President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain
May 28 2018 04:18
Jaime Malet (Barcelona, 1964) chairs the American Chamber of Commerce in Spain, a 100-year-old entity that brings together, among other partners, American multinationals with interests in the country. Malet, who claims to have “Catalan surnames to bore you”, is outraged by the situation in Catalonia and is one of the few business representatives who says so in public.
How do the companies of the American Chamber of Commerce see the situation in Catalonia?
The Chamber is based in Barcelona and has kept it there, and the partners have seen from the beginning that independence is impossible. But it is difficult to explain what has happened and can happen to their parent companies, which has resulted in a loss of investment and relocation of social headquarters. In principle, multinationals and our partners want to invest in Catalonia, but when the leaders of the Generalitat say that they will not comply with the law this hurts a lot. There are many very worried people again.
How do US multinationals react?
No one understands that it is a struggle of Catalan power against half of the population of Catalonia and against Spain. The people has been agitated by politicians who have control over the 50% of public spending in Catalonia and have at their disposal 17,000 policemen and a huge budget for propaganda through public television, and through a number of private entities and nonprofit with a capacity for penetration into the social fabric fed from power with taxpayers’ money. It must be remembered that the money of the rulers is not theirs, it belongs to those who pay taxes. They have to know that they cannot use it against half of the population. They cannot use a public television to work against the constitutional order.
Are there new investments canceled?
Investments are postponed again, which had already been postponed and even many have been lost throughout this process. We are going to see what happens, but if the power is taken back and people are inflamed again for the confrontation all day with yellow bows and crosses on the beach there will be confrontation that will appear in the international press, and Investors do not want to mess. If you have to choose between a place where the law is fulfilled and there is no confrontation, why are you going to opt for another in which the rulers are engaged in fueling the social fight?.
Is Catalonia going towards a prolonged economic stagnation?
Never in history have there been 4,000 companies making decisions in their management bodies, going to a notary and changing their registered office in such a short time. That will have consequences for the economy. It is a terrible effect of what has happened and should lead to political responsibilities because it will harm people in the medium and long term.
What do you think of Quim Torra’s speech?
I’m very worried. He is a person who has manifested throughout his career such clear ideas of division, of deciding who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. He cannot be the president of all Catalans.
Are you in favor of maintaining the article 155?
The 155 has served to build trust in two ways: stopping a drift that did not lead anywhere, and pointing out that there is a way to prevent the return to extreme situations. I don’t know if now or when, but it’s a tool that gives peace of mind. Many investors saw that the conflict existed and the State did not react, that’s why the 155 was a good move to stop the bleeding. It is what would happen in any country in the world. I can’t imagine a governor in the US wanting to mount a referendum without the federal state doing nothing. In all countries the reaction would have been similar.
Has there been too much passivity among business organizations?
What has surprised me is the copy-cat of Catalan business organizations such as Pimec or Cecot, asking for the right to self-determination which is impossible. No State would grant it because 7% of the population asks for it.
You will hear in Madrid that Catalan businessmen are called cowards…
They are not cowards. There are very good and very important Catalan businessmen. What happens is that the autonomous system allows the one who comes to power to have no counter-powers and in Catalonia, more. Entrepreneurs do not want to face the people who absolutely control everything: public companies, subsidies, the police, the media. Speaking in Catalonia has a very high cost and the problem is not entrepreneurs, it is the system. Catalan entrepreneurs have a tendency to express themselves less in politics and more in management, but there has been no cowardice. What has been is prudence and fear of indisposing yourself with the all-embracing public power of the Generalitat that has set up client networks and a social movement. To the businessmen who speak against the process, especially if we are Catalan, immediately there are thousands of people who do not know who pays them to crush us on social networks. They crush me every time I speak.
Have you paid a personal price?
I don’t see it that way. I am proud to have spoken. In a few years if my children ask me what I did, I will say that at least I said what I thought. On the other hand, many others who can do something today will have to tell their children that they did nothing.
Is it a solution that the State grants more self-government to the Generalitat?
I do not see it. All the tools of self-government have been used against the coexistence of the Catalans, the rule of law and the constitutional order. All for the fiction that Catalonia can be independent and that that will be harmless. Everything that is given is going to be used against the State and against half of the Catalans who do not want to continue with this. If the State makes more concessions to the Generalitat, I am sure it will turn the new powers against the State. The solution of giving more self-government to Catalonia would be a mistake.
So what is the solution?
The solution is to create a system in which the autonomous communities have more counter-powers and that things do not happen as in Catalonia, where the regime had no counter-power. That must be changed. I do not believe in the idea that more self-government will give satisfaction to those who want independence. If a person is not loyal, you don’t have to give him more, you have to think about how to control the damage.
What perception do your partners have of the Spanish economy?
Very positive. Although the budgets have been more expansive than some of us would like, they will adjust to what was agreed with Brussels. However, the Spanish economy has two very big problems: a public and private debt superior to any other western country. In Spain there is no capital, but a lot of debt, so there are foreign companies that buy Spanish companies. And the other problem is the population pyramid. Fortunately, high hopes for life, but low birth rates, and there will be few people to pay taxes and pensions.
What do you think of creating a Google rate?
Everything going against American companies is not positive and I think it should have been done differently, but I prefer not to say more for the time being.