not in charge. Those who are in charge continue to explain things in keeping with their interests and we always have to operate reactively, or by adapting ourselves to the situation. Personal militancy is relative, variable and makes few demands: everyone obviously has their own priorities. The fact that we don’t have our own communication network hasn’t helped either, and for this I blame the politicians and businesses. The absence of a strong private business initiative in Catalonia in Catalan will make a big impact if we don’t find a solution in a very short time. We are inundated by communications which are not produced with a Catalan mentality to an extent unheard-of throughout the rest of our history. On TV, with the expansion of digital channels, this effect has been particularly evident. We are being faced with a massive frontal assault. More than once you’ve said that you regret not having been able to create a Catalan media group... While privately I’ve received all kinds of prizes and rewards that I don’t deserve, as a citizen I complain about it. We lack an industry which is prepared to spread the message of our culture and our identity. Have you completely given up trying to start a private media project? I always find it difficult to give up on something. One of the few abilities I have for operating in this world is of always having done what I’ve set out to do. I acted when they wanted to sell Cadena 13, and I joined forces with Grupo Zeta to obtain a concession of frequencies, but they only gave us three. Think about it, 35 years after the general’s death and we don’t have a competitive private TV channel in Catalan in Catalonia. Instead we’re invaded by a load of private Spanish channels. Where’s our industry? What do our politicians do with the frequencies? We’ve only got TV3, which isn’t very clear on what model it should be following, we’ve got public radio that suffers the same problems as TV3 and that’s your lot. In terms of radio we have the really valuable growth of RAC1, but there’s very little else. Our children and fellow citizens receive all kind of communications in a language other than our own, with metaphors which aren’t our own, with content and scenarios which aren’t our own. The decline in the quality of our language and its social usage in the last twenty-five years is undeniable, and in a sense the mass media is largely responsible. The Catalan that was secretly spoken in Catalonia during the Franco period had a lot more vitality than what’s spoken nowadays in public in Barcelona. You’ve always had the desire to help Catalan. You’re even a member of the philological section of the Catalan Institute of Studies (IEC). No one would say to Iñaki Gabilondo or David Letterman that they’ve done a lot for the Spanish or English language just because they’ve spent a lifetime speaking in Spanish or English. I’ve simply tried to act with the same logic as they have. But here we have a minoritised language. Your TV programmes and football commentaries have done a lot for the linguistic normalisation of Catalan. I’ve tried to use the language, without trying to invent anything else: language invents itself. You need to start by assuming that people know what their language is and that they respect it. The problem becomes serious when we no longer really know what our language is or that we even despise it. This is the most dramatic and significant sign of the degeneration of our linguistic awareness. When Universitat Rovira i Virgili awarded you an honorary doctorate you said, ‘either we get to work or we’ll lose our language’. Who has to get to work? The speakers of Catalan? The politicians? It’s very difficult for individuals to act: people have more pressing problems than saving their language. At the end of the day, language is an instrument for communicating, for relating to one another and understanding each other. Understanding helps make life easier and more pleasant. Language has a practical element; it makes no sense as a sacred object. It only makes sense to the extent to which it is used on the street, in the markets, in business, in bed, at school, in restaurants. When they make a group of people believe they have two mother
  12. 12. tongues they are obliging them to unnecessarily double their effort. You don’t need to have two languages, in the same way as you don’t need to have two cars outside your door. This is the contradiction of bilingualism. Polyglot individuals are a different matter. But in the case of languages which are in contact within the same group, the more potent language gains ground and always ends up winning on a practical level. Catalan can’t compete with a media which speaks as badly as it can, or which speaks directly in another language. It’s very unlikely we can win in the end with only the goodwill of a few, without a political structure as support, or a degree of social prestige and a media industry that shares the feeling of belonging to a language. One day our children will say to us, ‘I just want to understand my classmates. Don’t force me to have a testimonial linguistic attitude belonging to another age’. This is the big risk. It’s obvious that languages, like everything in life, end up dying one day. The president of the IEC, Salvador Giner, stated that, ‘with our own state Catalan’s survival would be guaranteed’. He’s probably right. But I’m not so sure that having our own state is the only means to ensure Catalan survives. The Flemish have been able to defend their own language without having their own state, thanks to them having a sufficiently strong linguistic awareness. According to the writer Jaume Cabré, ‘trying to ensure the survival of our language is now a good enough reason to work for this country’s political independence’. Do you agree? It’s easy to agree with Jaume, but let’s say that when we speak about language, we Catalans have been incapable of projecting ourselves as we should and demanding our own capacities within the existing limits of autonomy. Nowadays people could already be linguistically independent, Madrid doesn’t have to give us linguistic independence: each and every one of us could have it by speaking in Catalan, writing in Catalan and singing ‘campions’ [champions] in Barça’s stadium instead of ‘campeones’. It seems like a contradiction that everyone talks about independence now that it’s in fashion, when there are a series of independences which we could have right now and we don’t use them. Now in 2011 with print journalism in crisis, there are more newspapers in Catalan on Catalan newspaper stands than ever. Is this a good sign? I’m sure it is. The problem is that the social usage of Catalan isn’t sufficiently guaranteed. It’s not the same having a newspaper that’s been translated, however good the translation may be, than a newspaper written in the language itself. In Valencia it’s hard to find newspapers in Catalan. How come, with the linguistic domain of Catalan you can’t find the most important newspapers written in Catalan? From a linguistic point of view this robs us of structure and harms us. You say you’re in love with TV, but you’ve got divorced. Fifteen years ago you stopped making TV in order to reflect on it. What were the irreconcilable differences which led to the divorce? I was interested in broadcasting certain content, making sure they got large audiences, while the people who offered me work demanded large audiences but they weren’t bothered about the content. It’s really hard fighting for viewers if you create interesting messages, trying to make them attractive, when your competitors produce attractive messages that are of no interest. I wasn’t prepared to commit myself to such an uneven fight, where the system was against me and the referees were against me. Should public TV commit itself to quality even at the expense of the ratings, in order to avoid falling into the so-called ‘genre addiction’? Private TV channels have contaminated the language to such an extent that you yourself have referred to it as public TV, as if private TV had no obligations. It’s in the interests of the owners of the private channels to instil the idea that they can do whatever they like while public TV is subject to parliamentary quotas, varying degrees of intervention depending on the political party in power and a series of constraints which are a hindrance, rather than ensuring that the management is appropriate. The deterioration of TV is a worldwide phenomenon... It’s pretty much worldwide, yes. But the deterioration of the Spanish private channels is following the Italian model, which is the worst in the world. Do you think the quality of TV3 is similar to the best TV channels in the world? The world is a big place and there’s a lot of TV channels. In spite of its difficulties, TV3 maintains certain principles and it’s our great cultural cornerstone. It’s a tragedy that we have a very poor communication network, because, as I said earlier, we don’t have competitive private broadcasters, because the concession of licences accepts the broadcasting of insignificant and irrelevant programmes, because our major media organizations do business in Spanish, because the idea that TV is expensive has taken hold, because there’s a lack of will to bring together professionals to create competitive, winning projects… With the Internet and social networks the number of outlets has increased and it looks like everyone can have the right to their own say, even if they express opinions which aren’t respectable or which haven’t been opposed. When we say ‘everyone’ we forget that half the world lives in disgraceful conditions don’t we? Here, in the name of freedom we state that everyone has the right to say what they like. But this right to the freedom of expression shouldn’t be confused with the right to disseminate messages in public without verifying them in advance. It’s like the pilot before take-off asking their passengers what altitude they want to fly at and what route they want to take. If journalism is a profession it’s because it requires expertise. This expertise brings knowledge, working methods and a commitment to being scrupulous. Without these three elements one shouldn’t be allowed to broadcast collective messages on industrial networks. Social networks are a different matter, where everyone says what they like and everyone knows what it’s all about. You’ve been broadcasting football matches for many years. In the absence of a state and a national sports team, do you think Barça serves as Catalonia’s ambassador abroad? We Catalans have a certain reticence when it comes to appearing in public. It’s easier for Barça to appear abroad as a Spanish team that as a Catalan team because in many places they don’t know anything about Catalonia, and they probably don’t even know much about Spain. It’s hard to visualise Catalonia abroad.
  13. 13. It’s for precisely this reason that Barça can help us teach people. Pep Guardiola has proven himself to be a magnificent teacher by saying that he’ll answer questions in Catalan anywhere in the world. All the Catalan universities should immediately award him an honorary doctorate for this reason alone. No one in this country with the ability to reach the masses has ever done as much for the use, the prestige and the awareness of Catalan in the outside world than Guardiola. But this has got more to do with Guardiola’s personal desire than his institutional position or the collective attitude of Barça’s current board, members or fans. If Barça was no more than a club, would you perhaps have grown tired of following them? When Gamper founded Barça he didn’t intend to make anything more than a club. Barça began to become more than a club because people saw that it was a way of saying what they couldn’t say. We give it the sheen of representing us. When people in Fuentealbilla see Iniesta with a Barça shirt, they don’t see this sheen. And they also call themselves fans. Now Barça has become a social phenomenon, partly because we win. But we’d stop seeing the shirts you see nowadays in Tahiti, Peru and Hong Kong if Barça lost. It’s not so much thanks to a marketing or communication strategy: it’s thanks to the ball, that it goes in the goal! All in all Guardiola is the catalyst for this. Behind him there is a group of people who pat themselves on the back. But the model the club follows isn’t that solid. The vision of Barça as ambassadors for Catalanism is not that certain either. And the idea of being ‘more than a football club’ has many meanings, and we’ll have to see how it evolves. Barça’s successes have helped us to get rid of our complexes. We Catalans are short on self- esteem, and at least now we can display our barcelonisme with pride. But we Catalans would feel even more proud if Messi spoke in Catalan, and if the club didn’t have doubts about aspects related to its image. Barça isn’t clear on which language it should speak when it goes to Germany for example. With a state behind us, such details wouldn’t be an issue. Perhaps not. But with what we’ve got now Barça could tell UEFA that the club uses Catalan and that they need a Catalan-German translator when they play in Germany. It seems like the club isn’t always interested in doing this. Imagine we go to Turkey and there’s no translator from Catalan to Turkish. If Barça considers it has a language to be used at home and not for going to Turkey, the press conference will be held in Spanish and that’s that. In order to defend our language we should say that without a Catalan translator there’ll be no press conference. Barça should make it clear that the club’s lingua franca is Catalan. Are you optimistic, in spite of everything? I see the possibilities, more than anything. Maybe Guardiola isn’t an optimist, but he’s shown that it’s possible to speak Catalan to the outside world. You don’t need to be an optimist to try and do what you can. Life’s about believing in something and acting according to your own convictions. Maybe you’ll never achieve everything you’re trying to do, but at least you can move in the right direction. What do you value most in life? Goodness and honesty, I suppose. What do you prefer, beauty or intelligence? The question seems a bit odd to me: they’re not mutually exclusive concepts. I find intelligence to be an extremely potent force, but I admit to being defeated and overcome by beauty. Interview by Eva Piquer Photo by Xabier Miquel Laburu
  14. 14. Catalan iron and forging The Catalan Welfare State issue #17 - june 2013 Catalan forging was a technique that was started to be used in the eighteenth century to obtain high quality iron and steel, without which, in the pre-industrial period, it would not have been possible to make the innumerable tools and utensils. This Catalan procedure was used all over Europe as well as in the United States. The arrival of the industrial era and the apparition of heavy industry and smelting ovens condemned Catalan forgery to disappear during the first half of the nineteenth century. Catalan forgery is the workplace of the forgers and the technique of making iron from the mineral, which is known as the ‘Catalan procedure’. It was first used in the eighteenth century when it represented a complete technical innovation: the air was blown through conduits known as horns, which channelled the air that had been produced by the fall of the water retained in a high reservoir, into the oven, where the iron mineral was mixed with coal and melted. With this system they accomplished a more efficient procedure than forging, the performance and efficiency of the smelting was greater and the end quality of the iron was much better. The working of a forge depended completely on the availability of specific materials: iron mineral, called ore; a stream of water to work the drop-hammer and blow the air into the forge, and especially mineral coal from the nearby forests. There were no forges which lacked in mineral, hydraulic energy or coal; all the establishments were perfectly provided with these three components. The forge industry required an enormous quantity of energy in order to work and the heavy drop-hammers, which were moved by a vertical wheel, required the force of hydraulic energy. It is for this reason that the forges where located on the banks of rivers and dams, where channels, reservoirs and deposits were built. However, the force of the water was not the only energy source needed for a forge. In these establishments they also needed heat to forge the iron mineral, which they obtained with the combustion of enormous quantities of charcoal. An average sized forge managed to swallow-up between 1.000 and 1.400 hectares of forest for charcoal every year. Therefore, around the forge, a process of deforestation took place on an extraordinary scale. The third component which supplied the forges with its materials was the iron mineral, called ore. In the pre- industrial period there was no machinery and iron mines were worked with a pick and spade. The miners, who were already called ‘menerons’, often lived in buildings located at the mouth of the coal beds. They were true experts in mining who located the bed, valued its possibilities and exploited them with means that today would appear to be very rudimentary. These miners, in the case of the Ripollès area, came from other regions, specifically from the Conflent counties, the Capcir and Vallespir. The fact that the artisan miners, and also the forgers came from the north side of the Pyrenees leads us to believe that the procedure of forging reached the southern Pyrenees by the hand of these expert artisans. The geographical distribution of the Catalan forge was extraordinarily wide-spread. There were forges in Pyrenean parts like Conflent, Vallespir, Cerdanya, Ripollès, Ferrera valley and Berguedà, and also in Andorra and Banyoles. This method of obtaining iron from the mineral is clearly documented all over Europe with the following names: ‘the Catalan process’, ‘fragua o fiorja a la catalana’, ‘forge à la catalane’, ‘feu catalan’ and ‘fer catalan’ and also in America during the nineteenth century. The Catalan forges were abundant in New England, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Alabama, where they arrived thanks to the European colonisers who founded settlements there. The forges produced an iron which, after passing through the hands of the blacksmiths, became tools and other essential objects for the prosperous American society of the east coast. These same forgers had a distinctive role in the two wars which the United States suffered in the nineteenth century, because they supplied iron and steel to the armies of the American Revolution against England and the two American armies, the Unionists and Confederates, during the Civil War. The work in the forge was undertaken by true experts in the art of producing iron; the forgers hired the establishments from their owners and worked and lived in them for a few years. Others, specialised in different tasks, also worked there, like the ‘foguer’ who was in charge of building and maintaining the oven and supervisor of the horn, ‘tovera’ and the supply of coal and mineral. His helper was the ‘picamena’, who was in charge of the mineral and the regulation of the water which went to the wheel and the horn. The ‘escolà’ and his assistant were in charge of feeding the fire and they also helped the ‘foguer’. The ‘maller’ was in charge of the drop- hammer, he made it work and repaired it when necessary, as well as taking care of the hydraulic wheel. If there was a drop-hammer for stretching iron, we could also find an ‘estiraire’ [stretcher] and an ‘escalfaire’ [warmer] in the forge. 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  15. 15. Therefore, behind the apparent simplicity of a Catalan forge there were highly qualified artisans, authentic experts in the production of iron, used to working in an efficient way and coordinated amongst them to make- work the hydraulic and mechanical infrastructure which they possessed. This professionalism of the forge workers was essential in an industry where nothing could be left to chance. All that made the transformation of the mineral into iron was entirely calculated: the staff, the salaries, the origin of the miner, the forests which had to supply charcoal, the authorization to use the river water and the supply to the transporters. Everything, absolutely everything, was calculated beforehand and detailed in the lease and exploitation contracts of the forges. The production of iron and steel in the Catalan forge had an important incidence upon the pre-industrial society. These establishments transformed the mineral into metal for the elaboration of basic tools for use in agriculture like ploughs, axes, hoes and an infinity of utensils; tools for capital trades like carpenters and stone masons with hammers, saws, keys and sledgehammers; and other objects which are found in every day life like horseshoes for horses, axles for carts, chains, nets, rails, iron plated doors, door knobs and candelabras; and also in the equipment of the army by way of weaponry. It constituted a list of objects which were absolutely essential and which would not been possible to elaborate in any material other than iron and steel which came from the forges, thus indicating the importance of this industry of active metal working until the arrival of the industrial era, when the increase in the demand for iron and steel to satisfy the new industrialised society motivated the apparition of heavy industry and blast furnaces, therefore condemning the Catalan forge to its disappearance during the first half of the nineteenth century. ISSN: 2014-9093 | Legal deposit: B. 2198-2013