Friday, 05 May 2017

Catalan president encourages businesses to get on board with independence


Girona (ACN).- Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, encouraged the business sector on Wednesday to break “the status quo” in Spain in order to “survive”. In a speech in a business forum in Girona, he argued that the only alternative to independence “is decay”. Puigdemont stressed that when the Spanish government boycotts Catalan business missions abroad or does not invest in infrastructures such as the Mediterranean corridor “it is setting traps for itself and not for the independence process”, because it also “abandons the companies that are not in favor of independence”. Therefore, the Catalan president urged the economic sector to turn towards Europe and to have confidence in its “pragmatism”, suggesting the EU would welcome an independent Catalonia as a member. Carles Puigdemont closed the event titled "Entrepreneurs want to know”, organized by the business group "We believe in Catalonia". During his speech, Catalonia’s president presented numbers to back up the claims of the economic boost that an independent Catalonia would enjoy and he insisted that the country is attracting foreign investments.  

In front of the 300 people present at the event, the Catalan president defended that “the economic progress of an independent Catalonia is clear”. Carles Puigdemont referred to statistics such as GDP, exports, unemployment or attraction of foreign investment to ward off the fear campaign coming from the Spanish government and to make clear that “the only alternative” to the status-quo is independence. 

A 2.5% increase in Catalan GDP during the first quarter of 2017, a record number of exports for the sixth year in a row, a 32% increase in foreign gross investment between 2012 and 2016 or year-on-year unemployment levels comparable with the ones from 2008 are just some of the figures the Catalan government’s president presented to make it obvious that the independence process does not burden the economy. 

“When a foreign investor from the other side of the planet considers investing abroad, will he do so in a place where citizens have given up and stoically accepted the lack of investment from their own state?” Puigdemont asked during his remarks. “Or will they trust a country where, when faced with this situation, the citizens raise their voices and say ‘we are not going to accept this’?” added the president, emphasizing that the independence process attracts foreign investments because “it actually demonstrates the people’s desire to stand up” and fight for a prosperous future.

To the Catalan president it is important to break “the status quo” with Spain because leaving things as they currently stand means “decay” for Catalonia. “We must change to survive, because Spain even abandons the companies that are against independence,” said Puigdemont. In this sense, he reminded the audience about the recent cancellation of his business mission to Morocco, which was boycotted by Spanish diplomats. “They do not harm the independence process, but rather the people and the companies,” he warned. 

Trust in European “pragmatism”

During his speech, Carles Puigdemont also wanted to play down any doubt about the concerns regarding EU membership for an independent Catalonia. The president asked the entrepreneurs to trust the Union’s “pragmatism”. “If the Scottish citizens would be welcomed, and a reunited Ireland would automatically be accepted, why wouldn’t the Catalan people be too?” he asked. “We are net contributors to the European Union,” he reminded the audience. 

The Catalan president also wanted to show how Catalonia is open to doing business abroad, referring again to export figures. “During 2016, only 37.3% of Catalonia’s trade was with Spain; the rest was with the rest of the world,” he insisted. 

The president of the Business Forum ‘We believe in Catalonia’, David Poudevida, also highlighted this point during his speech to the business leaders. “We have changed our market of reference: some time ago it was the Spanish state, but now more than 60% of our trading is with Europe or other places,” he stated. 

‘We entrepreneurs want to know’

The first event of the conference ‘Entrepreneurs want to know’, organized by the Business Forum, was celebrated in Girona on Thursday with the participation of the main organizations from the area. As a matter of fact, during his remarks, Poudevida emphasized the harmony between all these organizations and he used it “as an example, which the rest of the Spanish state should bear in mind”. 

During the event, economist Joan Tristany emphasized that the Catalan economy is solid abroad but highlighted that it is necessary to expand the number of businesses that export: more than 70% of sales abroad are made by the same companies. Economist Josep Maria Vázquez criticized the current Spanish system for “strangling the self-employed and the entrepreneurs” and he suggested that an independent Catalonia “should compare itself to the neighboring countries”, like France or United Kingdom, to get over the scarcities. 

The lawyer and tax expert Heribert Padrol stressed the need to stop the fiscal deficit and to promote tools for fighting fraud, and also to move forward with a Catalan tax system, which has to improve the conditions of the Small and Medium-sized Companies (SMEs). To conclude, Secretary General of Employment, Josep Ginesta, insisted on the need to increase salaries: “If we pay with peanuts, we get monkeys,” he said. 

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  • The Catalan President, Carles Puigdemont, during the Business Forum in Girona (by Xavier Pi)