KITE Invest met with the Mayor of Madrid, Hon. Ana Botella to discuss the most relevant matters concerning the benefits of investing in the city of Madrid.
KITE Invest: Improving the investment climate offers an excellent opportunity for countries seeking to attract foreign direct investment. Taking this point into consideration do you think the Spanish economy has recovered to the point where it can be spoken about positively?
Mayor Ana Botella: Generally speaking, I think we can. The IMF has determined that Europe as a whole is leaving the recession behind, and according to some Spain will grow by 1%, and ever by 1.5% according to others. We have passed the recession and are beginning to see the tunnel exit. Now we have to fight our main problem: unemployment and especially, the youth unemployment.
KITE: What are some key aspects of the Spanish economy you could highlight?
Mayor Botella: In the last two years there have been two fundamental changes. One is the reform of the financial system, and the other is labor system. Both are very important and now what is missing is the credit flow.
Over these two years, we have increased our competitiveness dramatically. During this time Spain is one of the countries in Europe that has done more in this regard, and our trade figures prove it. I believe there is one fundamental thing, and that is that we had a huge debt crisis and we have already settled and financed ours to the same price as the American debt.
A few years ago when Spain found itself in the worst position of the crisis, the permanence of the euro was questioned, both here in Spain and across Europe. That problem, without a doubt, has passed and the crisis felt across Europe has ended and resulted in a stronger European Union. No one doubts that the European Union is one of the most important economies in the world.
KITE: FDI accounts for an impressive 11 percent of the global GDP and more than 80 million jobs worldwide (UNCTAD 2010). Today there is greater potential for developing and transition economies to take advantage of job creation and investment opportunities by attracting FDI. With Madrid accounting for 1/5 of the country’s GDP and attracting the majority of FDI, what measures do you consider to be the best in order to attract more foreign capital?
Mayor Botella: We have made some of the greatest transformations made by a European city. As a result, Spain has excellent infrastructure, specifically, our urban public transport system and we have one of the most important European airports. Beyond this, there are many improvements in process that will also greatly increase the productivity of the city of Madrid.
Moreover, we are facilitating investment in Spain. We continually try to remove bureaucratic obstacles or barriers, and facilitate to the greatest extent as legally possible, more investment directed towards Madrid.
We constantly encourage those who want to undertake and innovate, and for employment and self-employment to be easier, as we think it is one of the best ways out of the crisis. We also propose a declaration system whereby one simply needs to submit the documentation required to start a business, as a means to ease the creation of business.
KITE: What reasons would you give British business elites that are interested in investing in Spain to establish headquarters in capital?
Mayor Botella: Among other things, Madrid and Spain have a good geographical location, considering how close we are from North Africa. Taking into consideration that until recently, nobody thought that some parts of the African continent would begin to develop so well.
We are the capital of a community of 500 million Spanish speakers and this expansion to Latin America is essential. Spain looks to both Europe and the Atlantic. Moreover, Spain is a country with legal and public safety. Madrid is the third safest city in the world, after Vienna and Copenhagen, as according to various reports.
KITE: Spain has become one of the largest investors in the UK – with their investment totalling more than the whole of Latin America’s combined. Between 2001 and 2010 the net investment flow was €97.5 billion, surpassing the whole of Latin America investments of €78.9 billion. For the City Council of Madrid what are the factors that are most valued in terms of preserving and deepening bilateral relationship between the two countries?
Mayor Botella: These are two countries that have historically had a very good relationship and among the many aspects to consider, the language factor has gained great importance in recent years. Learning Spanish has become increasingly important for British as English speaking is for Spaniards, causing the relationship to narrow even more.
British tourism is very important for us, not only in terms of the sun and the beaches, but also cultural and gastronomic tourism is growing.
Additionally, Madrid is the Spanish city with the highest number of international corporate headquarters. Quality of life means for those who settle here are in Madrid with important conditions and ties abroad, and they may live abroad comfortably with low prices and a cohesive society.
KITE: Spain has become one of the largest investors in the UK in terms of spearheading innovation in education, prioritising English language teaching, digitalising the classroom and increasing the development skills and competences levels. All of which offer significant opportunities for British companies in areas such as corporate training, digital content and educational technology. Given the importance of education, and as another factor that attracts British students and investment to Madrid, please shed light on the Spanish education system and specifically within Madrid?
Mayor Botella: In Madrid there are the best universities in the country, all of the official research centers, and three of our business schools are among the top ten in the world. These schools create networks of friends and tend to attract people who have influence in their countries of origin. This influence results in good consequences for Spain and more specifically for the city of Madrid.
KITE: In conclusion, what final message would you give to engage both the British public and the British business elite in the effort to further strengthen the ties that bind both countries, to attract tourism and students, and to encourage more Spain-UK synergies.
Mayor Botella: In addition to the already mentioned, we must take into account the quality of life offered by Spain and Madrid. Composed of good infrastructure, competitiveness, inclusive society, freedom, and a cosmopolitan city geographically well located, the quality of life and leisure, shopping, dining, as well as legal and public safety are just a few of the top attributes. Madrid is above all a city with a great zest for life.