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by Adrian Piera 
19 May 1989

GUIDEPOST cover, 19 May 1989


On May 9th, 1989, ADRIAN PIERA, President of the Madrid Chamber of Commerce and Industry gave an address at the Spanish Institute of New York. Convinced that “historians will consider the decade which is about to end, the beginning of a new Golden Age,” he spoke of Spain, Europe and the World. Below are excerpts from his talk.



Freedom works!

Western countries, led by the United States, have experienced during the last decade a period of prosperity unknown since the fifties and sixties. We have regained the secret of economic success which we seemed to forget during the sad seventies when growth decreased and almost disappeared. At that time, decline in the form of inflation and unemployment seemed to have taken over our countries, and our future as a rich and prosperous community was filled with dark clouds.

Ironically, during that period of stagnation the State did not stop growing, bureaucracy and taxes continued increasing and therefore innovation quickly became exhausted. Slowly but surely, the more industrialized countries started to think that the State was the problem and not the solution. We remembered that Government, by itself, cannot stimulate the economy in a stable manner, but what it can do is set it free.

Columbus discovers America: “He found the money to make his dream come true”

Since the Western nations gave liberty back to their economies, they have seen levels of income, employment and well-being grow again. The theme of the eighties could very well be summarized as “freedom works”.

Yes, free enterprise is on the march, and it does so because, among other things, there has appeared a new generation of entrepreneurs that has produced a re-birth of creative imagination. But this is not new. Hundreds of years ago, Columbus held tightly to his dream and found the money that took him to the end of his trip and the result was the discovery of America; other men, leaving Europe arrived as pilgrims to the coasts of New England on the Mayflower and their dream became that magnificent reality which is now the United States of America. Both the Spanish caravels (and) the Mayflower were great enterprises: a mixture of uncertainty, of risk and hope. Both of them symbolize the entrepreneurial drive which is never exhausted.

Where is Spain going?

Up to now, I have made a declaration of my two faiths: political democracy and economic freedom, two sides of the same coin. Please don’t think that I don’t believe in other things, but I won’t inflict my other beliefs upon you – at least not right now …..I shall try to delimit three fields of socioeconomic analysis: Spain, Europe and the World. When I attempt to talk about the World, please do not take it as a reflection of megalomania, but as a requirement of the script. I like to think my vanity is not quite as great as my common sense.

In this new and wonderful decade in which we are living, where is Spain going? My country has undertaken throughout the past ten years a great effort to adjust itself to modernity. In twelve years, since the first free elections in 1977, Spain has undergone two gigantic transitions: the political and the economic.

On one hand, we have established a democratic and constitutional political regime, enjoying ample national consensus. It is functioning reasonably well and has taught us how to govern ourselves.

The SEAT 850 Sport: It became a symbol of the “Spanish Miracle” between 1959 and 1974

On the other hand, my country has carried out an economic minirevolution. The market economy has ceased being the object of generalized criticism and in fact is today the economic system endorsed by the Constitution. The image of the entrepreneur has been revitalized to its correct dimensions and Spain has changed its heavily protected economy into an economy which is open to the world.

We have undertaken that wise combination of political and economic freedom which is the key to prosperity. This explains why – as reflected in press reports and expressed by reliable international experts – Spain has started a sort of race towards fortune … unknown since the first oil crisis of 1973. Political stability, a sensible economic strategy, a new entrepreneurial class and a country willing to work, have made possible this Spanish economic miracle.

Therefore the image that the Spanish economy has in the world does not rest on sophisticated public relations campaigns, nor on chance. It rests on facts.

Spain has brilliantly passed the five courses it had pending since the start of the crisis of the seventies, subjects which were during the 1977 through 1982 period when political requirements resulting from the transition from n authoritarian regime to one of freedom and democracy upstaged temporarily the importance of the economy.

Map showing the enlargement of the European Community at Portugal and Spain’s accession in 1986. In blue: the EEC prior to Spanish and Portuguese membership. In yellow: Spain and Portugal. Yellows and blues make 12 EEC member-states.

During the past three years things have changed. Economic recovery is a reality and the country is growing fast, faster than the other OECD countries. Productive investment has grown very fast, at a rate of 14 percent during this time. During the 1985 – 1988 period, Spain was the country where investment had the greatest growth, surpassing countries like Japan and all those of the European Economic Community. All of these facts reveal the strength of Spanish private initiative and its faith in the future of the country. The difficult problem of job creation has also shown positive results, driven by the strong economic growth of the country as well as a greater flexibility in labor contracting. The opening abroad of the Spanish economy has been successfully carried out, doing away with an old protectionist tradition.

Adorned tractors on pilgrimage to honor Santa Maria de la Cabeza (St. Mary of the Head), wife of Madrid’s patron saint, St. Isidore, June 1989

This international policy of economic open doors has resulted in two significant facts, the growth in the share of our foreign sector in world trade and the increasing attraction of foreign capital towards our economy. Lastly, Spain is closely observing the installments agreed upon under the Treaty of Accession to the EEC. The fact that my country has not requested any extension to the effectiveness of its agreements with the Community is a clear confirmation of the good health of the economy. In this way, old Spain has become the new European star.


> Featured image (Horsedrawn carriage, Seville)/Nathan618, Pixabay
> Columbus arrives in America, 1893 painting,/L. Prang & Co., source: Prang Educational company, PD via Wikimedia Commons
> SEAT 850 Sport/Jaime Mas,  CC BY-SA3.0 via Wikipedia
> Map of the European Community in 1986 which includes the European Economic Community (EEC). Source: EC-12 1986 European Community map.svg. Author (derivative work): EC-12 1986 European Community map: Kolja21, CC BY3.0 via Wikipedia
>Tractors on pilgrimage/LMB1948, CC BY-SA4.0, cropped, via Wikimedia Commons