Jorge Sendagorta

President of SENER

“In Spain, the state has had much closer ties with construction or energy companies than with industry”

What changes do you think should be made to the sectorial distribution of economic activity in Spain?

I personally am not very keen on the idea of a country that depends excessively on climate and tourism—no matter how favorable the weather—or the restaurant trade, although recently food is a truly extraordinary and innovative industry that is experiencing a colossal boom. Industry and technology are very important, and they are areas where Spain has lagged behind somewhat. In a world that is changing at an extraordinary speed, we should not be in a position where we merely assimilate technologies developed by others because we are behind, although there is no doubt that we are trailing less in technology than before. But it is terrible that countries like Korea, China, India, or Mexico can snap up opportunities that we have not been able to take. Industry is the source of high-quality employment: these are jobs that require more training, and are better paid and more stable than those created in other sectors. We have some decent sectors that are pretty well developed but they do not have a sufficient weight overall to yield adequate industrialization. In fact, the weight of industry within the Spanish economy has fallen considerably over the last 15 years. I would like us to return to levels of at least around 20 percent of GDP.

Do we need a reindustrialization policy or a new industrial policy to achieve this?

It’s all very well to let the market do its job, but the truth is that in many sectors the countries we are competing with do not leave everything up to the market, intervening in one way or another. For example, in France the state has very strong ties to industry. There are other measures that aren’t to do with protection or complicity but rather with direct promotion, and we also have to compete with countries that use those kinds of measures. For example, the United Kingdom has an aerospace technology training program that we really envy at Sener because it is a long-term commitment, over ten years, with state commitment to helping industries develop a series of next-generation products, while the industries themselves also pledge to make significant investment. In Spain, the state has had much closer ties with construction or energy companies, for example. Meanwhile, its links with industry have been very, very weak.

Sener ’s market is increasingly international. Does this create a problem of dimensions and capacity when competing abroad?

Not having a domestic market is an enormous problem over the medium and long term. It is true that Spain made a generally extraordinary effort to develop infrastructures and equipment between 2000 and 2012, approximately, with new airports, high-speed rail, LNG terminals, combined cycle power plants, renewable energies, updating all of the country’s refineries, and so on. This has created a store of knowledge and know-how, a whole catalogue of recent references, that has placed Spanish industry, engineering, and construction in an optimal position to compete abroad. But we need opportunities in Spain if we are to commit to new undertakings. And this lack of opportunity will be felt, eventually. We hope that this situation doesn’t last long, but it is already noticeable.