On Monday El Pais published leaked excerpts from what it claims to be the Catalonian regional government’s road map to independence. The secret document includes a plan for the region to unilaterally break away from Spain should its citizens be prevented from holding a referendum on independence in the fall.
It provoked a fierce backlash from Madrid. “This proposal is an unacceptable attempt to blackmail the state,” Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a hastily convened press conference. Spain’s defense minister María Dolores de Cospedal likened the plot to a coup d’état. In the meantime, Madrid continues to refuse to even entertain the idea of allowing a referendum on Catalan independence, despite the fact that in just about every survey of the last few years 80% of Catalans, including many unionists, have requested one.
It would mean the loss of 25-30% of Spain’s gross domestic product (GDP), says Spain’s Minister of the Economy, Luis de Guindos. And that’s something the government “will never let happen.”
But Catalonia knows it has a card up its sleeves: its tick-tocking debt bomb. Catalonia can no longer issue its own debt and depends on the central government’s national liquidity fund (FLA, for its Spanish acronym) for about 60% of its funds. As ratings agency Fitch warned in April last year when it sent Catalonian debt even deeper into junk territory, the region has grave liquidity problems that will require “proactive management” and “close collaboration with the central state ” — something that’s clearly not on the cards any time soon.
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