Mas-Colell: “If we help companies grow in size and solidity, the export machine will continue working well”
ndreu Mas-Colell recognises the importance of exports as a driving force to keep the Catalan economy running. The head of the Ministry of Economy and Finance highlights that the foreign sector “is and will be” one of the driving forces for our economy. Thus, he believes that foreign projection is vital: “The global economy is, as a whole, in a better state than ours and foreign markets are very large.”
The crisis has led many companies to see exports as a very real possibility. The Minister illustrates this trend with figures: “We export, in absolute numbers, more than before the crisis began. In fact, over the past five years, 11,500 companies have joined the Catalan exports sector, which is nearly 20% more than before 2008″.
The Minister believes that moving into foreign markets has a collateral benefit: diversifying markets. This way, “when the crisis ends, Catalan exports will be geographically diversified.”
Mas-Colell also reminds us that looking abroad has always been common among Catalan companies. And that Catalonia continues to be the top Spanish community in this arena, with 24.9% of all exports. For this reason he believes that the stagnation of the Spanish market “encourages companies to look towards foreign markets. In any case, internationalisation is always a good option.”
Conditions for exporting
Despite this positive trend towards sales abroad, Mas-Colell warns that companies that want to export “must be of a certain size and be well capitalised”. And he reminds us that the Catalan Institute of Finance has launched lines to facilitate access to funding for SMEs that want to grow and internationalise. “As we catch up with the global pace, things will start to get better,” he says.
In this sense, Mas-Colell reiterates that Catalonia needs larger, “German-style” small and mid-sized companies, in line with European standards: “In other words, our mid-sized companies should have the size and capitalisation of German mid-sized companies.” In this sense, he says that according to calculations by the BBVA study service, a 1% increase in size would increase the probability of exporting 5%. However he regrets that the lack of credit is the most important hindrance to SMEs nowadays.
Catalonia, hub for attracting investment
Mas-Colell also highlighted the role trade offices abroad play, saying that they have helped Catalonia become the region on continental Europe to attract the most industrial investment in 2012. Thus, 47 foreign investment projects were attracted for a total of 331.88 million euros, up 37% from the previous year. “This has led to the generation of 4,890 new jobs and means that Catalonia can attract foreign investment in spite of the crisis,” he explains.
Infrastructures, bottom of the ranking
Despite the positive pace of Catalan exports, there are still points to be improved. Like infrastructures. In this sense, Mas-Colell criticises that Catalonia suffers from insufficient and inadequate resources in this area. And he gives figures: “In 2012, Catalan exports by train accounted for only 0.7% of the total. Another example, in 1980 public capital stock with regards to Catalonia’s GDP was 23%, below the national average, which ranked us second to last among Spanish communities, above only Madrid. Thirty years later, we have gone from 23% to 27% below average, to the last on the ranking. This hinders our competitiveness,” he warns. Bad news continues to point to the El Prat airport: “There is no doubt that Catalonia will continue to suffer if we don’t have an airport that, like every airport around the world, serves the territory’s competitiveness. The model used in Spain is currently seen in very few countries, with one company owning all of these facilities. In Spain, they belong to Aena. And I think it is clear that the Madrid Barajas airport receives preferential treatment.”