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Open letter to Kipper Williams (The Guardian): No more sick humour, thanks!

Dear Mr. Williams,

Your cartoon has been given ample coverage in the media today in Catalonia.

I really, truly hope that you and your country never ever get swept into a financial holocaust like ours, caused by a whirlwind of globalised speculators that is blowing away people's life savings, has left hundreds of thousands of Catalans out of a job, and has crippled the economy. It is a sickening and bewildering experience.

Catalonia is rich, they say. However, it only recovers 60% of the taxes levied by central government. This fiscal spoliation is equivalent to 8·3% of our GDP, far more than anywhere else in Europe (except perhaps for some capital cities, which receive plenty of non-fiscal income). That means that Catalonia pays as a rich region but has to put up with the services (such as those needed for fire-fighting) of a poor region. For more, see "More than their fair share".

This under-funding is clear in a recent report (esp. p. 64): Catalonia pays over 19% of all taxes in Spain, but only acounts for around 14% of all expenditure (and if Social Sectuiry / National Insurance is excluded, the proportions are 19% and 11% respectively).

The irony of it all is that Catalonia's financial ailments is only partly due to former government's overspending (Catalan government debt rose from €13,000M in 2004 to €38,500M just six years later, according to Ramon Tremosa MEP, quoting the Bank of Spain). Its liquidity problems are also due to both debts that central government is legally committed to pay Catalonia but hasn't, and to the persistent, large-scale fiscal spoliation, which means that Catalonia may well be bailed out by central government... with Catalan tax money that never came back.

Moreover, "Catalonia is finished" has an even more ominous character: the crisis is leading to the collapse of the scaffolding that has supported Catalan culture, and the language, since the retiurn of democrascy over 30 years ago. There is a real threat of Catalan devolution being torn to shreds by the Spanish government, now in the hands of rightist nationalists who dream of a monolingual, centralised Spain.

Meanwhile the silent majority of those wanting independence for their country is becoming steadily more vociferous... though it is still stubbornly democratic in its road map to freedom. The Marches Towards Independence are a good sign of this: and get ready for the September 11th demonstration!

I look forward to hearing from you, Mr. Williams.

p.s. The Sagrada Família, Mr. Williams, has not been finished. The vast central spire is only now beginning to emegre. It will dwarf the existing ones.

p.p.s. The Sagrada Família, Mr. Williams, has never received a single cent of public money. It personifies the Catalans' mistrust of the auythorities. Right now, I'm sure you can see why.
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