BARCELONA (AFP) - Catalonia, which holds a symbolic independence vote on Spain, in defiance of the central government in Madrid, is one of Spain's nation's most important regions, with a population of 7.5 million people.
The Catalan government is headed by the centre-right nationalist Artur Mas. His Convergence and Union (CiU) party won 50 seats in the 135-seat regional Catalan Parliament in the last elections in November 2012.
The party governed Catalonia continuously since the re-establishment of regional autonomy in 1980 until 2003, when it lost power to the Socialist Party of Catalonia. It returned to power in 2010.
The separatist Catalan Republican Left party is in second place with 21 seats followed by the Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) with 20 seats. The conservative Popular Party, which rules at the national level, has 19 seats.
GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT
Catalonia accounted for 18.8 per cent of Spain's gross domestic product (GDP) last year, making it the country's richest region ahead of the central Madrid region, which accounted for 17.9 per cent of the nation's economic output.
Catalonia's GDP per capita has fallen slightly since the collapse of a decade-long property bubble in 2008 sent Spain's economy into a tailspin.
It fell to 26,666 euros (S$42,830) last year from 27,620 euros in 2008, according to the National Statistics Institute.
Nearly 257,000 companies are based in Catalonia, the vast majority of them small-and-medium-sized businesses. It is home to 345 Spanish and foreign companies with over 500 employees such as textile giant Mango and Gas Natural. Volkswagen has a factory in the region.
Catalonia-based companies make up about 12 per cent of Spain's benchmark stock index, the Ibex.
Catalonia accounted for 24.9 per cent of all Spanish exports last year, according to the Economy Ministry. Since 2011 the region exports more to foreign nations than to the rest of Spain. Last year, exports outside of Spain, mainly to the European Union, accounted for 43 per cent of the total of 135 billion euros, according to the Barcelona chamber of commerce. Catalan exports to the rest of Spain accounted for 33 per cent of the total.
Germany is the main source of imports to Catalonia, accounting for 16 per cent of the total. Neighbouring France came in second place, accounting for nearly 11 per cent of total imports to Catalonia.
Catalonia is the most indebted of Spain's 17 semi-autonomous regions. Its debt in the second quarter of 2014 was equivalent to 31.2 per cent of its GDP, according to the Bank of Spain.
The government of Catalonia says the region posted a fiscal deficit - the difference between what it pays in taxes and the amount of money the central government invests in the region - of 11 billion euros in 2011, the last year for which figures are available.
Spain's central government contests the figure. It says Catalonia's fiscal deficit that year was around 8.5 billion euros.
The unemployment rate in Catalonia in the third quarter of 2014 stood at 19.1 per cent, below the national average of 23.67 per cent.
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is home to Spain's second busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic. It moved 35 million passengers last year. Only Madrid's airport moved more passengers.
The Mediterranean city's port was the nation's third busiest in 2012, the last year comparative figures are available, after the ports of Algeciras and Valencia, according to the World Shipping Council.