The new port accessibility fund envisaged by the central government, which, as planned, will be fed with 50% of the benefits of the port authorities will work, for practical purposes, as term savings, as explained today the Secretary of State for Infrastructures, Rafael Catalá. The taxpayers will have their own account and will recover the amounts contributed after a period of time – for now 15 years have been foreseen, other sources have been added – and with a profitability still to be fixed. They will be paid loans that will only and exclusively be used to finance terrestrial connectivity works, mainly railways- cheap short term loans for bad credit. The Ministry of Development expects this fund to receive around 100 million euros per year.

Catalá, defended yesterday this new instrument in a seminar on infrastructures organized by Seopan, the employers of large construction companies and highway concessionaires at the International University Meedez Pelayo (UIMP) of Santander. The number two of Development has explained it this way: “It can not be that there are ports that put their surpluses in the banks and that other ports have to go to the banks to ask for the resources they need, the logical thing is that some lend them to others”.

The Autoritat Portuària de Barcelona opposes this measure outright because it considers that it is against the principle of port autonomy. In your case, the contribution could exceed 25 million per year as its ordinary benefits are around 50 million. The Regional Minister of Territori, Santi Vila, and the Minister of Development, Ana Pastor, agreed last week to allow time for the implementation of the measure and explore ways that affect ports as little as possible Catalan capital have positive results. “We are going to see if we have a model that can be accepted,” Catalá reiterated. Pastor and Vila will coincide tomorrow in Barcelona and it is expected that they will talk about this matter again.

There are two items on the table that Fomento hopes will help unravel the issue

One is that the port authorities contributing to the fund participate in its management and in the definition of the priorities to be financed. “They should be wealth-generating projects,” clarified the Secretary of State, ruling out that with this instrument they are going to seize works in any port, regardless of whether or not it is profitable. In the case of Barcelona, he added Catalá, as he is already playing with his own resources for the construction of his railway junctions, he would not have to contribute a euro to the new fund for a while. He pointed out that it could be four or even five years. This does not convince the Catalan Administration and the Port, which reject the merits of the matter. In his opinion, the new fund destroys the autonomy of the port and diminishes its ability to compete.

There is a second mechanism with which Fomento expects to pay terrestrial connections of the ports, which Catalá has explained: extending port concessions from the current 30 years to 50 years (a typical time in Europe) in exchange for the awardees to assume investments from this kind. With this measure, it is expected to mobilize another 150 million annually.

The new port fund has been the subject of debate at a roundtable of the seminar in which the parliamentary spokespersons of PP Development (Andrés Ayala), PSOE (Rafael Simancas) and CiU (Pere Macias) have participated. The latter has been resounding in its criticism: “It will mean the death of a system based on the autonomy of ports that has worked well because it looks for everyone to be efficient,” said the deputy, who sees in the new Instrument planned by Fomento a “punishment for those who do it well”. Ayala has denied this point and recalled that the goal is for “ports to make their investments profitable” for which a system of “paid loans” is proposed, a mechanism that, waiting to know the details, does not displease Simancas. The socialist deputy has defended that “be taken into account in the general interest” of the ports and, consequently, be considered as “a whole”. But he has insisted that “the autonomy” of each authority must be respected and “the mechanisms of solidarity that already exist must be used.

The liquidation returns to plan on the radial

The situation of the nine concessions of motorways in crisis (most of them the radial ones of Madrid) has also been the object of analysis in the seminar of the UIMP. Rafael Catalá explained that the Government’s will is to implement the plan presented last March through which these routes would pass into the hands of a new public company. A 50% reduction of the debt would be applied and the rest would be paid by the State through a 30-year bond at 1% plus a percentage to be determined linked to traffic levels.

The Spanish banks want the yield of the bond to be higher and the foreigners propose that the withdrawals be made individually for each concession since the debt is different in each of them. The latter, which account for more than 30% of the debt, have taken the matter to Brussels because, in their opinion, their withdrawals could exceed 70%. Thus, it is not out of the question that these highways end up being liquidated, an extreme that all the, involved claim is the worst of the scenarios but, as things go, could be a reality soon. The first highway that runs this risk is the AP-36 (Ocaña-La Roda), which holds a meeting of creditors on July 18.

The president of Seopan, Julián Núñez, has called for a quick solution to this crisis and has called for changes in the concession system to reduce the risks that the private sector runs in these operations.

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