If venturing to make predictions on issues of the economic, political and social order is risky, this year it is even more so. I was reflecting on this a few days ago when I took part in the forum organised by El País and KREAB with the idea of putting the challenges that await us in 2021 on the table.
I agreed with my colleagues there that the only certainty for the future is that uncertainty will remain and it is in that context that we must operate. The companies that have survived the global crisis caused by COVID-19 in recent months are working on their recovery, ensuring that recovery is long-lasting and sustainable.
The other day I read an article signed by the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Suzanne Clark, in which she talked about a post COVID-19 recovery in the form of a “K”, and what that meant. “What we’re looking at is a recovery that will be vigorous for some sectors while others remain in freefall”. According to this interpretation, there could be a recovery that would increase inequalities between sectors, but also between countries and between people. We have to lay the groundwork to avoid this scenario.
If this pandemic has made one thing clear, it is that in this connected world, there is no place for acting or thinking in isolation. Therefore, in order to mitigate the effects caused by COVID-19 and to achieve a long-term sustainable recovery for all, reaching basic agreements, both at national and European level, and even globally, is imperative. We must not forget that this “fight” is not “one against the other” but “all against one”.
Strengthening multilateralism and collaboration between countries is vital if we are to tackle the challenges ahead. From the perspective of a committed euro-enthusiast, close cooperation between EU countries at the beginning of the pandemic could have been crucial in better dealing with the virus. The efforts made by many countries and in particular by the Spanish Government have once again united Europe, inciting the EU to approve the Recovery Plan for Europe, the largest aid programme in Europe’s history.
For Spain, this EU plan represents an opportunity to promote “attractor projects” that will transform the Spanish economy. It is important to drive forward innovation in Spain with both an ambitious and solid investment plan, the resources from which must be directed towards the technological development of an entire value chain. They must be projects that attract investment and generate stable employment. To do so we need adequate and appropriate regulations to continue competing in a global world.
Another undeniable challenge is the process of decarbonisation, which could be used as a lever to promote the type of projects referred to above. This must also be promoted globally and with a common goal to avoid affecting the competitiveness of our industries. Germany underlines this issue in the report For a strong Steel industry in Germany and Europe on the decarbonisation of the German steel sector, which concludes by stating that if decarbonisation is not a global commitment, German industry would lose competitiveness.
I will conclude by mentioning the 2030 Agenda, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary this week, because it represent the backbone of our recovery plans. “When governments have come together, the results have changed people’s lives, with considerable advances in access to health and education, and in the fight against extreme poverty and hunger,” states Fabrizio Hochschild, United Nations Under-Secretary-General Special Adviser, in an article published by the Spanish Network of the Global Compact.