Raising European funds has become a priority objective for large Spanish companies, most of them with sufficient resources to plan attractive and bankable projects. But those who most need these aid not only to boost their business, but fundamentally to survive, are small and medium-sized companies because, like it or not, there will be things after the pandemic that will never be the same again. E-commerce has exploded, while physical sales continue to fall. Many small shops they will have to reinvest to offer their products through the networks. The physical travel agencies, which already had difficulties to survive in the face of the internet boom, have received the final lace with the pandemic, and so on and on. Never for small and medium-sized Spanish companies has the slogan ‘transform or die’ been more relevant than today. And, without a doubt, European funds are a great opportunity and can become a lifeline for many of these companies.
The figures speak volumes. At the beginning of the confinement, after the outbreak of the pandemic, the productive fabric suffered a severe blow. Only between March and April 91,000 companies were destroyed. Almost 60,000 recovered by the end of the year in the heat of the economic recovery, but the beginning of the year has once again been dramatic for the business world. The third wave and the closures in restaurants and commerce imposed in many autonomous communities have meant a new bump for most of the regional economies at the beginning of the year. In just two months, another 20,000 companies have been destroyed, thus the balance of a pandemic year is settled with the loss of more than 48,000 companies. And it is also curious that in percentage terms the worst figures do not affect micro or large firms, but small and medium-sized ones, those with between 10 and 250 workers. The reduction in these cases exceeds 6%. And how could it be otherwise the sector most affected has been the hospitality industry, in which one in eight companies have disappeared; followed by artistic and entertainment activities, where 10% of the total has been lost, and transport, with a reduction of almost 8%, according to the figures released this week by Cepyme, the employer’s association for small and medium-sized companies. .
This X-ray of the sector is a good example of how the Spanish business fabric has suffered with particular virulence the crisis triggered by the pandemic. The fact that Spanish SMEs are smaller in size than their European counterparts explains, in part, this greater impact. On average, a company in Spain has 4.7 workers, below the 5.7 in France, the 11 in the United Kingdom and the 11.7 in Germany. And this smaller size makes them less productive and resilient to the situation. If we add to this the stinginess of the measures approved by the Spanish Government vis-à-vis our European partners, the situation facing our productive fabric is explained.
The direct aid approved on Friday by the Council of Ministers, if applied with the proper criteria and not wasted on zombie companies, and a good use of European funds to carry out the necessary digital transformation, can be a turning point and hope for many companies. Furthermore, the Government should take advantage of it to reward, rather than punish, the increase in the size of our companies.