CEO of OHL
“We need to have competitive ports. This action is fundamental to our industrial policy as a whole. But we have some years of restricted spending on infrastructure ahead”
Do we need more construction, less construction, or simply to be more modest?
When we talk about construction, we tend to identify it with a certain bad behavior in the so-called “bricks and mortar” economy. It is clear that there was a bubble associated with excesses of all kinds, which, when it burst, generated an extraordinary crisis. Now it seems that residential construction is recovering to a certain extent, since the enormous stock of uninhabited homes already built has been gradually absorbed during the seven and a half years that the crisis has lasted. We hope that we won’t trip over the same stone twice and that we can deal with things better than we did before, having learned some lessons from the past. Another issue is infrastructure. In the case of OHL, we have focused on transport and one-off buildings for years. It is true that in recent decades—basically since the 1980s—Spain has made some very significant investments in this area. The “Barómetro de los Círculos” is an excellent barometer for making comparisons. It is an indicator measuring Spain’s competitive capacity in different spheres, created on the initiative of a set of business associations: the Círculo de Empresarios de Madrid, Círculo de Economía de Barcelona, and Círculo de Empresarios Vascos. When we talk about the provision of infrastructure it is clear that, in contrast to spheres such as education, Spain is above average, with a good network of main roads and motorways, high-speed rail links, and airports. However, there is still much to be done, above all in the area of freight rail transport, the famous corridors that are a basic element of competitiveness for exports and imports. We also probably need to seriously consider expanding our port capacity. Ships are increasing in size, and the immense majority of international goods traffic is moved by sea, meaning that we need to have competitive ports. This action is fundamental to our industrial policy as a whole. So what is the future for Spain in the sphere of infrastructure, given these deficiencies? The construction of one off infrastructure and buildings has a close correlation with budgetary resources, but despite the economic recovery we have some years of restricted spending ahead.
What role does Spanish engineering play in a company like yours?
It is the frontispiece of our strategic plan. All companies are a sum of their people, and the talent that they are capable of accumulating. In a company like ours, where value added comes from our capacity to compete with other companies that are also very talented, engineering is absolutely vital. And that’s where we have the advantage. Within the relatively poor situation of the education sector, there are a few exceptions worth highlighting. One of those is business schools. The other is the quality of our engineers. We have some excellent engineers, and so what is required is the generation of policies to attract and retain talent. We also have to be able to distribute this talent all over the world. Our main challenge is to be local in countries where we have a significant presence, while simultaneously situating our best human resources where they are really needed. And we have to achieve this in a country like Spain, where we have historically been reluctant traveler.