Ramos de Molins & Abogados Asociados


The coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus crisis

Giménez, Madrid’s Minister of Economy: «The hotel and catering industry is not closing down. People have to earn a living».


The man who pilots 20% of Spain’s GDP advances in EL PAÍS the first lines of the region’s budget, which will have 235 million euros in direct aid for trade, tourism and hospitality.


One afternoon in August 2019, the regional vice-president, Ignacio Aguado, called the Malaga economist Manuel Gímenez (Ronda, 38 years old). With a degree in Business Administration and Law from Comillas University and a degree in Politics from the Autonomous University, he accepted the job of Regional Minister of Economy and Competitiveness of the Community of Madrid without hesitation. Since then, he has been in charge of 20% of Spain’s GDP in the region hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Question: What does a man with a technical profile and a non-political background do in a place like this?

Answer: (Silence) To serve. There are only one or none opportunities in life like being the Economic Advisor of the entity that makes up 20% of a country’s economy. When Ciudadanos approached me with three days’ notice, I discussed it with my wife. She had a daughter who was weeks old. I had been working with Ciudadanos for a long time, why did I do it? Because instead of giving advice to others or reflecting from Twitter or from the sofa, you take a risk.

Q. Did you have a special mandate, did you want to introduce something in the Community?

R. The only mandate I was given was independence, professionalisation and international competitiveness. I was told to professionalise the economic policies of the region, which was not one of the most competitive in Europe. Since then, neither the President nor the Vice-President have tried to interfere.

P. Madrid’s economy, in general terms, is based on the capital effect, the brick and mortar sector and the service sector. It is not a very diversified and modern economy.


R. We have an economy with a strong weight of competitive services and this cannot be underestimated. The industrial sector was in the doldrums in the last ten years. We are committed to that. The idea that Madrid was the brain and the factory was in Asia was not the right decision. It is a question of repositioning Madrid within the industries in which we have potential: the aeronautics sector, technologies, the components industry, data, mobility…


P. With the coronavirus, everything has blown up.

R. The technologies that we supported in August 2019 have continued to improve. We are strongly committed to digital training, green employment, the energy transition and the university industry. Have any of these areas lost their relevance due to the crisis? No. We have additional concerns, which is why we have to approve the regional budgets with the utmost urgency. If we are not up to the task in these six months of 2021, any further reflection is useless.

P. You give the impression, although we have not heard it openly from you, that now only the hotel and catering industry is important. If the hotel and catering industry collapses, will Madrid collapse, and is the hotel and catering industry so important that we are always talking about it?

R. I can speak for my area of competence. When the coronavirus is unleashed, we are aware that there are 270,000 people who make a living from commerce, that 85% of them have almost indefinite or full-time employment, that 60% are women and that the traditional commerce model is exposed to a process of technological change that constitutes an opportunity and a source of threats that must be taken into account. And we see that the Basque Country is shrinking at an annual rate of 2.4%, Catalonia at 1.8% and Madrid at 1.1%. We cannot be content with being appreciably better than our comparators. The hotel and catering sector and commerce make a large contribution to Madrid’s GDP. And it is very labour intensive. We cannot neglect the tourism, hotel and catering sector. If each of us then has a greater or lesser sensitivity, that is a shared responsibility between politicians and the media.


P. You say that 80% of infections occur at home, but citizens are not at home 24 hours a day. In Madrid, the traceability of infections is only 16%. How can you know that people are not infected in restaurants or shops if only 16% of the positive cases are tested?

R. What it is… This is a question of scientific evidence, is there any evidence that adopting more restrictive measures against trade and hospitality or the economy in general improves the situation? Whether they are tracked or not, we can see that, with the same lack of information that they talk about, the communities that apply restrictions have not changed the rate of infection.

P. But hospital admissions are decreasing.

R. Not in Castile and Leon, not in Catalonia, not in Portugal, not in Galicia…..

Q. Why is it that the rest do it, why is Madrid the only one to get out of the lane?

R. I can’t answer that. I can say that there is no scientific evidence that it is useful [to close hotels and shops].

P. But you proposed a paralysis in October and now you are not even considering it.

R. Because we know a lot more and that was not useful. We know that in the places where this proposal has been deployed it is not useful.

Q. Are we smarter than Germany and France?

R. If I were to pronounce on health hypotheses and social and economic realities of France or Germany, I would be committing imprudence. In the immediate context, the communities that blame economic activity are not doing any better than Madrid.

Q. Is the Madrid government concerned about health? What is it doing with an incidence of almost 1,000 contagions?

R. We insist that what is useful is testing, screening and isolation of basic health zones. This, according to health experts, is what works. In the meantime, people have to make a living. We have to pay for public services, roads, universities… we have to give people back the reason for their lives.

P. You seem to say that other communities don’t want to recover their lives, does Feijóo in Galicia not want Galicians to recover their lives, does Puig in Valencia not want them to recover their lives either?

R. I think it is tremendously unfortunate that these people to whom you allude are giving their opinion in the sense that they are giving their opinion of Madrid. So… I am not going to give my opinion.

P. Let’s talk about the budget. You say that they are urgent. Months ago you raised it with all the parties and now you are focusing first on agreeing them with Vox.

R. I believe that aid is absolutely urgent. Budgets cannot be postponed. They have to be up to the task. The liberal orthodoxy today is spending. That is what is liberal today and our partner in government has understood this.

Q. Why first with Vox and not with the rest of the parties?

R. It is because it is the most loyal. They gave us the possibility of governing in the investiture. Moreover, it is the quickest way. And these budgets have to be approved now. They are essential. We have 90,000 unemployed and this is a fucking drama. That is why we are going to give 235 million euros in aid in the 2021 budget; 85 million for the self-employed, 85 million for the hotel and catering and tourism sector, 30 million for commerce, 35 million for the industrial sector and aid that can reach up to 30,000 euros per company. These budgets are going to be very useful. In addition to 113 million for active employment policies. In the Ministry of Economy, we have increased the budget by 70% compared to the budget carried over from 2019. This is what we have agreed with no little suffering within the coalition parties. I believe that we have managed to persuade the government partner and I trust that Vox, which talks so much about the self-employed, will prove it.


Q. What deadline has Vox been given to position itself?

R. This is not in my business. If it were up to me, I would give them a yes or no answer. We should never, under any circumstances, go to one month. I think it would be foolhardy.

P. Moving on. In October, 382 companies left Madrid for Catalonia.

R. I don’t celebrate Catalan companies leaving or coming to Madrid as a victory. The best thing that can happen to Madrid and Spain is a strong Catalonia.

Q. 9,000 companies have been deregistered in 2020.

R. Who can be surprised that there are companies going bankrupt? We are not allowing economic activity. If we don’t try to connect the economy with the pandemic…

Q. Is the impact of the pandemic on Madrid’s GDP already known?

R. No. The Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility made an estimate a few days ago and talked about a 7.6% drop. This shows us that, despite being a service sector economy, Madrid’s economy has performed better than that of Catalonia.

P. Foreign investment continues to rise.

R. Yes, money is still coming in. And we have to concentrate on ensuring that it continues in absolute terms because we are aware that the inflow of investment into Madrid is the inflow of investment into Spain. And Madrid has to be the economic engine of Spain. When we defend inward investment, we are thinking of Madrid and Spain. This year we have around 80% of foreign investment because Madrid continues to be a highly reliable point of entry. It is also true that 60% of the big companies are here, but not 60 years ago.

Q. How do you get on with the Minister of Finance, Javier Fernández-Lasquetty?

R. Very well.

Q. Are you both equally liberal?

A. I am more so!

Q. Would you lower taxes more?

R. I think the most liberal thing is equality. You have to pay taxes to have the highest quality public services. Now, with taxes, the minimum to meet that premise. And now with the pandemic, if you prohibit companies from opening their doors, you pay them.

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