Thursday, January 20

The Generalitat asks the Bank of Spain for approval to create a public bank | Catalonia

The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès (left) and the Minister of Economy, Jaume Giró (right), during the inauguration of the new Executive.
The Catalan president, Pere Aragonès (left) and the Minister of Economy, Jaume Giró (right), during the inauguration of the new Executive.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI / EL PAÍS

The conversion of the Catalan Institute of Finance (ICF) into a public bank is already in the hands of the Bank of Spain, which in turn will have to request the corresponding community authorization. The route may sound cumbersome but it is a great leap for a project with years in the bedroom of different Governments of the Generalitat. ERC, before leaving the Department of Economy for the new distribution of portfolios, left the operation tied up, which this Thursday published in the Official Gazette of the Generalitat. It will be Junts per Catalunya, with Jaume Giró as the new head of the economic portfolio, who will consolidate it.

The creation of a public bank is a classic in electoral programs in Catalonia. In addition, it is one of the commitments that the Republicans acquired this year with the CUP to guarantee a favorable vote in the investiture. Already in 2016, the ICF had prepared to make the jump to bank but the request for the bank card was never made before the Bank of Spain. It is the Spanish regulator that, subsequently, has to request permission from the European Central Bank, which has the last word.

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At that time, with Oriol Junqueras captaining the economic vice-presidency and with the desire to dress any action of the Government in a “state structure”, the Generalitat avoided requesting the file. The context was not conducive and it was better not to run into a possible negative. Despite the fact that the ICF itself defended that the regulator was independent from the PP government, the risk was very high.

Loans after the pandemic crisis

The rise in intensity of the process, the application of article 155 of the Constitution and after the arrival of the pandemic ended up extending the terms. In fact, the possible new bank has played a key role in helping the economic sector in the last year, greatly affected by the coronavirus control measures. It delivered almost 1,330 million in guarantees and loans. The fiscal year 2019 was 662.3 million, practically double. The anti-capitalists’ decision to include the launch of public banking in the agreement with ERC put the debate back on the table, but with few expectations.

Hence, the announcement of the president Pere Aragonès, on Wednesday night on TV-3, that the process had been carried out with the Bank of Spain last March. After the agreement with the anti-capitalists, the ICF and the Economy insisted that the operation was still being studied and discarded any novelty.

To this is added that the Official Gazette of the Generalitat of this Thursday published an agreement, dated April 27 of this year, to create the ICF Banc society when necessary. The Republicans, in extremis, manages to take over the paternity of a project that, if it goes ahead, Giró will sign as Minister of Economy. Junts per Catalunya, in its electoral program, proposed the creation of the “National Bank of Catalonia”.

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