Much has been said in the last weeks about the positioning of the business sector with regard to the political and economic circumstances that we are experiencing.
FemCAT Secretary, 03/11/2009
In 2005 a group of Catalan business leaders created FemCAT with the intention of putting our skills and knowledge in the service of Catalonia. Our manifesto describes the vision that joins us and the commitment that we have formulated to achieve a better country for our children.
Avui newspaper, 21/05/2008
Nobody has defined a clear strategy beyond the next elections. Now we must gain in confidence, have ambition, and a higher level of self-esteem.
Catalan Parliament, 14/06/2007
This afternoon, in the Parliament meeting room, its President, Ernest Benach, and Joaquim Boixareu, the Chairman of FemCAT, the business and top executives private foundation, signed an agreement to implement the program "Businesses and Parliament"
Avui newspaper, 21/05/2008
FUTURE: Nobody has defined a clear strategy beyond the next elections.
ATTITUDE: Now we must gain in confidence, have ambition, and a higher level of self-esteem.
CATALAN SOCIETY: We have the most important raw material for the 21st Century, our people.
From an institution such as FemCAT (Private Employers' Foundation) it is difficult to assess where Catalonia is going. Perhaps it would be better to ask ourselves: where do we want Catalonia to go? Neither do we have any magic formula to give us any indication, nor any specific study, but rather an impression that in our country nobody has defined a long-term strategy, that is, there is no clear road-book indicating where we want to go. In the business world this would be an absolute necessity. On the other hand, in a question as important as the future of a whole country, we have the impression that there are no plans that extend beyond the next elections.
Therefore, where exactly do we want Catalonia to go? Facing this question eighteen months ago, our foundation decided to make a benchmarking trip to a country we consider a reference point: Finland. This type of initiative is very common in the business world. Whenever you want to improve your products or become more competitive in your production processes you have to invest in research and innovation in the company, but it is also very good to know what your most direct competitors are doing. With the visit of a large contingent of decision makers to Finland we wanted to learn how this country had resolved a situation of serious economic crisis at the beginning of the nineties when the fall of the old Soviet Union led to a loss of the major part of their markets. Since then, in a little more than ten years, Finland has made a spectacular change and, according to all international rankings, has become one of the most competitive countries in the world.
Our purpose was to determine just what the formula had been so that we could extract the positive consequences applicable to Catalonia. Under the basic concepts of long term, focus (concrete measures) and trust (confidence between public and private agents), at the beginning of the 90s Finland decided to give priority to three main policies: internationalisation, innovation and research, and education. The continued effect of the effort in these three areas (irrespective of the changes of government and parliament), made this country one of the most advanced in the world in a very short time. It has changed from being an economy with a high degree of dependence on a single market to one of the most internationalised in the world (Finland only represents, for example, 2% of Nokia's total sales); to invest almost 4% of its GNP in R&D&I, and to hold first place on the PISA ranking which measures schoolchildren's performance. This experience was very constructive for FemCAT. It led us to believe that, in spite of the cultural differences between Finnish and Catalan people, the exercise that country undertook could be a good example for us to follow. Are we not facing an economic crisis that demands exceptional measures just like those that had to be implemented by Finland? We do not really think so despite the problems now being faced by the real-estate sector. Catalonia has a solid industrial system; one that has made a very considerable effort at internationalisation over the last few years. We think the best idea would be to take advantage of our potential and not give in to a pessimistic approach. We must fall back on the industrial potential of our country, not only because industry brings qualified work, but also because it generates a powerful associated service sector.
Now we must win confidence, have ambition and greater self-esteem because we have the most important raw material for the 21st century: our people. The Catalan society has been able to create two of the most prestigious business schools in the world, a society which has doctors, elite sportspersons, scientists, economists, restaurateurs, etc. on the highest international level. We can, therefore, follow the Finnish example, not only by applying the priorities that they decided to implement in the long term, but also by public and private agents acting for the common good. They have done so successfully and in a short period of time. Why can't we try it too?
Joaquim Boixareu (Barcelona,1959) Bachelor's Degree in Business and MBA from ESADE. Chairman of FemCAT. CEO of Irestal Group. First Vicepresident of UPM - Uniˇ Patronal Metal.l˙rgica (Metal Industry Employers' Union).PDF File (Catalan Version)