Manel Manchón 23/07/2020
Javier Faus in the last days of the Circle of Economics / EP
A hit on the table. This is the expression of some members of the Board of the Circle of Economics, which has spoken emphatically at a critical time for Catalonia and for the whole of Spain. The business lobby, which Javier Faus chairs, has called for Catalonia to cease to be captivated by the independence movement and to seize the opportunity of the European agreement, with a fund of 140 billion euros for Spain, to carry out the structural reforms that are needed, with Catalonia as the spearhead of that process.
The opinion note from the Circle of Economics, which comes after a complicated internal situation for the business lobby, notes that Catalonia has “wasted time” in recent years, and that this has been noticed in the Catalan economy. The independence debate, together with other factors, such as the lack of a more stable and agile financing model, has led to a loss of competitiveness for autonomy, with respect to Madrid, but also with regard to the Spanish economy as a whole. This is noted with lower growth in per capita income.
Cooperation and mutual help
“Catalonia cannot afford to remain captive of political paralysis that has consequences on multiple dimensions of the country’s life, and also on economic life,” points out the note, which stresses the need to “cooperate” by all administrations and between the “public and private sectors.” What the Circle is calling for is a new period in which it is clear that the priority is the exit from the crisis, with mutual help and also with important institutional corrections, such as the need to abandon “centralism“.
The Circle points out that the bet a few decades ago on the Mediterranean corridor would now have been a different and better starting point. Therefore, insists that European aid should serve as an effort to transform the Spanish economy, with a greater impact on the energy transition and digital transformation, and with Catalonia as a flag bearer, leaving behind the debate that independence has posed in recent years.
The commitment to the future of the Spanish economy is strong. Like other institutions, it points out that the Agreement of the European Council should be a stimulus to take a leap in quality, and approves that there is supervision by Brussels, by rejecting that it is a “transfer of sovereignty”. On the contrary. It sees it as a new balance of powers, in a process of European construction, for which the Circle of Economics has bet since its founding in the late 1950s.
But the part about what is happening in Catalonia is hard and abandons what in some political and economic media they have understood in recent years as “ambiguity”, or “equidistance”. It was Mariano Rajoy who criticized it in the business lobby at the 2017 Sitges days, at the gates of the independence referendum. Now the message is conclusive, with an appeal to the next government of the Generalitat coming out of the polls: “The Government elected in the next elections to the Parliament of Catalonia must prioritize social and economic recovery from a medium and long-term perspective”. And, therefore, “the Generalitat must abandon the internal fights and implement a dialogue, realistic and predictable economic policy”.
Warning to the Generalitat
This change in attitude, which Javier Faus directly asked of the Vice President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, in his speech the last week in the Circle of Economics, will entail “confidence to attract and retain investment and talent, in a fiscal environment at least competitive at the state level, and that he will do so with the hand of private initiative”.
The message to Aragonès is now also direct, because, after launching an economic plan of 30 billion, which is to be received from European funds, the Circle of Economy now points out in its opinion note that Spain will take nothing for granted to Catalonia, “as Europe will not take it to Spain, and therefore from Catalonia must do their homework and present concrete projects of excellence that merit the resources”.
The Circle goes further in the need to take advantage of European resources and calls for the creation of an independent agency that can evaluate the projects that are presented, so that they have the highest quality and find funding. It is a question of selecting these projects on the basis of “objectives and technical competence, non-partisan”.
And the message to Catalonia is optimistic, considering that the foundations are and that the productive fabric has great potential. In the view of the business lobby, “it has a unique opportunity to lay the foundations of a more industrial, digital, productive and sustainable Catalan economy, which guarantees more well-being and more opportunities for all in the future”.