Spain on track for growth, job creation in 2014, business group says

Bogota, May 22 (EFE).- Spain's economy will grow and register net job creation in 2014, Spanish Business Council for Competitiveness, or CEC, executive director Fernando Casado said during a presentation in Bogota.

The CEC is projecting gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 0.80 percent in Spain next year, a figure at the mid-point of the range of projections from international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, while the government is forecasting growth of 0.50 percent, Casado said.

Casado presented the CEC's report, "Spain: A Land of Opportunities," to about 100 Colombian and Spanish business leaders in Bogota.

Growth will be led by the automotive, biotechnology, aerospace, information technology, machinery, agri-food, tourism, infrastructure, culture and insurance industries, Casado said.

Casado presented the report along with Inter-American Development Bank, or IDB, chief economist Jose Juan Ruiz, who backed the projections and said Spain was not going through "a destruction of the economy" but an "employment crisis."

Since 2008, when the global financial crisis started, Spain's GDP has contracted about 5 percent, a figure that is not alarming when compared to the economic meltdowns suffered by different Latin American countries in the past, Ruiz said.

Spain, however, has lost jobs, with about 20 percent job destruction registered since 2008, the economist said.

The unemployment rate in Spain has historically been around 8 percent and now stands at 27 percent, Ruiz said.

Spain's situation "has nothing to do with the 'corralito' crisis in Argentina, that of (Gen. Augusto) Pinochet in Chile or of Alan Garcia in Peru in 1985," Ruiz said, adding that the economic contractions were all much deeper in those cases and the countries affected were now part of a region that has become an "engine of global growth."

Spain will "get out" of its economic downturn, the IDB economist said.

The economic situation in Spain is the result of problems in certain industries, such as construction, that were affected by the end of the "real estate boom," Ruiz said, adding that the country cannot "continue with this model" because it "does not lead to sustainable growth" and creates only an "unstable situation."

Casado and Ruiz said 2014 would be a key year for Spain in moving toward a new and more flexible economic model.

The CEC includes Spanish corporate giants such as Telefonica, El Corte Ingles, Mango, Grupo Barcelo, Banco Santander, Repsol, Acciona, La Caixa, BBVA, Inditex, Grupo Planeta, Mapfre, ACS, Ferrovial, Havas Media Group, Mercadona and Iberdrola.