Carlos Pérez Anadón, Minister of Finance and Public Administration of Aragon, last Thursday in Zaragoza.Carlos Gil-Roig
Carlos Pérez Anadón (Fuentes de Ebro, 63 years old) has been in politics all his life. A career civil servant, he has held various positions with the PSOE. Among them, a government delegate in Aragon and president of the Ebro Hydrographic Confederation. After years linked to the Zaragoza City Council, in 2019 he was presented with a new challenge: directing the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration in the Government of Javier Lambán. In an interview at the headquarters of the council, he affirms that the levels of temporary employment in the public sector “are not bearable.” It demands that the real cost of services be taken into account in the reform of the autonomous financing system and trusts that European funds will promote territorial cohesion. “I could understand that a petrochemical company has to be near a port, but why can’t a pharmaceutical company be in Teruel?”
Question. Why did you postpone the receipt of funds for direct aid to companies?
Answer. We proposed to the Ministry of Finance the possibility of requesting them as we needed them. And we wanted to combine two things. We had previously raised an aid to the hotel industry, of 50 million, together with councils and municipalities. We wanted to match it with that of the central government and see how it behaved. We also simplified the decree and expanded the CNAE from 95 to 491, excluding only those from sectors that we were sure had done better in the pandemic.
P. When will the money reach companies?
R. What anyone has to do is meet the obligations that arise. We give the necessary time: from July 19 to September 10. We understand that it is better to see the global photo first, also to know how far we can go. From September we will have an evaluation period, which can be until the end of the month, the beginning of October, without exhausting the deadlines that are at the end of the year.
P. Aid is late?
R. I believe that the Government was periodifying a series of structurally important aid, such as ERTE, and in the end it saw the need to also give direct aid. And make no mistake: we are riding a very unscientific situation when it comes to planning. Infections among young people are increasing, here and in the rest of Spain. It will be possible to comment on whether the aid was given early or late, but not on the fact that the crisis has been faced, by the Government and the European institutions, in a very different way compared to others.
P. Do you regret that the communities were not consulted?
R. There is a somewhat schizoid position. I think that co-governance is very complicated without institutional loyalty. The decree did not raise the possibility of expanding the beneficiary sectors. All the communities, we too, asked that it be changed. They gave us the possibility and there are communities that have expanded them very little. It is quite curious.
P. He has ruled out a tax hike in 2022.
R. We are confident that Aragon’s recovery is above average. We also have a government agreement where they talk about not raising the tax burden above the average. I think it is more prudent to see how the recovery settles first. And in the face of the economic reactivation, I think we have a plus: a recovery table where all the political forces are located except Vox, which excluded itself, the unions, the employers’ association and the Aragonese Federation of Municipalities. We believed that the way out of the crisis could not be only consensual within the regional government, no matter how much it is a quadripartite.
P. What will happen to negative liquidations?
R. It will be an element of debate in the Council for Fiscal and Financial Policy. I don’t think anyone imagines such a structural cut. I am new to this field, but the first estimates were prepared with a series of fixed a priori, and one of them was the annuity that we continue to pay from 2008. Nor should it be taken as a biblical curse. It’s reality. Another thing is how we are able to manage it and not stifle what I think is a constant in the communities of common regime: a structural deficit in the budgets fundamentally due to the provision of services, because we no longer go to the peculiarities that some of us have. communities.
P. How would you reform the autonomous financing system?
R. There will be no reform if the basket does not grow.
P. Do you have a figure in your head?
R. Without talking about an exact amount, what has been shown with the covid fund of 16,000 million is that a good part of the communities have ended up with a surplus. It is a reference. What does it lead to? Because it is necessary for the bag to grow. That said, from Aragon we demand that regional financing be much closer to the real cost of services.
R. We are a community with characteristics impossible to find in others: we have 1.3 million inhabitants, 731 municipalities and 50% of the population in just one of them. This has generated a fairly vigorous economy, but with a great imbalance. 95% of the municipalities have less than 5,000 inhabitants, where practically all the educational centers and 17% of the population are located. A health center in Orcasitas or Vallecas (Madrid) is infinitely more efficient than in a municipality in Aragon with a desert density of 4.4 inhabitants per km². The question is: does the citizen of these municipalities have the right to a health center and a series of basic benefits? I think so, but you cannot have the same efficiency ratios. I think that the real cost of the services is something to take into account, if not the solution is another. It already happened at the time of Francoism: a large part of the communities was depopulated in favor of others.
P. They have approved a reform so that the community can keep bank deposits and abandoned buildings.
R. It is a possibility that the Aragonese foral law gives us. They are assets that went directly to the State. The idea is that as soon as we start it, we talk with the municipalities to reach a series of agreements. The same with intestate assets. If it has a profitability, that is also for the territory.
P. Speaking of inheritance, Aragón is one of the communities with the highest tributes.
R. I was not in the Government then, but a significant reduction was already made in 2018, when we saw that all the other communities began to have a series of impulses that generated problems for us.
P. Are you talking about fictitious transfers?
R. And real. From a certain amount it pays off, and that cannot be.
P. But the risk is that a competition towards zero is installed.
R. That is why there is talk of harmonization. I understand that there are taxes with a certain differentiation, but in others it is necessary to have a fixed component that is the same in all places. There I would trust a lot what the group of experts is doing. Tax reform is key.
P. What do you think of the abuse of temporary employment in the public sector? What have they done to reduce it?
R. What we did since I arrived was to convene everything that had been pending since 2017. It has reached levels of interim in the Administration that are not bearable. There are two different blocks: the General State Administration and then education and especially health, where the big problem lies. I think there is much more to discuss about what the Administration’s portfolio of services should look like in the future.
P. How much money does Aragon expect to raise from European funds?
R. At the moment it is impossible to say. Now there may be insurance around 1 billion.
P. What projects do you have?
R. Some of electromobility, others linked to the development of the medical-pharmaceutical industry and some linked to what we believe are the most specialized development factors in the community, such as logistics. Right now, for example, Amazon’s investments are extremely important. From here we will serve practically all of southern Europe with three data centers in El Burgo de Ebro, Villanueva de Gállego and Huesca. In renewables and agri-food we also have important bets.
P. Are these funds going to promote territorial cohesion?
R. Decidedly. With what has changed the world, you could understand that a petrochemical company has to be near a port, but why can’t a pharmaceutical company be in Teruel? I give another example: what does Barajas look like as a cargo airport, with saturated logistics corridors, when in Zaragoza we have the second cargo airport in Spain and our vocation to be the first? We will have to start thinking about where it is more efficient to do each thing.
P. The announcement of the battery factory in Barcelona did not sit well.
R. We are fighting for them to come. We believe that our situation is privileged. We are 300 kilometers from Valencia, where there is a car plant, 300 from Barcelona, where there is another, zero from Zaragoza, where there is another. We have Bilbao, and in between Pamplona and Vitoria, where there are other plants. We are 300 kilometers from Madrid. We think we have a powerful enough location.