A land of opportunity beyond stereotypes and advertising slogans. This was the view of the province of Malaga and Andalucía relayed to the around a hundred foreign business owners and residents at the International Business and Trade in Malaga symposium organised by SUR in English in collaboration with the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) on Thursday. Experts and guests discussed the business opportunities afforded by the province, highlighting that this is a good moment for investment now that the worst of the economic crisis is behind us.
The event, held at Andalucia Lab in Marbella and sponsored by Cajamar and InvestInMalaga, was attended by the British Consul for Andalucía, Charmaine Arbouin, and the councillor for Foreign Residents at Mijas town hall, Mario Bravo.
The speakers – Elena Gallego of the agency IDEA, Rafael Fuentes Candau of the Ministry of Finance and Helena Wramhed of Cajamar – all stressed the benefits of setting up a business in the province of Malaga and the area’s qualities that attract foreign investment.
Guests and speakers were welcomed by Liz Parry, consultant editor of SUR in English, who said that the evening was all about “linking communities”, the underlying theme of all the events organised as part of this newspaper’s 30th anniversary.
The idea was sustained In his introduction by Derek Langley, the BCC’s regional vice president for Andalucía. “This region lives of the interaction between the local and the international communities,” he said, adding that behind the image of sunshine, beach and fun, the Costa del Sol has a “vibrant” business community. He highlighted the technology parks in Malaga and Seville, and endorsed the description of the province of Malaga as the “California of Europe” with his own experience of both areas.
“This is a good place to do business,” he summed up, describing Malaga as a technology-driven area with sophisticated infrastructure, all in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
The British Chamber of Commerce, he said, is the only Hispano-British business organisation in Spain, has some 250 members around the country and organises around 60 events such as this one every year.
The speakers were introduced by Joe Cooper, the former director of the UK Department of Trade and Industry and Honorary Consul in Seville.
In her intervention, Elena Gallego, the deputy director of the foreign investment promotion unit at the IDEA Agency, highlighted the importance of Andalucía within Spain and Europe, calling the region the “best bridge to Africa and Latin America.” She described the region as “one very big technology park” in itself, saying that companies that come to set up in Andalucía value the highly trained and varied human resources as well as the infrastructure and innovation potential.
Rafael Fuentes, the regional director of the Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness in Malaga, spoke of the central government’s work to promote foreign investment in Spain and support Spanish companies wanting to expand abroad, through the ICEX organisation.
He stressed the current financial situation, saying that Spain “has made great efforts” and was obtaining some results after years of difficulty and crisis.
In his opinion the perception of international investors is that the situation has changed in Spain, and this is also reflected in Malaga where economic growth is being registered. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) increased by 50% in 2013 in Spain, he pointed out.
Fuentes stressed that Spain is a platform for international business, referring to the important role played by foreign firms that have set up in this country, which account for 40 per cent of exports.
He said there are 12,000 foreign firms established in Spain, employing 1.2 million people. He admitted that Spain falls down in competitiveness against other destinations when it comes to fiscal demands on foreign residents, and said that it was necessary to improve promotion of the country abroad.
Helena Wramhed, manager of residential tourism at Cajamar, said that the last few months had brought brighter news for Spain with the GDP growth forecasts going up from 1.3% in 2014 to 1.9% in 2015.
Now, she said, “There are opportunities to obtain credit and do business. It is a good time to invest in Spain, Andalucía and Malaga.”
During the debate, which was closed by Carlos Conde of the organisation InvestInMalaga, members of the audience warned that investment was being slowed down by tax demands on foreigners living in Spain, while rival destinations such as Portugal offered better conditions.
The issue of labour costs in Spain was also raised – in particular the high cost of dismissal – and Rafael Fuentes pointed out that the present government had “done some work towards that” but that it was better to bring in that sort of change gradually.
Courtesy: Sur in English
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