“Work, persist, wait”. Joan Baldoví (Sueca, 1958) resorts to this motto that the historian and Valencian figure of relevance Nicolau Primitiu placed in his bookplate every time he feels disappointed in politics. The Compromís deputy in Congress has held the banner of regional financing for thirty years and has had to use every creative resource to gain visibility on an issue as complex as it is unattractive in public discourse. “I have felt very lonely,” he reiterated during the conversation, recriminating his Valencian colleagues in Madrid for not actively defending this claim.
The speech of the only deputy of the Valencian formation in Congress stands out for its clarity and its vehemence, full of popular sayings; From his armchair in the hemicycle he has starred in speeches that have spread like wildfire, abronoming deputies of the extreme right, the PP or the PSOE in their demands, which has earned him the sympathy of a good part of parliamentarianism and citizenship.
Baldoví talks to elDiario.es hours after the Minister of Finance, Maria Jesús Montero, stressed in the Lower House that the Government will fulfill its commitment to the reform of the autonomous financing system, a vital issue for the Valencian Community, the worst financed , which the deputy negotiated in the investiture of Pedro Sánchez and transferred to parliament in the form of a political agreement.
The minister confirmed this Wednesday in Congress that the Government will present the proposal for the reform of the financing system in November. After such a long time, how do they receive the commitment?
In the investiture agreement we already demanded it, but the pandemic came, which delayed it. Also in the budget agreement and with the motion that we presented in Congress, signed by a large majority. The agreements are to be fulfilled, but they have been broken for so many years that the announcement pleasantly surprised me. Especially in the terms in which he said it: I am going to fulfill the agreement that I have with you, Mr. Baldoví, an agreement between the PSOE and Compromís. We have done our part and it seems that they are going to do their part.
Financing has always been a fundamental issue for us, we have always put it on the table, either in the investiture or in other agreements; We voted against any distribution of Covid funds because we understood that it perpetuated the unfair model of the financing system. We receive the announcement with joy and hope.
The appearance of the minister, requested by you, was different this Wednesday. It was the first time that a head of the Treasury recognized that part of the Valencian debt is the result of the financing system.
On the one hand, he announced, as our agreement says, that before the end of the year a model had to be presented. For the first time, a minister recognized two things: the difference in funding between the best-financed autonomous community and the worst, which we are, of 800 euros per inhabitant. Let’s think that we are five million inhabitants in the Valencian Community. And for the first time it was recognized that this debt of more than 50,000 million euros that we have is the result of under-financing and that it must be solved, that it cannot continue to grow. The State should assume that debt, that it does not compute more; in the end, the State debt is the debt of the public administrations as a whole. And it would allow the second department of the Valencian Government not to be the department of debt `[se refiere al volumen de recursos destinados a pagar préstamos en el Ejecutivo autonómico, superior al de departamentos como Sanidad]That we could dedicate resources that are now going to pay a debt that we have not generated to things as necessary as social, economic or educational policies.
The historical debt is an issue that other autonomies do not like very much, as well as other finance ministers.
Finance ministers have always been very cautious when it comes to assuming the concept of historical debt. Yesterday the minister assumed that an important part of the Valencian debt and that of other autonomous communities is the result of the system. Andalusia was recognized at some point. I believe that without Compromís’ persistence … Sometimes I have felt like the lone ranger; I have claimed it from Rajoy, Sánchez, Montoro and Montero, and whoever gets ahead.
We mentioned before the interview that they were already talking about under-financing in the 1991 campaign from Unitat del Poble Valencià …
In the first campaign they saw us as Martians; they asked: underfunding? What is that. And it was a topic that was there and that was not talked about. That we have those 50,000 million euros of debt is not only due to the fact that governments have been wasteful; One part, yes, but another comes from the fact that we have to open hospitals and schools every day, that we have to provide essential services and when they only give you a part of what those services cost, you have to go into debt, take out loans. So I think the recognition is significant, but also that in this recurring theme, without the action of some of us who have always claimed it, without our persistence, we would not be where we are. Today it is easy to take photos, sign documents, but we have always put as a condition for our vote that this could be.
You and President Ximo Puig have managed from your spaces to put on the agenda an issue that had been stuck for years. That has caused a reaction in different parties. How do you see it?
Well welcome. It was time for the PSOE to join. I have not heard any socialist deputy in Congress talk about this issue, not even Ximo Puig when he was a deputy. I am happy that Compromís’ work leads others to claim something that is a cry. I have sometimes demanded that the other 31 deputies have this impetus. Today is easy, but welcome.
Well, I was actually referring to the so-called territorial barons. Page, Lambán, Mañueco …
They are always attentive so as not to lose. But we don’t want anyone to lose. The document that Moreno-Bonilla and Puig signed in Seville says what we have said for years: that we must contribute more money to the system, that it is insufficient. I understand that a president of an autonomy wants to preserve the welfare state of his community, but this is not a war between territories. It is simply that the services provided have to be paid for.
Here it coincides with what the Minister of Finance, Vicent Soler, has also indicated: that a horizontal reform (of the distribution between territories) and a vertical reform (that the State contributes more to the communities) is needed.
Yes. We have pointed along that line. The last point of the agreement is something that we raised during the state of alarm: a transitional compensation fund. An idea also pointed out by the Fedea foundation, which calculates it at around 2,500 million euros to equate the under-financed autonomies to the average. We have pointed out many alternatives, with technicians from the Ministry of Finance and the Presidency: one way to mitigate under-financing is the General State Budgets, through investments and transfers. For example, in the Valencian metropolitan transport.
Can European funds be a form of compensation?
European funds are a way of stimulating the Valencian economy so that we can converge with the more developed autonomous communities. We have an income 12 points below the average and these investments are a way to stimulate it.
The Minister of Finance also said that it was the Community of Madrid that opposed a vote on the creation of the compensation fund in the last Council on Fiscal and Financial Policy. Will it end up being created or will it go to other modes of compensation?
Madrid is the independent republic. I trust the creativity of Minister Montero. There are other ways to compensate that do not go through the sectoral conferences or the conferences of presidents, such as Budgets or increasing funding for dependency or education. There is scope for not needing a qualified majority in Congress but a simple majority.
Montero called on the PP, as the majority party, to join the reform. With that strategy of permanent blocking that you have developed, do you trust them to negotiate?
The PP is in the policy that Cristóbal Montoro enunciated: let Spain sink and we will save it. It seems to me an irresponsible and dangerous attitude to let the problems of citizens rot. The PP is only a state party when it has a majority to impose its policies. It is perverse. I do not trust the PP. When the first document is put on the table there will be PP communities like Andalusia and Murcia that are interested in the reform moving forward; we will see what the party does when the model is presented. But from what his deputy said in the debate, they will do nothing.
Another point in the speech was that the proposal would not like everyone. What would Compromís have to like?
That it is something that is understood: that the transferred services are paid and we can do something other than ‘move home’ as before. The basic policies of the welfare state are provided by autonomy and debt -in the Valencian case- and there are other policies that autonomies such as Navarra, the Basque Country or La Rioja, of aid to companies, housing, youth, employment, can put on going. If we want to change the production model we have to invest in it and with this system we cannot. We want services to be paid and the policies that the State delegates to the autonomies can be made. And a distribution of funds that is not arbitrary.
The adjusted population criterion will focus the discussion. What criteria would be desirable in that computation?
I understand that other leaders want to talk about geographic dispersion or aging, but other criteria must be considered. For example, the population served in the dependency system, in hospitals, the number of inhabitants. If not, we continue to perpetuate a model. The model must be one in which Valencians have the same welfare state.
That the document is presented is a condition to support the budgets?
I don’t like putting red lines. But we have launched several messages: agreements cannot be fulfilled by just one part. I would never vote against, which does not mean that I voted in favor, of a budget that improves the lives of citizens, but I could not vote in favor of a budget that violates an important part of the agreements. It is not a crazy demand, it is fair, it is something that must be resolved by law, the system has expired for seven years. With the three of the General Council of the Judicial Power it seems a scandal to us.
On the same Wednesday afternoon, they had a meeting with the Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, to prepare the General State Budgets.
We spoke before with the Treasury to discuss some issues, such as that they must incorporate what the Statute of Autonomy indicates: that the investment must approach our population weight. And with Minister Bolaños, in the first meeting, we reiterate that for the Budgets to have our vote, they must be satisfactory for the PSOE and Compromís, as indicated by Más País.
Will they negotiate jointly with Íñigo Errejón?
We went to the negotiations together, but Compromís has his Valencian agenda. Más País cannot have a Madrid agenda because Madrid has it all (laughs).
And what is that agenda?
Financing, investments and transportation; metropolitan and suburbs.
After 30 years claiming the same thing (financing, investments), aren’t you fed up?
If I want to represent Valencian interests, I cannot be tired of claiming something necessary for the well-being of this society. Sometimes I have felt discouraged, alone … But I have always understood this as a great man of my town, Nicolau Primitiu, said: work, persist and wait. We have done that for 30 years.