The moment of truth for European funds

In the collective imagination of the Spaniards who experienced the entry into the EU, the wave of modernization caused by European funds in the form of infrastructures still survives. Today, after the unexpected injection of resources to stop the pandemic disaster, it will be seen – if nothing goes wrong – how Spain embraces technological transformation and lays the foundations to achieve green energy sufficiency. To achieve this, EL PAÍS and Deloitte organized last Monday a meeting where the capacities of the productive fabric were analyzed to take advantage of the 140,000 million funds (between transfers and loans) that will feed innovative projects in the next six years, and which was attended by from the Second Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño.

The two most heard words were “historic opportunity.” Because the community effort to mutualise the risks of this crisis has led to the breakdown, as the minister pointed out, of the correlations that marked previous depressions: an unprecedented drop of 11% of GDP in 2020 has not caused a collapse of unemployment (the year ended with a rate of 15.5%) or a decline in tax collection. Nor did the risk premium rise despite the extraordinary increase in the public deficit. “This shows that thanks to the measures – the guarantee lines, the ERTEs, the support for the self-employed – that connection has been broken,” said Calviño.

Ahead is to fulfill the recovery plan that Spain sent to Brussels and the stability plan for the 2024 horizon. The Executive wants half of the Next Generation EU funds to be spent between 2021 and 2023 to tackle the deficit of public and private investment that the country drags (until the financial crisis it was 4% of GDP and fell to a meager 2% from which it did not recover). “There have been years in which we have not made enough public investment to replace capital: to maintain roads, airports, hospitals or schools. Now it is not only about rebounding, but that this growth is sustainable in the medium term “, believes the vice president, convinced that with the aid, added to the 38,000 million of structural funds that Spain will receive until 2027, the country you will make up for lost time.

The question is how you will do it. “We have published 15 invitations [las llamadas manifestaciones de interés] that allow us to see what projects there are and also make sure that SMEs get involved. When we publish the tenders, we will be well oriented, ”said Calviño. But combining the good use of public resources while minimizing bureaucracy in record time is an unprecedented challenge in the country, as highlighted by Enrique Gutiérrez, partner in charge of the Deloitte European Center for Recovery & Resilience. Especially because, as the minister acknowledged, Spain faces a difficult negotiation in the reforms that Brussels demands. “In labor matters it is not about weaving and unweaving reforms, but rather looking to the future and laying the foundations for a new Workers’ Statute that responds to the needs of society. In pensions, our goal has to be to maintain purchasing power now and in 20 or 40 years ”.

Public-private collaboration

In this frantic race, the State needs to have allies if, as Deloitte president Fernando Ruiz pointed out, the goal is to create 800,000 jobs. Because, as José Bogas, Endesa’s CEO, recalled, a crisis like this one “could be seen more often if we don’t take care of the planet”. According to him, there is a need for an “integrated, global transformation that goes on the path of sustainable growth, decarbonisation and digitization. With driving companies of SMEs ”. In the same vein, Ángel Vilá, CEO of Telefónica, said that he believes that the rate of vaccines and the rate of application of funds will set the pace. “We have seen the traffic multiply by two; teleworking has grown 75%; electronic commerce, 40%; digital content consumption, 90%… Digitization catches us with our homework, we have the highest capillarity of broadband networks in Europe. Now we want to take the next step: to fully digitize the economy. Our focus is on the projects being tractors, collaborative with other companies ”.

Financial entities will also play a fundamental role. José Antonio Álvarez, vice president of Banco Santander, believes that the important thing is that “this transformation reaches the real business fabric”, both large and small companies, to which he offered support, because, despite public funds, financing will continue being fundamental. He was also optimistic about the recovery: “After vaccines, consumption levels will evolve very favorably because the savings stock of consumers will be put to work.” But for that you need people. Héctor Flórez, Managing Partner of Deloitte Consulting, emphasized talent. “We are in a globalized world and we have to attract talent from other geographical areas. There is a shared responsibility to create an attractive environment ”. It is, in short, a huge challenge that goes beyond this health crisis and that, as Bogas summarized, deals with the environment, the economy, inclusion, transparency and an ethical sense in business. And, as the minister said, all this to create quality employment.

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