Catalan Opposition Aims to Bring Business Back If It Wins Vote

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(Bloomberg) -- Ciutadans, the largest pro-Spain party in Catalonia, plans to woo companies back to the troubled region by cutting taxes and red tape if it wins next month’s election, leader Ines Arrimadas said.

Six weeks after ousted President Carles Puigdemont first flirted with a declaration of independence, close to 2,400 firms have left the region because of the political uncertainty, including flagship companies such as CaixaBank SA and Banco Sabadell SA.

“The longer the companies are away, the harder it is to convince them to come back,” Arrimadas, 36, said in an interview in the regional parliament in Barcelona. “The plan will include measures to make the legal framework more stable and to reduce the administrative burden.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called a regional election for Dec. 21 after dismissing Puigdemont’s government and taking direct control of the Catalan administration last month. Polls suggest that Ciutadans will be the second-biggest party in the new legislature behind the separatist group Esquerra Republicana, though Arrimadas would need support from other anti-independence groups including the Socialists and Rajoy’s People’s Party to have any chance of governing.

Part of the funding for the plan to lure companies back could come from shutting down operations such as Catalonia’s overseas offices that the previous administration set up to drive its campaign for independence, Arrimadas said.

“We have already estimated of hundreds of millions euros being used in all kinds of propaganda, makeshift operations and ‘embassies,’” Arrimadas said, adding that her party plans an audit of regional government expenditure if it wins power. “It could be about 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) a year.”

Ciutadans, known as Ciudadanos in rest of Spain, is the fourth-largest party in the national assembly and is part of the liberal group, Alde, in the European parliament. National leader Albert Rivera had been urging Rajoy to take a tougher line with the Catalan separatists for weeks before the premier took control on Oct. 27.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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