Mas unveils plans for Catalan tax and social security agencies

Regional premier vows to complete term despite approval rating slump

Artur Mas presents his plans for the rest of his current term on Tuesday.
Artur Mas presents his plans for the rest of his current term on Tuesday.CARLES RIBAS

With Catalonia’s finances for next year still unclear, regional premier Artur Mas, whose government faces a severe credibility crisis, on Tuesday presented his plans for the rest of his current term, which include the creation of separate tax and social security agencies for the region.

Mas vowed to complete his term even though a recent poll shows that his Catalan CiU nationalist bloc’s approval rating has dropped considerably in recent months.

“I would alter my plans to finish the term if the government becomes a permanent minority force in parliament,” he said.

Last week’s poll by the El Periódico de Catalunya shows growing support for the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which would win between 39 to 40 seats, up from the 21 it currently holds, if elections were held today.

Mas called on the ERC and the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) to join his government while at the same time tried to discourage the ardent pro-independence sectors from trying to push through a status vote through fast-track legislation. He said he had no intention of issuing a unilateral declaration of independence. “The regional premier’s goal is to seek out broad support inside Catalonia; a process like this is won when there is broad support.”

As part of its requisite for supporting the CiU government in parliament, the ERC had given Mas a June 30 deadline to broker an agreement with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to hold a regional vote on sovereignty. In recent weeks, Mas has backed down from his push to demand the central government agree to the referendum.

Josep Antoni Duran Lleida, of Convèrgencia, the number two official in the CiU bloc, had been critical in recent days of the ERC’s influence over Mas, and called on the regional premier to seek support from the PSC , as well as Iniciativa and Ciutadans, two other opposition forces in parliament.

With Catalonia’s finances in disarray and budgetary projections for next year still undecided, Mas announced that he would present bills to parliament to create the region’s own tax agency to generate revenue as well as a local social security system to which Catalans can pay into for their pensions. However, the details of his plans were unclear.

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