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Speech by President of the Government of Spain at presentation of Spain: Entrepreneurial Nation

Thursday 11 February 2021

María, Carlota, Rosario, Paco, High Commissioner, ministers… and also all the guests who accompany us here today, the high commissioners, State secretaries, secretaries-general, Antonio, representatives of the social stakeholders… thank you very much for attending this very important event for the Government of Spain.

If we go 40 years back, we will remember that the seemingly sound pillars of the productive fabric around the world, including in our country, were questioned by the outbreak of information technologies in our lives, as María rightly reminded us of in her speech; this totally and radically changed the way we communicate, it changed our consumer habits, it even changed the way we participate in public life, as indeed in politics.

The markets were transformed, as was finance, co-existence, science and education, mass communication, which all led to the adoption of new economic policies around the world. That was one of the consequences. This fuelled constant debates in all the productive sectors, because over the course of history we have always sought responses before the arrival of the unexpected, which both Carlota and Rosario mentioned earlier in their eloquent speeches to tackle new situations.

We have now seen the outbreak of a new technology. Well, not an outbreak, the emergence of a new technology rather - the virus has been an outbreak, which has shaken everything we knew to the core. The effect is similar though; it has forced us to think and take decisions at both a public and a private level regarding the present and the future. And one of these decisions must have two pillars. The first must be related to something that Paco has been arguing for as long as I have known him, which is quite a few years now, which is the need to have an entrepreneurial nation strategy, which is what we are presenting here today as the first pillar. And the second pillar is related to something that María brought up and anticipated earlier in her speech, and hence I would like to announce that over the course of the coming weeks we will bring before the Council of Ministers an historic demand from start-ups, which is the first Start-up Act in Spain, which will become a reality in a matter of weeks.

The Council of Ministers will approve the draft bill of the Law to Promote the Ecosystem of Emerging Companies, which is what this Start-up Act will be known as in just a few weeks.

What will this law do? Well, this law will recognise the specific nature of emerging companies, which has always been demanded by start-ups, as companies with a high potential for growth and job creation. By the way, with more and better quality wealth and innovation, this will also facilitate administrative formalities, help retain and attract the necessary talent, forge greater convergence between vocational training, universities and emerging companies, and, as I said at the latest edition of the Web Summit, this will include tax breaks and also investment incentives, which are questions Paco - the High Commissioner - has also mentioned on a great many occasions.

In summary, if 2020, as has been mentioned here, was the year of the pandemic and of the virus, it was also the year of tremendous resilience which I feel not just the public institutions have shown but also all the companies present here - the productive fabric represented here - then we want 2021 to be the year of vaccination, the year of the great recovery that our country needs, at the hands of all our entrepreneurs.

We must remain focused, all on the same mission, which must be to set up companies, start-ups and create jobs at full speed, as Rosario mentioned earlier. To do that, I believe that the start-ups need a strategy, which is what we are presenting today, and a specific legal framework through this first Start-up Act - a demand which, as well as historical, is highly necessary, due to the ecosystem that has been developed. On many occasions, this is somewhat the perception that I have had when I have had the chance to speak with you in recent months, sometimes even behind the back of the public authorities, as if relations with the public authorities were an obstacle or frustrating. And what we want is, as Paco rightly mentioned, to do this together so that you can see the public authorities as an ally to enhance certainty and confidence in the development of all these projects and to make these dreams a reality.

We would do well to remember how all of this has speeded up. You have said this in a very eloquent manner. Just 11 months ago, almost a year ago, we declared the state of emergency for the first time, this health emergency, which also has socio-economic consequences, as you mentioned earlier and which has taught us many important lessons that we have been taking on-board and learning from with a great deal of humility over this last year and as time goes by and the virus evolves. We are clearly now more aware of these great lessons that we must all learn from, while recognising the conclusions stemming from these.

And I would like to share two of these lessons at this event, as the starting point of what we understand as "Spain: entrepreneurial nation", and consequently, a nation of opportunities. I also believe, María, that all those of us here are tremendously lucky, together with millions of fellow countrymen, to have been born and live in this great country of Spain. Carlota also mentioned before not just in relation to climate but when one leaves Spain you realise our great potential and the huge advantages we have, and also clearly the tremendous luck to have been born, grown up and be able to live in this great country.

The first of these lessons that I would like to share with you is that a crisis can be tackled in many ways. You can come out of it with greater inequality, which is one of the main challenges we face and which is not just a question of social justice but also of economic resilience. I believe that this is one of the great lessons that we must take away from this new crisis. Hence, we may come out of it with greater or lesser inequality. It can be overcome with an old-fashioned economy and paralysed or with a digitalised and more competitive economy. It may be exited without policies, which allows us o continue destroying the planet we live on or with public policies adapted to the reality, which contribute to social well-being and to a more sustainable economy.

Science has been telling us for many years that Spain is a great country, with a tremendous and rich biodiversity, but that we also run the risk of losing all this potential as a result of climate change. And it is true that we are just a very small part of the world, but if we do not contribute, as Carlota rightly mentioned before, with our small contribution to make the world more sustainable, then the impact will clearly be even greater on our economy, on our country, than elsewhere.

Hence, the ecological transition, and when I speak about the ecological transition, I am also speaking about the digital transition and this threefold inclusion that Paco mentioned before - the integration, let's say, of these transitions from a social and territorial perspective - so that we not only do not leave anyone behind but also leave no region behind, which is very important in both decision making and in the public policies of this government.

The second is that such a major crisis as we are going through will not be overcome without unity, without the power of public-private alliances. If anything has become clear in this time it is the value of unity and of forging alliances. And in this regard, taking the opportunity of the presence of the President of the CEOE, I would like to stand up for the social stakeholders and for the very difficult agreement that we have had to reach, under pressure from all sides, to offer some certainty, confidence and maintain a productive fabric that, as Carlota rightly reminded us of earlier, could crumble, not due to a lack of competitiveness, but due to the demands of fighting a virus that is unknown to science, which was more unknown before than now, one we are still not familiar with in many regards, as we are seeing, for example, in the question of the new variants we are suffering from in many parts of the world.

So, we need unity. Unity, I believe, is what the European Union conveyed to us in the agreement back in July, with this great Recovery Fund, this great Marshall Plan, which had seemed like a mere pipe-dream until then, but which is now here to stay and not only provides us with a vision but also with resources. And this also imposes a great responsibility on all departments and on companies. In this regard, with the permission of the ministers of these departments, I would like to acknowledge the work of Secretary-General Manolo de la Rocha, because I believe he is doing an extraordinary job to also be able to assemble all the pieces. There are many people who are less well-known but who are as important as the people we are more familiar with. And Manolo, like many, is one of them.

Unity from all the public authorities in this area of co-governance. On many occasions, I speak with other leaders who ask which institutional system is the most effective in fighting the pandemic. A decentralised or a centralised system? Well, I feel that all the democracies in Europe, some of which are more centralised and others more decentralised, know that this is a virus that calls on unity from everyone, don't you think? Both from the public sector and from the private sector, not to mention from all tiers of government. We have opted, quite intelligently I believe, for this co-governance, because we recognise Title VIII of our Constitution, which means sharing jurisdictions.

And unity from political parties. I believe that this has been very good news, which I also want to share with you. In short, we have had to tackle this pandemic with a National Budget extended since 2018. This gives any business owner an idea of the effort that has had to be made from the perspective of work, and not just in the employment of resources, but also of regulations that we have had to approve in record time through the Councils of Ministers, two or three a week, to be able to efficiently employ the resources to tackle this pandemic and its social and economic consequences.

We now have a new National Budget, let's say, in line with the economic situation we face and with a vision of the country that I would like to underline. And, as I mentioned before, clearly with unity between the social stakeholders and also to protect jobs. And on this matter I also want to recognise the work being done in the whole economic spectrum. And here we are accompanied by José Luis and also by Reyes, in this work they have done and developed to even protect the self-employed and associations, some of which are here with us at this event.

I agree with this economist who I feel has been vindicated over time - Mariana Mazzucato - who says that public authorities must finance and back decisive sectors, and that we must modernise our Welfare State because it is true that many of our inequalities, which José Luis has said on many occasions, are related to the design of public redistribution policies that precisely penalise the most vulnerable groups, such as young people. And we have here with us the High Commissioner for Child Poverty. Just a few days ago, we presented this Child Poverty Alliance between the public sector and the private sector, to give us a total of 50 or more companies and foundations. Two years ago, when we began there were very few members, very few institutions and very few companies. Many of them were doing things but in a very disparate fashion. And we have aligned them. But anyway, this is an eloquent example of child poverty, of the failure of our Welfare State and our needs have changed, and are continually changing, and we must redefine many policies under our Welfare State.

We can see in our country that what we thought was pressing before the pandemic is now urgent. And I believe you can see that in the private sector more than in the public sector. It is clear that we must strengthen our health system, we must digitalise our economy, we must speed up the ecological transition, we must guarantee and strengthen social cohesion; equality between men and women cannot be put off anymore, because there are indeed some victims, not just in the present and in the future, which is unacceptable in relation to the participation of women in the job market. In short, now is the time to close gaps and press on.

That is why we are going to implement the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan now. The National Budget includes more than 20 billion euros to anticipate the economic resources we will receive from Brussels. And this, I feel, shows that we are committed to a pressing recovery and to reversing the negative consequences in the economic and social sectors.

The Plan, as you know, is backed by some 140 billion euros from this Next Generation EU Fund, which I believe is a great and unrivalled opportunity for Spain to transform and modernise. I wish to convey my excitement to you on this matter. I am very hopeful and buoyant. I also have great confidence in our institutions, in the social and economic stakeholders, in ensuring that this Plan is a true success. Well, this is not a politically correct statement, but I wholeheartedly believe that. We will draw down this amount of 72 billion euros over the first three years, as you know, through the scheduled direct transfers provided for in this Plan, under the principles of efficacy, and of the sustainability of the socio-economic impact. I feel that, and you know this Antonio, the Royal Decree-Law we have approved to govern these funds, and above all to see how quickly we can inject liquidity and remove all these bottle-necks, is fundamental. We will do this, as I said before, through the National Budget.

I absolutely believe that there are moments that change the history of a country; I always quote the example of the structural funds in the 1980s and 90s, which amounted to 8 billion euros over six years, which changed the country in terms of infrastructures and competitiveness. Now we are talking about 140 billion euros over six years plus the multiannual financial framework, and hence, the economic resources that will come through policies for such competitive sectors as agri-food and science, through the programmes financed by the European Union. In short, we have a heavy responsibility because this is a great opportunity. And this is what I have conveyed to the ministers and their teams, and I feel that we have all taken this on-board and are fully aware of it.

Hence, there are moments that change the history of a country. There are times when a country must take important decisions with a view not to the coming months, not even to the coming years, but to the coming decades and generations. That is why I am wearing the badge of the 2030 Agenda, because I feel it is very important to give, at times of such upheaval, of such rapid change, a 10-year perspective. This does not mean not doing anything now; on the contrary, the near future is very pressing, but we must be aware of the horizon we wish to give to our country.

That is why I believe it is very important to give a perspective to the projects of companies and of our policies, despite the economic situation and the complexity of the times. Some people get angry with me because they say that "the legislature ends in 2023"; "let's wait and see how the Spanish people vote in 2023". While this is true, we are under an obligation to design a future that transcends elections, terms of office and you even find different parties, through State pacts - we are talking at this time about the State Pact for Science as one of the great lessons to take away from this pandemic. What would we have done without the contribution from science and the remedy of the vaccine?

In short, I believe that the 2008 crisis affected, as María reminded us earlier, Spain. This undermined the confidence of the markets and of people, and also of the democratic institutions. And I feel it is very important to also take that into consideration, which is why we have given so much importance to social and territorial integration in all these transitions, because that is the basis for the legitimisation of our democratic system.

One of the main reasons was our productive model, which was over-dependent on a very competitive sector that we defended, which was the real estate sector, whereby a country, just like a company, clearly cannot live from just one sector, or from just one or two.

This crisis, which is different, cannot be tackled with the same prescriptions as for that one. I believe that the Government of Spain has this clear, as does Europe. I also believe that all the economic and social sectors have this clear. I feel that Spain is capable of overcoming this crisis, of modernising the foundations of our productive system, of marking a milestone in our own history without leaving anyone behind, with greater equality and more social justice. And this, in short, is, if you will allow me this thought which may seem abstract, what calls us all here to this event, the Entrepreneurial Nation Strategy.

Firstly, for me the Entrepreneurial Nation Strategy is a key piece in the socio-economic recovery of the country. It represents a country mission, employing this term by Mazzucato. This is a country mission with a tremendous transforming potential and an invitation, as Paco, the High Commissioner, rightly said before, for us all to participate: the self-employed, social stakeholders, universities, entrepreneurs, the world of culture…, in short, everyone.

This 10-year roadmap seeks to trace out the path of alliances to make this path more robust and sustainable over time. It seeks to lay the foundations to release and stimulate talent, creativity and the imagination of our whole country. And in the end, isn't that what entrepreneurialism is? Uniting talent with the will to create, and I feel that in both cases Spain is awash with this, with talent and with a will to create.

Thus, the first thing for me is that this is a key element in the transformation and recovery of the country.

Secondly, at this important time, in the words of Rosario - we must also choose the right time as entrepreneurs - I feel that the watershed of history has placed us all, in the different areas we represent, at an historic moment in which we must do everything possible to modernise our productive model and commit to three drivers of change in Spain.

The first is education, which all the speakers here have mentioned at some point in time, which I feel is key. Experience lays the foundations, the pillars for learning. LabsLand began as a prolongation of Deusto University but this company has now developed a method so that students can undertake work experience in robotics, in physics, in technology in virtual laboratories that belong to the universities of any country without physically attending. They experiment with the Internet in real time. In 2016, these schools were made virtual throughout Europe. Since these centres were closed during the lockdown, the use of LabsLand technology logically increased. This company has proven to be a good example of the inexistence of barriers to education. In April last year, it was collaborating with 24 universities from 14 different countries and the government aspires, and this is the commitment on our part, for our education system to be a source to tackle any life or professional challenge facing our young people.

With a view, as I said before, to the coming decades, I believe that we are laying the foundations for this great revolution in education. From a legislative perspective we have approved the LOMLOE, which provides a landing platform, among many other things, to be able to truly tackle pending issues, such as a change in the teaching methodology of our teachers, a revolution in vocational training, which will find a legislative enactment in the Vocational Training Act that will be approved in the coming months and I hope will be resolved before the end of the year; and then you obviously have new aspects, such as the re-definition of the teaching degree in our country, which is another of the pending tasks for the public authorities.

Hence, education. Let's think about future professions, let's adapt teaching to the pace of the world, and it is fundamental and a priority to make training applicable for the development of an entrepreneurial and innovative culture.

To this end, the second driver, after education, is research, development and innovation, which Paco mentioned before. This commitment must be shared between both the public sector and the private sector. A commitment that we view as a generator of knowledge, of our products and our services. In this regard, I believe that the Minister for Science is doing an extraordinary job through the CDTI. We had the chance, just a few weeks ago, to present the country missions in Alcobendas. And I feel that is the path we must plot out. As regards this driver, I believe that we will be able to build more prosperous societies and lay the foundations for economic growth and business activity. And together with that, innovative entrepreneurship, which we consider to be the most productive sector in advanced economies to drive the transformation of more traditional productive sectors.

In short, training; we need researchers, science, our own technology, our own science and technology to ensure we have entrepreneurs capable of developing products that improve our society and create wealth.

And lastly, the Entrepreneurial Nation Strategy has clear the goals it seeks to attain.

Firstly, to speed up the processes to mature investment in our country. Secondly, to convert our country into a haven for talent, which means attracting international talent and retaining national talent. And thirdly, a commitment to the scale of our companies, which is something you mentioned, María, in relation to financing. And fourthly, a public entrepreneurial sector. The public sector must be flexible and entrepreneurial, so as to promote innovation and productivity.

And in this regard, through country missions, for example, through the CDTI, I believe that the public sector can assimilate a great deal of innovation and also learn some very good things from the private sector. In other words, this commitment the public authorities are making must be positive to make our sector more efficient.

We have called the following sectors driving sectors: industry; tourism; culture and sport; mobility; health; sustainable renewal, in the field that Carlota mentioned before - energy and the ecological transition; finance; digitalisation and telecommunications; agri-food and biotechnology.

These are the 10 sector we have defined as driving sectors under this Entrepreneurial Nation Strategy.

Spain is the 13th largest economy in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund. We offer very attractive domestic markets, which I feel are among the most attractive in Europe. And until the impact of the health emergency, the UN World Tourism Organization placed our country as the second-ranked tourist destination in the world, with 2019 setting new records, as the minister is well aware.

In 2016 and 2018, Spain's real GDP grew by around 3%, exceeding the average of the economies in the Eurozone. Hence we have some very exciting reasons, I believe, for believing in ourselves; what we sometimes lack is belief in ourselves as a country, which has a great many opportunities for prospering.

We can achieve our goals by working as from now, which we are doing by presenting this Strategy, the driving sectors in which Spain is tremendously well-positioned. We want and we can compete at a global level, and this is also important, and we know that the impact of innovation can generate great benefits for the economy and for society as a whole.

But above all, this Entrepreneurial Nation Strategy is designed to have a greater social impact in our country. And this is something that Paco Polo, the High Commissioner, is very committed to and which I believe is very important to underline. Within the scope of the 2030 Agenda, we want our country to undertake a new path that improves all our lives, placing people at the heart of policies, not just speaking about GDP, which is also important, but about human beings. We want to see much more and much better distributed development.

And what does that mean? It means addressing the gaps we have in a cross-cutting fashion. The gaps exist. We mentioned the gender gap before, the socio-economic gap, the territorial gap, the generational gap, which also receives a special mention in this Strategy.

Measures that seek to achieve all the goals; the High Commissioner recommends 50 measures contained in this Strategy

The first is to create an international programme to attract talent, particularly female talent. The High Commissioner has been speaking in recent months, and I feel that it is indeed this distinction that differentiates us from many other countries that already have these plans to attract talent, but not female talent. I believe that what we want is to reduce the gender gap and push through this fourth great transformation of our economic policy, which means full, real and effective equality between men and women. And commit, in short, to the talent of women is a strategic question of principles for a country. Commit to overcome these gender inequalities in the STEM subjects that Rosario mentioned before. Lastly, attract talent and retain talent, but above all of women is a priority.

The second measure. What we want is to create the Spain: Entrepreneurial Nation Brand. I feel that this is a country brand that must overarch all the initiatives related to innovative entrepreneurship. This brand must generate a feeling of belonging, which is something very important throughout society. We must position our country much better at an international level, as an attractive country to live in, to be an entrepreneur and to invest. Hence, as well as attracting and retaining female talent, we must create a specific Spain: Entrepreneurial Nation Brand.

And thirdly, a measure I believe has a suggestive name - RENACE - which is the National Entrepreneurial Centre Network. This consists of promoting a network of incubators and accelerators that could be public, private or mixed, and this initiative, which will be set in motion by strengthening already existing networks, wherever they may be, must foster an entrepreneurial spirit and innovation throughout the country to address this territorial cohesion I mentioned before, and thus have a knock-on effect on this productive capacity of our country.

María said this before; I feel that the fact that we have five very well positioned cities in the area we want to see as the vanguard in leadership is a tremendous opportunity to be developed from a perspective of territorial cohesion and multiply our possibilities.

I would like to underline some of the measures I mentioned that are being implemented in a cross-cutting fashion, along with the rest of the measures, a good number of which are included in this plan, which will receive resources from the European fund to introduce them. It is also very important to underline this.

This Strategy is a decisive commitment to make the most effective and competitive sectors even more so and the least effective and competitive ones less so. We have some very small companies, for example, that have no financial capacity, you mentioned some of them before, or logistical capacity to survive when faced with problems of any nature. We have seen this in recent months. We want to help correct this weakness. Our interest is not to reduce the number of viable companies, quite the opposite; we want to strengthen them so that they can tackle any difficulties, whatever the causes beyond the scope of their nature, as in the case of the pandemic we are going through.

We don't want to change the business identity that characterises them. We want to strengthen them. I would also like to remind you of this. We want to prepare them to face any circumstance or adversity with an innovative spirit.

And I believe that Spain is full of great business achievements, great case studies. You have shared some of these here today, but there are many more. This is also important.

These stories, dozens of them, are the key springboards for modernisation, for the growth of our productive fabric. They sustain the transformation of our economic structure and are an unrivalled opportunity to increase productivity and competitiveness through the development of technologies and innovative systems.

We simply want to answer the question the High Commissioner raised in his introduction. What country do we want to have? What country to we want to be in a few years?

I believe we want Spain to be a beacon for entrepreneurs, for start-ups from all around the world. We believe in Spain as a nation of opportunities, which is, in short, what this Strategy amounts to. This Strategy also seeks to attract investment, make our country a place in the world where start-ups are not only born, but where they also receive sufficient funding to scale the world.

We want to build a 21st Century Spain, where everyone has the same opportunities to develop their talent in the digital era.

We don't want a country where only 1% of society is privileged to the detriment of the opportunities of the other 99%, because that is absolutely unsustainable economic development.

We want Spain to be an innovative nation and a beacon to attract investment by 2030. We want Spain to be exemplary in everything related to equality between men and women by 2030. We also want to be at the vanguard in labour relations to be able to capitalise on 100% of the talent in our society. What we cannot do is turn our backs on 51% of the talent of our society. And believe me when I say we will take that into close account in our public policies.

We want Spain to be full of opportunities by 2030, including in the rural environment, not just in cities, in the north and in the south, without distinction.

And I said at the start that there are times in which a country must take key decisions thinking about future generations. And when I say decisions, we must all take these decisions at a business level and also at a political level. That time is now. We want to see a new entrepreneurial nation, with a great social emphasis and the fairest in our history. And I believe, High Commissioner, that we have all the attributes to achieve this.

It is obviously a great privilege for me, not just María, Carlota and Rosario, you have also mentioned ministers, colleagues and friends, as the President of the Government, to feel this time and this tremendous responsibility and this great opportunity for our country to take this leap towards modernisation which, in short, is a leap towards the prosperity and progress that our country needs and deserves. We will do everything in the public sector possible in this alliance with all of you to make Spain the place it deserves to be.

We have clearly gone through some complicated months and still have some tough weeks ahead, but I am convinced that between us all, we will be able to put this pandemic behind us; as time goes by, this period becomes shorter. And let's see this year become the year of the recovery.

Let's make this recovery have the values mentioned here in your speeches. The value of integration, the value of a vision of the future, of a much more sustainable world, much fairer from the point of view of cohesion and of real and effective equality between men and women, and of a world that is also more digital, which precisely incorporates this digitalisation, not just in terms of connection but in the decision making of a great many companies that are already driving forces but need to take this extra leap.

I believe that the examples you have passed on are quite eloquent in terms of where the driving sectors of our economy must head. That is clearly how we have appreciated it and we will invest all the resources, will-power and political energy we have to make this possible.

Thank you very much for coming here to your home. This is the home of all the men and women of Spain - Moncloa Palace.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation