BARCELONA – The uncertainty over a possible unilateral declaration of independence which continued to loom Saturday has hit the Catalan economy hard and could be harming its business fabric – mainly made up of SMEs – to a point of no return in the mid-term, various economic analysts have told EFE.
The transfer of corporate headquarters out of Catalonia by companies like CaixaBank and Banco Sabadell, apart from reputed companies from various sectors, has caused concerns due to its symbolic value and a visible cascading effect.
“Those who had planned to invest in Spain are now rethinking it and some of them are already mulling other countries because investments require legal certainty and peace, and they don’t find it here. This is happening,” lawyer and economist Jacint Soler Padro told EFE.
Soler Padro, who heads the Catalonia Civil Society Foundation predicts “an economic catastrophe” for Catalonia and Spain if the current uncertainty is not resolved.
Despite acknowledging that the shifting of company headquarters doesn’t affect the economy directly, he said that it does signal a sense of malfunctioning and mistrust.
Soler Padro, ex-president of the La Seda company and an ex-councilor of the Barcelona city council during the ’70s, said that if political stability is not re-established shortly, the economic disturbances could also start affecting families.
Juan Ignacio Sanz, a professor of law and a banking specialist at the ESADE business school, said that the exit of company headquarters from Catalonia could have collateral effects because this action spills over to other businesses related to corporate life, such as consultancies and auditors.
The professor said that after the departure of big and small banks, Barcelona has stopped being a financial hub, one of the aims of the city in the ’90s when the city could have been called a world leader in international business meetings.
Ignacio Sanz said that even if the political situation stabilizes, companies will take at least 3-5 years before considering a return.
The current instability is also affecting small and medium-size enterprises, which make up the majority of Catalan businesses, according to entrepreneurs contacted by EFE.
A small-time businessman of Barcelona, running a fire-prevention installation and maintenance firm, said that he has noticed effects of the political climate on his business.
“Decisions as small as renewal of extinguishers are being frozen, even though they are obligatory, in the wait to know what will happen,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Roberto Ruiz, another businessman from Barcelona who works in the traditional processing of olives – making green olive paste – said that he is getting progressively less orders from the rest of Spain.
“There is no active boycott of our products, but an unfair attrition and rejection towards Catalonia,” Ruiz said, adding that his small family business was in danger due to falling sales coinciding with the provincial government’s independence bid.