Friday, December 9, 2022
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< view full issue: Catalan crisis
Jesús Sanz

​The economic effects of the secessionist process in Catalonia

Head of the Studies Department of Civic Convivencia Cívica

Creating political instability, legal uncertainty and economic uncertainty does not usually come free of charge. We have seen this first-hand those of us who live in Catalonia. The tension has already left a trail of negative effects: a continuous drain of companies, more than 1,700 companies only in the month of October; shopping centres have warned of a fall in sales of about 20%; a decrease in hotel reservations of 30%; drop of freight transport of 21%; collapse of vehicle sales at dealerships of 30%, and so on.

Crisis catalana efectos economicos

However, these figures of short-term indicators are only the tip of the iceberg of the damage caused to the Catalonian economy by some politicians who have behaved in a certainly senseless way and without thinking about the consequences of their actions. In the next months and years, we will get to see the iceberg in all its magnitude.

To get an idea about these possible effects of greater scope, it is worthwhile to dwell on two concepts of undoubted importance for any economy: sales and investments.


In the case of sales, Catalonian businessmen are already perceiving a sharp decline in the turnover of their companies aimed at the rest of Spain. Freixenet, for example, has warned of the existence of a campaign that hampers the sales of its cellars.

Furthermore, the rest of Spain is by far Catalonian companies' leading market, quadrupling in volume the following one, France.

In fact, almost a third of everything produced by Catalonian companies (31%) is associated with the purchases of the rest of Spaniards. This percentage of economic dependence increases in such important sectors as trade (35%), industry (41%) and agriculture (45%).

In many branches of activity in the Catalonian economy, most of its production is clearly associated with sales to the rest of Spain. 

For example, more than 60% of all paper production in Catalonia is directed to the rest of Spain, 57% of food products, 56% of pharmaceuticals and 55% of book publishing.

In many other sectors of great relevance, the dependency percentages of the rest of Spain are quite close to 50%, such as in the manufacture of textile products (48%), chemicals (48%) or transport (46%).

Grafico ingles

Percentage of dependence on the rest of Spain of some relevant subsectors of the Catalonian economy

Obviously, when Catalonian companies sell a large part of their production to the rest of Spain, they do not do so at cost price, rather at a margin and profit. Based on data from the input-output model developed by the Catalonian government itself, we can estimate that the purchases of the rest of Spaniards have a positive impact on the Catalonian economy, generating wealth in Catalonia amounting to 54,494 million Euros per year, That is to say, about 7,200 Euros for each Catalonian per year.

Likewise, the work of almost one million Catalans depends on the rest of Spain. Specifically, the purchases of the rest of Spaniards generate 973,000 jobs in Catalonia, which represents 27% of the total employment in Catalonia.

By sectors, significant figures on Catalonian jobs generated by the rest of Spain are the 333,000 in the commerce sector, the 235,000 in industry and the 144,000 in different professional activities.

Infografia ingles

Contribution of the rest of Spain to the Catalonian economy 

With the degree of dependence on the Spanish market shown by these results, it is clear that a substantial drop in sales to the rest of Spain due to the political situation we are going through would have significant negative effects on production, added value and employment of the Catalonian economy.

According to other information, Catalonian companies from relevant sectors are being affected by sales drops to the rest of the country of around 20%.

If we assume a more prudent hypothesis in the sense that, as a result of the current political tension, there would be a decrease of Catalonian sales to the rest of Spain of 10%, this would mean a loss of 5,450 million Euros in annual revenue for the Catalonian economy (largely due to lower profits from Catalonian companies) due to the significant drop in sales to the rest of Spain and, on the other hand, it would also negatively affect employment, with the loss of almost 100,000 jobs in Catalonia. Without doubt, these are not minor consequences.


However, if it is significant to appreciate how political tension is affecting Catalonian companies' sales, it is no less significant to appreciate how foreign investment is going to evolve, that reliable thermometer that reveals international confidence in the territory's economy.

In the coming months, and particularly from March next year -2018-, we will have quite relevant information, as the official statistics of the Investment Registry of the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness are released, including a brief analysis of the recent figures, clearly reflecting a greater perception of risk in Catalonia than in the rest of Spain.

In particular, official figures present that, since the end of 2010 when the Catalonian government made express mention of a hypothetical secession, foreign investors have invested three times less in Catalonia than in the Community of Madrid, despite the fact that the economic weight and GDP of both regions is similar.

The behaviour of international investors in Catalonia reveals a significant perception of uncertainty and risk, probably due to the political instability derived from the sovereignty process in Catalonia, to which we have to add the negative impact of tax and regulatory factors.

It seems clear that the inability of the Puigdemont government in recent years to pass laws, the dependence of a radical and anti-capitalist group such as the CUP or the economic and political risks inherent in a hypothetical secession are not the best business cards to attract new investors to Catalonia.

We will have to wait until 2018 to get reliable data on investment, which reflects the effect of the events that happened in September and October in Catalonia, but everything indicates that the figures will not only corroborate the clear trend that has existed since 2010, but also reinforce it.


Just as we have been able to verify that stated previously, the political tension in Catalonia already is coming at a high cost to the Catalonian economy, putting in serious risk sales to the rest of Spain and international investments.

We appeal to the responsibility of politicians in Catalonia and call on their wisdom to avoid even greater damage to the Catalonian economy, its business network and all its economic agents, including all the Catalonian general public.



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