A strong Catalonia emerges from the crisis

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The complexity and intensity of the economic crisis we have faced in the past two years has been unprecedented, but today we can say that the world has left the recession behind. Now, it is time to look forward and also to learn from past experience, from the mistakes that have caused this crisis. In the same way that if we are now leaving the crisis it is because the world has learnt from past experience, especially from the Great Depression, in the thirties of the twentieth century.

It is true that, in Catalonia and Spain, as in most western countries, the crisis has demanded a strong financial commitment by the Government to sustain economic activity and to support those most directly affected by the crisis. In Spain, Autonomous Communities like Catalonia are responsible for providing many of the most important services of the welfare state: healthcare, education, social services and public safety.

Now it is necessary to face two major challenges: reducing public deficit and resuming economic growth. This is no easy task, since a reduction in government deficit has a contractive impact in the short run. This is why it is so important to enact the reforms that are necessary in order to improve the competitiveness of our economy. Catalonia has extraordinary economic fundamentals to face these challenges.

Catalonia is the main economy of Spain and a leading region in Europe. It has roughly seven and a half million inhabitants (which is a larger population than 11 of the 27 members of the European Union) and a GDP of 234 billion euros (in purchasing power parity). This means that 15 countries of the EU-27 have a smaller GDP than Catalonia. In terms of GDP per capita, Catalonia would be in the fifth place of the European Union ranking, only after Luxembourg, Ireland, Netherlands and Austria, and 12% above the euro zone average.

Catalonia is the sixth region in Europe in terms of overall industrial employment, after four German regions and Lombardy, and it is also one of the European regions with the highest levels of employment in technology and knowledge-intensive industries.

In recent years, Catalonia has experienced a profound transformation of its competitiveness model towards the most sophisticated technology and knowledge-intensive industries. In 2003, high technology and knowledge service companies represented 7.5% of the total, rising to 9.5% in 2009.

The Catalan economy is extremely open and internationalized. With an 18.6% of overall GDP, Catalonia accounts for 24.8% of Spain’s industrial exports, and 30.4% of industrial exports of high tech goods.

Catalonia has experienced a true surge of internationally renowned research centers, having 4 research institutions among the top 100 in the world according to   standardised citations rankings. Catalan research institutions occupy 19 of the top 25 positions in the Spanish ranking. All this has been possible thanks to a continued commitment to investment in R&D, which has increased at a steady rate of 13.7% per year since 2001.

Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, has been consistently ranked as one of the most attractive cities in Europe for doing business and in terms of quality of life in the past few years.

After a period in which extraordinary circumstances have required extraordinary measures, the Government of Catalonia is already making the necessary adjustments to its budget, and deficits will be sharply reduced in the coming years. Catalonia’s strong economic foundations will underpin a new scenario of renewed and vigorous growth.

 

Antoni Castells

Catalan Minister for Economy and Finance

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