Flying’s not a nationalist issue

One of the principal nationalist gripes in Catalonia is the way that centralised control of Spain’s airport network is holding back Barcelona’s El Prat airport and driving away foreign investment. Yet more nationalist whinging, you might say, and you’d be right, but is there any reason why the nationalist devil should get all the best economic issues?

Last week’s edition of 30 Minuts on TV3 (Catalonia’s very own Nodo) dealt with the airport issue and, despite the usual slightly misrepresentative imagery (a businessman returning to Barcelona from Sydney was tired because there were no direct flights…), it does seem to be the case that the system isn’t really working. Barcelona has only one year-round transcontinental flight and business organisations are clamouring for more; Barajas (Madrid) receives 57% of funding yet only accounts for 22% of flights.

Germà Bel, a University of Barcelona lecturer who was interviewed for the programme, does not appear to be in any way nationalist (in the past he has campaigned for a less confrontational relationship between Catalonia and Madrid and believes Catalonia should be a region within Spain) and is not even asking for any more money to be given from Madrid. All he wants is decentralised and/or private management (possibly through some sort of consortium arrangement or possibly a fully private organisation), as airports can generate their own funds and competition between them would be beneficial and would prevent a misallocation of funds. Of course, sometimes centralised planning works effectively and sometimes it doesn’t, and to view free-market competition and privatisation as a panacea would be naive (it can lead to unnecessary duplication and benefits going to shareholders rather than users and employees), but anyone who has travelled from El Prat recently will tell you that something needs to change.

Wanting economic growth, as long as no one else is denied a piece of the cake as a result and the benefits are not exclusively dished out amongst your mates, has nothing to do with nationalism, so maybe the new anti-nationalist Ciutadans party could get on the bandwagon with this cause. They would thereby be able to demonstrate that they do want the best for Catalonia, its businesses and its people, spelling out in the process that they simply believe that nationalism is the not the way to go about this (the nationalist business model, with its emphasis on small firms staying small and a lack of investment in infrastructure has clearly not functioned). It should be stressed that, in the case of a transfer of powers to the Generalitat, airport management should be in the hands of a business-led consortium on which there would be some representation from government bodies and that we would not, hopefully, be ending up with the ‘Rafael Casanovas Airport’ staffed entirely by incompetents who’ve passed the necessary linguistic-identity tests.

The boys from Ciutadans will have their work cut out convincing the media they are anything other than baby-snatching fifth-columnists, but they do need to pad out their political rhetoric. On Friday evening’s TV3 news, the singing of Els Segadors at the opening of Parlament was shown on the headlines and the cameras zoomed straight in on the face of an impassive Albert Rivera for about 3 seconds as the new parliamentarian resolutely refused to get involved in the knees-up; the first parliamentary intervention in Spanish is likely to see news director Lluís Caelles go into full apoplexy.   

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~ by Daniel on November 19, 2006.

One Response to “Flying’s not a nationalist issue”

  1. It’s like the old thing of smart cosmopolitan locals here refusing to speak Catalan because they don’t want to be associated with the crazymen.

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