The 2012/12/04 at 09:04
Valérie Demon, in Madrid
The results of the regional Catalan elections have shed no light on the direction to be taken in coming months. On the evening of 25 November, the CiU nationalists, already in power, may have won the election but many of their deputies also lost their seats. In the absence of an absolute majority, the party is now seeking alliances to back up its decisions in the next four years. But already the task seems complicated and the future uncertain – an uncomfortable situation for many a company head.
The electoral campaign did not leave company heads indifferent in that it focused on the referendum on self-determination and the possible independence of the region. In the 22@ district created by the City of Barcelona to encourage young businesses, debates on these issues aroused much interest. Iñaki Uriz, a young entrepreneur of 35 years, heads up – along with a partner – Change your Flight, a start-up with 8 employees aimed at partially reimbursing unused plane tickets. His market is international. The debate on independence does not concern him overly: “We are a small structure. We are worried but not too much. We work on Internet and so we’re more flexible should we need to move. But it’s true that I’d like to have a stable and solid future. I think that the soar in pro-independence will die down. But without any clear majority for the nationalists, everyday management and the approval of bills will be more complicated. At the same time, harsh austerity measures and restructuring have already been introduced, so we don’t expect any big changes.”
Source: The Guardian
In fact, everything also depends on the size of a business and its geographical market. While small businesses do not seem too nervous, bigger ones have kept quiet about where they stand. Except for one: the publishing house Planeta, whose head has already stated an intention to leave Catalonia if the region gains independence. Pere Marti is Manager of the auditing firm ACR in Barcelona, and has contact with many company heads. “Catalan businesses are somewhat confused witnesses to these political movements. Other than sectors that are afraid of losing markets in Spain due to possible boycotts, I think that the Spanish State is also very afraid of losing the Catalan market because this region is very important for the rest of the country.”
Meanwhile, there are a few who dare to imagine how the future may pan out. André Vanyi-Robin is a born entrepreneur, already with a number of companies behind him. This 41-year-old Frenchman has lived in Barcelona since 2001, and offers a system for opening doors remotely via mobile phones. “If we keep the same economic conditions, there’ll be no reason to leave. If we can continue to use the euro, if selling my product in Madrid while continuing to live in Barcelona will cost me no more than now, then there is no reason for me to worry.” Joaquim Domingo is one of the partners of the company Galenicum, specialised in generic medicines since 2003. Employing around fifty persons, the company is developing rapidly and aims at exporting 25 % of its production by the end of the year. The political debates do not intimidate him at all, and he remains pragmatic. “Business is business. No one buys my products because we are Spanish or Catalan. They buy our products if they’re good. It’s as simple as that. In any case, there will always be uncertainty. If companies know how to get by, they can always find opportunities even when there is uncertainty.”
What companies care about first and foremost is their business. And this electoral campaign left them deeply disappointed as their problems were left out of discussion. “We are subject to an inequality that should be modified. As a small business with eight employees, we are treated in the same way as Telefónica or the bank Santander. This is not normal. If taxes were lower, we could have ten employees,” explains Iñaki Uriz. André Vanyi-Robin would also like a bit more attention from politicians: “I hear no debate at all on exemption from social contributions in the first or second year of a company’s existence. There is no debate at all. Spain needs a Ministry for Entrepreneurship – and so does Europe!”
Philippe Saman, Manager of the French Chamber of Commerce in Barcelona, sums up this measured apprehension: “Companies will continue their business and the law of the market will win out. Artur Mas, President of Catalonia, has always defined himself as business-friendly and is likely to stay this way.” But the deep-rooted dissent between Catalonia and Madrid will also continue to hang over Spain.