I know that the headline of this article does not generate optimism, despite the opportunity that we have before us, which is based on the mass vaccination of citizens against Covid-19, and the millionaire endowment of European funds for the economic recovery that drives the European Union, which provides for transfers in Spain of 140,000 million euros, equivalent to 11% of Spanish GDP in 2019.
These two levers are key to recovering the economy in our country, but I suspect that without a third lever they will be insufficient. Before entering to evaluate the reasons, and to determine which is this third lever, we talk about the damage caused by Covid-19 and other contextual data that we cannot lose sight of when it comes to seeing why I am not so optimistic about the sufficiency of the levers that should propel us forward again.
The impact of Covid-19 on human lives is extraordinary. Almost 45,000 dead. We all know. The impact of Covidien-19 on loss of wealth is too. The World Bank places the global impact of the loss of world GDP at the levels of what happened in the world with the great crisis, the great depression, of 1929. In the euro zone, Spain almost doubles the loss of average wealth in the EU . A loss of 13 points. The equivalent, more or less, to the weight that tourism has in our country.
Other data that are perhaps not so well known lead me to introduce the idea of the third lever, without which the other two may be insufficient and throw our recovery plan into frustration. They have to do with explaining that we cannot ignore that we have the economy doped. All the economic sectors that are navigating this storm know this thanks to the ICO credits, the ERTEs, their strategic withdrawal … One has to wonder what will happen if this doping of the economy that the States and the different administrations have tried to stop giving . And how do we make the transition between this “dedopatge” and the injection of European funds that are part of the solution. These funds should be used to reactivate the economy, to recover companies and the fiscal capacity that provides public services. And this is where I want to insert the third lever.
Can someone sensible and knowledgeable in public administration affirm that we are capable of “spending” or “investing” these amounts of money with the current regulation of public procurement? With the corsets that the indexation law imposes on large concessions? This is simply impossible. It is impossible because the crisis of 2010 designed protocols, procedures, and routes aimed at NOT spending. To put it in a few words: the bureaucracy created, the controls, reports, audits, announcements and guarantees that the spending procedures have make it unfeasible to invest in the time that we are given what the EU plans to inject so that the economy starts.
Just one piece of information: Spain received European funds amounting to 56,500 million euros in the 2014-2020 period… And only in executed 19,000 million, about 35%. This in 7 years! The draft – which when this article is published could be final – of the Royal Decree Law approving urgent measures for the modernization of the administration and the execution of the recovery plan does not invite us to think that we can improve this percentage. And that, in a very delicate economic situation, is not good news. To give just one example: the regulation provides for streamlining contracting procedures only for non-harmonized works, those that do not exceed 5.3 million euros. For the rest, that is, for the majority of those we need to get ahead, the procedures will make success impossible.
And this is the third lever, essential, to really take advantage of the first two. Because if we vaccinate people, we receive the funds but we are not able to invest them quickly, we will have lost, not only the year 2021, but also the possibility of rebuilding what the pandemic has taken away.
For this reason, in the choice of projects and in the regulations to deploy them, there is an exercise of trust and not mistrust. And you need tools designed to spend and not for not doing it. Projects must be mature, must incorporate the keys to environmental, social and economic efficiency, must be able to multiply the euros that are put into value creation (jobs, taxes, licenses, innovation) and must have a territorial consensus that makes them indisputable. If they do not pass these barriers, it will be money thrown or not spent.
Ferran Falcó, president of the Associació Restarting Badalona