Report | “Business Over People”, a critical analysis of public financing between 2020 and 2022

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New report “Business Over People. A critical analysis of public financing for COVID-19 and cost of living crisis responses in France, Spain and Belgium”

The research is an initiative from the European Network of Corporate Observatories (ENCO), conducted by researchers of Observatori del Deute en la Globalització (ODG), Observatoire des multinationales, Groupe de Recherche pour une Stratégie économique Alternative (GRESEA) and Observatorio de Multinacionales en América Latina (OMAL). This report is an exercise in citizen monitoring of how COVID-19 recovery and the cost-of-living crisis were financed in France, Spain and Belgium during 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Socially necessary sectors such as health care, education and public transport received less than 17% of public financing to face the crisis during 2020, 2021 and 2022 in France, Spain and Belgium. These three countries, chosen as case studies, provided stimulus measures far from 10% of GDP in 2020, 2021 and 2022: 4% at best. Between a third and half of the funding were allocated to private companies. If indirect grants are also accounted for, such as job protection measures or household energy subsidies, they received 69% (France), 68% (Spain) and 58% (Belgium) of public financing. Almost no public funding required climate or gender criteria.

Between 24% and 54% of all funds spent during 2020, 2021 and 2022 in France, Spain and Belgium went to social protection. The majority were job protection measures, directly benefiting only part of the population with regulated labour conditions. The rest of France’s, Spain’s and Belgium’s population (including women doing unpaid care work, young people, migrants or marginalised people in unregulated or informal working conditions) had access to social protection measures that made up only 4% (France), 10% (Spain) and 23% (Belgium) of crisis financing.

Banks have been an important beneficiary of public crisis funding through the channelling and allocation of public funds to the economy, like publicly-guaranteed loans. Their economic benefits and their decision-making power is not sufficiently visible.

Business Over People
“Business Over People. A critical analysis of public nancingfor COVID-19 and cost of living crisis responses in France, Spain and Belgium”


Public funding in times of crisis is a political choice, and these policies can deepen existing inequalities if they are not adequately designed and implemented. This report can be a tool for social movements, progressive media and stakeholders providing solid data and arguments for transformative, just and feminist crisis-response policies that can be used in the upcoming political debate regarding the debt, climate and care crisis. 

Any public crisis financing should be based on a collective-rights-oriented and ecologically sustainable pathway which ensures that an adequate level of funding is made available and that these funds are spent equitably, effectively and transparently, primarily for those who are the most impacted by the crisis – namely women, young people and people in a situation of vulnerability. The participation of citizens’ elected representatives and other rights holders in monitoring funding packages and policies is also important in ensuring that crisis-response decisions are not made behind closed doors. 

In this report the call from the People’s Recovery Tracker project is answered, namely the initiative of the Financial Transparency Coalition, the Centre for Budget Governance Accountability (CBGA), Christian Aid, the Tax Justice Network Africa, Latindadd, the Fundación SES, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANNA) and the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), who inspired our work with their “Recovery at a Crossroads: How countries spent COVID-19 funds in the Global South (2022)”, which called for a People’s Recovery at a time of multiple crises.


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