Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stand and deliver

A couple of years ago, I came across a 1852 map from Torres Villegas splitting Spain in 4 different groupings:

· Uniform or Purely Constitutional Spain which comprises these thirty-four Provinces of the Crowns of Castile and Leon, equal in all economic, judicial, military, and civil branches. Former kingdoms of Castile, León and Granada.

· Incorporated or Assimilated Spain which comprises the eleven provinces of the Crown of Aragon, still different in the manner of contribution and in some points of private law. Crown of Aragon

· "Spain of the Fueros", or approximately "Statutory Spain".Kingdom of Navarre (actual Basque country was part of Kingdom of Navarre)

· Colonial Spain

I saved the picture in my “pictures to be used file”. I was convinced that if one day, the inter-regional fiscal balances were published, mapping the net balances to the map would be very revealing. And you can now check the result by yourself. The incorporated Spain has a revenue outflow of 23,100 billion Euro, the Statutory Spain is basically neutral and all the Uniform Spain gets a subsidy of 12,500 million Euro, not taking into consideration the additional inflow from the European Union. I think that voluntary solidarity is a good thing, but this is a ROBBERY, and if at least, there were any signs of thankfulness, if when we travel to the rest of Spain people would come and hug or kiss us, I would maybe feel that it is worth the while, even if this unconditional transfer is perpetuating some habits that will make the situation permanent, but the reality is that, when traveling in Spain, we get insulted (called polacos or catalufos) and our cars get vandalized, our products get boycotted and our language treated with no respect.

In the meantime, Catalonia's infrastructure is crumpling, the Mediterranean corridor high speed train is still years from completion (but you can go take it now to go from Valladolid to Bollullos del Condado), we need to pay toll in most of the highways, we still continue to pay inheritance tax and even worse, the Barcelona industrial belt, which requires heavy investment in infrastructures, education, healthcare and neighborhood amenity upgrades, is totally underfunded, unable to absorb the old and the new immigration and turning into a potential social disaster. In addition to that one Extremaduran Euro is only worth 62 cents in Barcelona due to the cost of living differential and let’s not forget that in Extremadura 25% of the workforce are public servants, versus only 8% in Catalonia (too many in my opinion).

The result would be even more skewed if we corrected Madrid's capitality effect (if Madrid were not the capital, it would have the same economy as Guadalajara). Despite the fact that Madrid is a net contributor, mainly because of its status of capital of Spain, it cannot offset the huge deficit that its surrounding provinces generate.

Finally, the analysis of the inter-regional fiscal balances shows that the idea of the Catalan Countries, that I like to call Valeària to avoid unnecessary sensitivities, makes a lot of sense, not only from the linguistic or cultural side, but also from the economical point of view.

Note: I have taken one of the methodologies proposed by the Spanish Ministry of Economy. All the methods yield to the same conclusion, although this methodology is one of the most extreme ones. Click here to see the full report.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Anachronic manifesto

A lot has been said during the last week about the manifesto that a group of self-proclaimed intellectuals have published with the objective to give support to what they call the common language, Castilian, known in English as Spanish.
When reading the article, my appetite for Spanish was drastically reduced. I have always defended trilingual education in Catalonia, but after reading this manifesto, I start to think that we, Catalans, could obviate Spanish and massively switch to English as a second language.
The manifesto reminded me of those societies where if someone rapes a woman, he is exonerated if he marries the victim. It totally forgets that Castilian was imposed on Catalonia with a series of Royal decrees, the first of which was the Decree of New Foundation in 1715, and that for 300 years, Catalan was set aside, isolated, relegated, bullied, downgraded, expelled, ostracized, removed and shunned. No one asked Catalans whether they wanted another language. the Bourbon kings and queens religiously applied the Machiavelli principles to make sure that Catalonia would not continue to rebel and search independence.
We cannot simply forget that and pretend nothing happened. We have the right now to make restitution for what was taken from us and this is only possible through positive discrimination. The Catalan language needs 100 years of positive discrimination to go back to a plain field and the best way to carry out this positive discrimination is through immersion and favoring those activities which promote Catalan language and Catalan culture. Positive discrimination is nothing new. African Americans and Hispanics enjoy positive discrimination policies in USA to try to compensate the burdens that British and Spanish (I should say Castilians) inflicted on their ancestors.

You may tell me that 300 years is a long time and that we have to forget what happened in the past, that, as per today, Spanish is spoken by 450 million people and Catalan by barely 10 millions, that past is past. If this is your position, then, after 20 years living, traveling non-stop and working in 5 continents, I have to tell you that the common language, the language that brings together European, Americans, Asians, Africans and people from Oceania is not Spanish, but English. The manifesto is pathetically anachronic, they are just trying to cling to the Spain of Phillip II, but all that grandeur is gone. The common language is English and I feel really ashamed when in the last paragraph, the self-proclaimed intellectuals demand from the Spanish politicians that they only use Spanish when they speak in public in Spain and overseas. I am afraid, they do not need to ask for it, since most of them cannot speak anything else.
Finally I would like to mention some related facts:
• Having a small language does not mean underdevelopment. Many countries with minority languages (the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, etc) have some of the highest per capita incomes
• When Spain was at its peak, in the 15th and 16th centuries, only Catalan was spoken in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and most of Valencia. This fact did not seem to stop Spain’s success.

I also recommend that you read Erik Wirdheim's related post. It is simply beautiful.