The Third Vice President of the Government and Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, announced this Wednesday that in the first quarter of this year the Government will approve the Strategic Project for Economic Recovery and Transformation (PERTE) for the digitization of the water sector. This strategic project will add a public-private investment of 3,000 million euros until 2026. In this year's Budgets, 400 million have already been included to transform water management systems.
This will be the fourth PERTE that the Government will approve and will be dedicated to water management for both the urban cycle and for irrigation and industrial uses. The intention of the ministry is to improve efficiency, reduce losses in the water supply networks and allow both water and energy savings. In addition, it aims to increase the security of supply and contribute to the security of hydraulic infrastructures.
Ribera made the announcement this Wednesday at a colloquium held within the framework of the XII edition of Spain Investors Day, a forum organized by Estudio de Comunicación with the collaboration of the entities BNP Paribas and Exane BNP Paribas, and which is sponsored by, among others, from PRISA, the publishing group of EL PAÍS. In this edition, he has shared a space with José Bogas, president of Endesa, who has underlined the importance of public-private collaboration. Both have been very close, just a year after less promising moments were experienced in this same forum, when a part of the Government even demanded the nationalization of some electricity company in the midst of a rise in electricity prices during Filomena, the storm of cold and snow that hit the center of the Iberian Peninsula.
In his speech, Ribera reiterated Spain's rejection of the European Commission's proposal that includes nuclear energy and natural gas in the European green taxonomy. “You have to avoid making mistakes and producing wrong signals,” he said. In this sense, the third vice president asked to think in the long term and focus investments on technologies that bring Europe closer to the full decarbonization of the economy, set as a goal for 2050.
Regarding the skyrocketing price of electricity, Ribera has recognized before international investors that it may affect the competitiveness of the European industry. And he urged the European Union to take measures to alleviate the rise in the cost of energy. “It will be very difficult to carry out the transformation if the final consumers do not feel that it is positive for them”, settled the vice president.
Maroto: “The forecasts point to a sustained growth of the economy”
For her part, Reyes Maroto, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, stressed the attractiveness of the country to attract investors thanks to the recovery plan and the reforms carried out by the Government. “Spain is a very attractive destination and currently offers investors confidence, security and certainty”, the minister emphasized.
The coronavirus crisis is still latent, especially with the impact of the omicron, which has once again increased uncertainty. In addition, it will also affect other important legs of the economy, such as the crisis in global transport, which could once again exacerbate bottlenecks in supply chains. Despite this, the Government remains confident: “The forecasts for 2022 point to sustained growth in economic activity and employment in Spain, with the upturn in domestic consumption and investment, the gradual recovery of tourism, the good performance of the foreign sector, a good evolution of the public accounts and, above all, a very dynamic labor market”, Maroto assured.
Gonzalo Gortázar, CEO of CaixaBank, participated in another of the forum's discussion tables and insisted on this improvement that is already in sight. In his case, he pulled the expense recorded on cards that in the fourth quarter was already 7% higher than in 2019, before the coronavirus hit, according to bank data. In addition, spending on foreign cards, highly dependent on international tourism, was already tied with pre-pandemic levels at the end of the year.
Despite this, economic activity is still weighed down: “Ómicron is obviously an uncertainty in the short term, so it can impact demand, for example in tourism. Although there is more concern about how it can affect the supply chain: Asia has a zero covid policy and there may again be stoppages that affect transport”, Gortázar pointed out.
The importance of the recovery plan for European funds that will be used to transform the Spanish economy was also highlighted at the forum. According to Maroto, until the end of December the Executive has already authorized 22,124 million euros, 91% of what was allocated for last year. For the rest, the Government included a provision in the Budgets to be able to mobilize them in 2022.
The CEO of CaixaBank has pointed out in this regard the importance of the funds ending up reaching the real economy, although he has insisted that the fundamental thing is that they are distributed well. “It is more important to distribute the funds properly than to do it too quickly”, said Gortázar.
For his part, the president of Mapfre, Antonio Huertas, has pointed out the need to have all the interest groups to work for greater sustainability. And the president of the Official Credit Institute (ICO), José Carlos García de Quevedo, explained that the organization's new strategy “takes as a reference the framework on climate and energy for 2030” developed by the European Commission. In fact, the ICO has already made eight issues of social bonds and three of green bonds for an amount of 5,550 million: “We are very transparent about the projects to which that money is allocated and how its social and environmental impact is measured” .
Another of the legs for the recovery, according to the minister, is the agreement between social agents and the Executive in the labor reform, which still has to be approved in parliament. “It is very good for Spain, for economic growth and for employment. That is why we are asking the political forces to approve it soon”, claimed Maroto, who also highlighted the key role of the productive fabric: “One of the great strengths of Spain is its companies, leaders in sectors that can serve as an engine to promote our economy”.
This positive drawing for the coming months is mainly based on the good performance of the labor market, the best thermometer to measure the recovery according to the minister. In fact, if GDP is used, the Spanish economy will foreseeably end this year still below pre-pandemic levels. However, if you look at the labor market, all the employment lost during the pandemic has already been recovered thanks to the help of the ERTE in the hardest part of the pandemic and the vaccination process. “We have managed to recover, in less than a year and a half, the employment levels prior to the pandemic, compared to the 12 years it took us in the previous financial crisis,” the minister stressed to investors.
Maroto, leaving the forum, has also been questioned about the crisis unleashed after Minister Alberto Garzón's statements to a British media, in which the quality of part of the meat that Spain exports was questioned. He did not want to stir up the debate even more, and said that it is a controversy that is being used in an electoral way by the PP with the elections in Castilla y León in the making.
“The quality of our meats and of the exports as a whole from our agri-food industry is excellent. We are a country that exports to more than 100 destinations and I claim the success of the Spain brand, and I claim the quality and excellence of Spanish products, which are part of the success and positioning that Spanish companies have in the world”, concluded Maroto . Ribera, for his part, has assured that “Garzón would not have to resign because of his words.”