Translation of the interview to Joan Canadell, General secretary of the business association “Cercle Català de Negocis” and co-author of the book “Catalonia, state of Europe” (Catalunya, Estat d’Europa).
(Written by Alèxia L.Ferret and published in ElSingulardigital.cat)
“When Catalonia becomes independent it will be the fourth country in Europe of GDP per capita”. Mr Canadell, states that Catalonia has an economy very similar to the one of Holland, Denmark or Belgium. He is convinced that if we would have a fiscal agreement with Spain it would not be sufficient to solve the problems our country has as of today. According to him, only independence can provide the frame to create the necessary policies to take the country into a better future, building, for example, the Mediterranean corridor project(1).
What scenario will we find in an independent Catalonia?
Our studies forecast that Catalonia would be in the top five countries of GDP per capita, and one of the three strongest exporters. It will be very similar to countries like Holland, Belgium or Denmark, which in this moment work very well.
How much unemployment will Catalonia have?
Is it true that an independent Catalonia would be out of the EU and would have a risk prime similar to Greece?
No, absolutely not. Catalonia is the third most dynamic region of Europe. Therefore, other countries of Europe are not interested in getting Catalonia out, but all the opposite. The EU trend is to adopt new countries, not to take them out. However, we should agree under which conditions will Catalonia be member of the European Union. As for example, with decisions like how many European representatives would the country be entitle to have in the EU parliament. Independence would neither mean being out of the Euro zone.
What similarities are there between Holland and an independent Catalonia?
In economic terms, Holland is the second country in the EU of GDP per capita. Catalonia would be the fourth one. In 2008 Catalonia was at the same level of Holland. In regards to unemployment, Dutch have a 5% right now, and Catalonia will have only a 7% when independent. And if we talk about exports, Catalonia is the third EU country that exports more with a 59% of exports, while Holland is the fourth in the ranking with a 56% of exports.
Would the fiscal agreement with Spain fix the economic problem of Catalonia?
No. Maybe it would reduce the impact of the current problem, but the fiscal agreement with the Spanish state does not provide a mathematical operation with results, but it is only a political issue. Every time we have agreed on a new tax system with Spain, we were told it was very good, but with time we all could see it was so limited. In the last 25 years we have suffered a fiscal deficit of 10 to 7% of the Catalan GDP.
What are we missing?
Freedom. Freedom to create the necessary policies that help taking our country into a better future. A very clear example is the Mediterranean corridor project (1): Spain does not want to do it; the government in Madrid pushes for building a central “corridor”. It is obvious Catalan people cannot decide for themselves now, but only if we would be independent, we would be able to take our own decisions. In addition, a fiscal agreement would still mean to sustain one part of the fiscal deficit, between 8 and 10 million Euros. It is a lot of money that we cannot give away now the country needs it.
Why small countries grow more than big ones?
In one of our most recent studies, we have found out that small states grow a 40 and even 50% more than states with big territories. Small countries are more flexible and adaptable to maintain an economic model that works, that is very important.
Are there Catalan companies with a specific economic volume that do not support the secession of Catalonia from Spain?
This is changing. But obviously there is always some reluctance, since we have been many years believing that an independent Catalonia could not be economically viable. And now we know that is not true. It is all about lack of information.
Maybe banks are more reluctant?
No, no. I think that when the moment comes, they will also support Independence. However, they are afraid of the Spanish boycott afterwards. But when the self-determination process is finally triggered, big companies will be the first ones interested in showing they support it. They will not likely leader the process, but they will support it for sure.
Company owners know what is best?
Catalonia is made of middle and small companies. And I can ensure you that there are more and more owners who have it quite clear. I would say that more 50% of Catalan companies think that an independent Catalonia will be better for them. And the big corporations will be changing soon, with a bit more effort, but they will also see it. All this is a process that requires time and information.
After the demonstration of the 11S and the declarations of President Mas at Madrid, is independence closer than ever?
Of course. Now the question is to have it all ready to make it happen. We must do it in a short time frame, but without missing any step. We are talking about some months or a couple of years the most. But not 5 or 10 years as others may say.
How can we declare independence?
There are several road-maps towards Independence. But, now, we cannot decide for any specific one, as it will also depend much on the international politics, how politic parties will play internationally, and Spain… So we will be seeing this coming soon. And we will decide when required.
Do you think Catalonia can become independent in full agreement with Spain?
Yes. Catalonia has more influence on Spain that we think. In fact, they should be interested that we leave in agreement, so that Catalonia can take part of the Spanish debt towards Europe. If Catalonia leaves the Spanish state without an agreement, we would not have the obligation to assume any part of any debt from the Spanish state.