By COLOMER/ A. FONT
On Thursday the Catalan business community came together in support of the sovereignty process at an event held in Barcelona’s La Pedrera. With the only exception of Foment del Treball, all other Catalan business associations and chambers of commerce unveiled the Light House Manifesto, a statement showing their “unconditional support” to whatever Catalans decide at the polls on September 27. These elections, they said, “must allow our fellow citizens to express their will on the future of Catalonia, freely and democratically”.
The organisations that endorse the document show their “commitment to respect and side with whatever decision the Catalan people takes” and their “willingness to ensure that our firms act accordingly, so that we may continue to make a positive contribution to the progress and welfare of Catalan society”.
The vips in attendance included the presidents of the employers’ groups and chambers, the president of the Catalan Parliament, Núria de Gispert --who was handed the manifesto-- and former presidents Joan Rigol and Ernest Benach. All three of them are running on the Junts Pel Sí (Together for Yes) ticket on September 27.
Also present were the representatives of the business associations and chambers of commerce who signed the manifesto: every one of them, except Foment del Treball (even though some local chapters of Foment have endorsed the statement). In addition, economists Joan B. Casas, Miquel Puig, Jordi Galí and Xavier Sala i Martín spoke in support of the viability of an independent Catalonia and argued that the nation would actually benefit from it.
David’s strength and Goliath’s weaknesses
The business associations and the chambers criticised Madrid’s reluctance to hold talks of any kind and called for independence to occur, at any rate, always within the framework of the European Union. In response to the threats of automatic expulsion from the EU, Miquel Puig stated that “the EU would never allow Catalans to leave the Union, even if they wanted to. There are so many interests --mainly industrial but also financial-- for keeping Catalonia within this market, that I am certain we would stay”.
In any case, Jordi Galí argued that Madrid’s low public investment figures in Catalonia have seriously harmed the Catalan economy. Using his own calculations, Galí showed that the Catalan GDP would be three points higher today, if Spain’s public expenditure in Catalonia had matched its contribution to Spain’s overall GDP in the last ten years. And it would actually be five points higher, if the same level of investment had been kept over the last two decades. Joan B. Casas claimed that “it is a big challenge, but the gap between what we are and what we could become makes it all worthwhile”.
Sala i Martín drew a parallel with the biblical story of David and Goliath to conclude that, contrary to what looks might suggest, Spain is not so strong and Catalonia is not so weak: “The mighty-looking one often turns out to be less mighty. The Spanish state is extremely weak due to its political leadership (...) Catalonia has many strengths, such as our enterprising spirit and economic vitality, which won’t go away if we become independent. Catalonia’s greatest asset in this unequal struggle, our strength, is our enthusiasm and eagerness”.