“Absolute priority.” This is how the ‘conseller’ of Empresa i Treball defined, Roger Torrentthe new National Agreement for Industry (PNI) in an interview with EL PERIÓDICO published in September. A few days before, he had summoned employers and unions to kick off a consultation process that should end up giving birth to a package of measures to reverse and relaunch the weight of industrial activity in Catalonia. Torrent’s initial objective was to have the pact closed in January 2022 and, four months later, the engine of that reindustrialization has still not started and there are neither closed priorities nor a detailed budget.

That the Catalan industry needs a shock is a unanimous consensus between the Government, Workforce Development, Pimec, CCOO Y UGT. The weight of industry in the Catalan GDP has been declining over the last decade, going from 27% to 19.8%, its volume is decreasing each year and the goal is to reach a 25% before 2030. Although this shared diagnosis contrasts with the lack of consensus on the main lines and which of them should have higher priority in the pact. This is one of the several factors that the different sources consulted for this report point out to explain the delay.

“The richness of the debates in the working groups, with contributions and requests from both the members of the working groups and the Pact Committee, have contributed to having a very complete and useful PNI for the reindustrialization of Catalonia, but it has also required more time to specify and agree on all the actions discussed”, they justify from the ‘conselleria’ of Torrent. “Hyperanalysis paralysis“replies a source present at the negotiations.

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The lack of specification and detail of the budget available for investments and projects that industrially transform the Catalan productive fabric is another cause of the slow pace of the talks. How much money will there be for the pact? Between 2,400 and 3,000 million euros, is the fork drawn by various sources consulted among the social agents. An amount greater than 1,844 million with which the previous industrial agreement was endowed.

The problem, however, is that of that figure -which would cover the period 2022-2025- it is not clear what is the regular budget of the departments -and that they would spend the same whether or not there was an agreement-, what is the extraordinary budget to give a boost to tractor projects and what part are European funds –whose arrival and timing are uncertain-. One of the criticisms of the result of the previous pact is that it wanted to cover too many issues and did not end up promoting concrete measures with a far-reaching impact. “We run the risk of the same thing happening to us again,” warns a source consulted.

The ballot boxes condition the pact

The political moment also plays its role in the delay of more than four months that chains the birth of the industrial pact. The countdown to the municipal elections of 2023 has begun and from the Govern they are cautious about how the actions that they can decide now can condition the result of the same. Within the National Pact for Industry, one of the key pillars is that of energy transition. And that transition involves promoting renewable energies that have an impact on the territory. In which municipalities will the windmills, solar panels and other electricity generators be installed? green energy?

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The current deficit is substantial and, according to a recent study by the Col.legi d’Enginyers Industrials, Catalonia should multiply its current installed capacity by 20 to meet the sustainability objectives in 2050. In this sense, different social agents criticize the lack of involvement -or at least speed- on the part of the ‘conselleria’ of Climate Action in the elaboration of the industrial pact and they place it as a ‘handicap’ in order to close the agreement.

The health of the current government coalition is an element that is conditioning the negotiations. Or rather the uncertainty of its future. One of the options that was put on the table was to try to approach an industrial pact whose measures would transcend the horizon of the current legislature, opening up the participation of more political forces. However, this was ruled out due to the fear of not being able to ensure the continuity of the measures and that they would remain in a drawer if there is a hypothetical early election. Now the social agents hope that the parties that make up the Govern complete a round of contacts with the forces in Parliament most likely to approve the package of measures – the PSC and the ‘comuns’ – to have a clear political path.


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