The Catalan business sector loses its fear

Thirteen chambers of commerce and seventeen employers’ associations show 'unconditional support' for the independence process

VilaWeb
Toni Strubell
08.09.2015 - 14:34
Actualització: 13.06.2022 - 09:53

The Catalan business sector this morning met in the La Pedrera building in Barcelona to give ‘unconditional support to the process started by our parliament’, to accept whatever might be the result of the 27-S elections and to say that they would adapt to any changes after this date. Thirteen chambers of commerce and seventeen employers’ associations (not Public Works) backed the signing of the document known as the Manifest del Far (Lighthouse Manifesto), demonstrating that the sector has now lost its fear of the political process. Quite the opposite; it is firmer than ever. The event left the people standing on the ground floor of the Casa Milà.

Led by the journalist Pepe Antich, the act lasted almost two hours and was divided into two parts. In the first, three renowned university teachers, Joan B. Casas, Jordi Galí and Miquel Puig, gave three academic views of the Catalan economy. A fourth teacher, Xavier Sala-i-Martín, chose to give a brilliant biblical explanation of David (the Catalans) and Goliath (the Spanish State), saying that neither the supposed Goliaths are so strong, nor the supposed Davids are so weak.

Document: The Lighthouse Manifesto (English)

Business solidity

In the second part, the four representatives of the businesspeople talked more directly than ever: Domènec Espadalé, vice-president of the Council of Chambers of Commerce of Catalonia; Ramon Carbonell, president of FemCat; Josep González, president of Pimec; and Antoni Abad, president of Cecot.

The State to blame for the lack of dialogue

Domènec Espadalé, on behalf of the chambers of Catalonia, pointed his finger at the State for the lack of dialogue. ‘In the face of many opinions, the main question is not whether a Catalonia with its own state would or would not be economically viable, this was shown empirically a few minutes ago. The question is whether the opportunities derived from the change of status would compensate the risks. The answer depends on two factors: firstly, to what extent the new state would serve to give a more effective integration of the Catalan economy in the present world economy in comparison with the present situation. From our perspective, a Catalonia with its own state is only conceivable within the framework of the EU.

On how the process towards the new state is being managed, the chambers defended discussion with the State as the best way to exercise the Catalan people’s right to decide. But we understand that both sides have to show their will for there to be discussion, and it must be recognised that the State has not shown this will, at least for the moment’.

Risk, what risk?

Ramon Carbonell, president of the Fem Cat business association, said, ‘The decision of the people of Catalonia not only has to be respected because it is rigour in democracy, but also because it is not necessarily associated with any economic or business risk in either sense.’

‘Those who respect the law know that nothing is permanent except for change’

Antoni Abad, president of the Cecot association says, ‘Democracy causes no concern for businesspeople, but we are concerned by intolerance and ignorance, and especially the abuse of ignorance, in other words, the fact of insulting people’s intelligence. I want to thank the teachers for being here because they give us information, not like those who bring pollution and rubbish. And we are very concerned that Spain has not entered into dialogue since the transition. Lack of dialogue causes tension and harms the operation of the economy.

But for decades, businesspeople in Catalonia have been considering the need for and the positive challenge of having a country that is internationally accepted, and we have summed up this idea with expressions such as, ‘We either change the country or change country’. In other words, we either refound or found. And it must be said that what is causing tension and maximum concern today are the certainties we see appearing; the potential concerns for overcoming the uncertainties of the present situation and all of its limitations are exciting as a chance to create a country from scratch; a competitive, business-oriented country with social cohesion.

Those who respect the law know that nothing is permanent except for change, immobilism from the more moderate profiles is exasperating,’ he concluded.

‘Fewer fears and more facts’

The always moderate Josep González, president of the Pimec (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Association of Catalonia), said, ‘We call for seriousness in this process, and for all agents to make it easy. And we avoid the apocalyptic declarations that invade us and do not help to develop the normal activity of democracy. We want peaceful elections. We do not understand so many fears and so much interference. We reject the senseless comparisons we have heard in recent days and we do not understand how some entities dare to tell the entrepreneurs what they have to do or what they should say to their workers. Or when political figures make certain political comparisons.

We need more ideas, more generosity from everyone, imagination, proposals for solving the problems. Fewer fears, more facts. We need the coming governments to govern and to do so in the interest of the majority with responsibility and transparency,’ said González.

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