Region is major powerhouse of Spanish economy

BARCELONA • Catalonia is one of the powerhouses of the Spanish economy.

The region, in the north-east of Spain, is buoyed by industry, research and tourism - but burdened with a heavy debt.

Catalonia has a population of 7.5 million, about 15 per cent of Spain's total population.

The region accounted for 19 per cent of Spain's gross domestic product last year, rivalling Madrid for the distinction of being the country's richest region.

Like in Madrid, unemployment is also lower than in the rest of the country - 13.2 per cent in the second quarter of this year compared with 17.2 per cent nationally.

Catalonia is by far Spain's top exporting region, with 25 per cent of all goods produced there sold abroad last year and in the first quarter of this year.

It attracted some 14 per cent of foreign investment in Spain in 2015, in second place after Madrid, which received a huge 64 per cent, but far ahead of all the other regions, according to the Economy Ministry's latest data.

Several large companies have their headquarters in Catalonia's capital, Barcelona - textile group Mango, Spain's third-largest bank CaixaBank, Gas Natural, highway giant Abertis and perfume firm Puig, which owns Nina Ricci, Paco Rabanne and Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Around half of all of Spain's chemical production is concentrated in the region, with a major hub in Tarragona.

According to the sector's regional federation, turnover in Catalonia is higher than in Austria or Denmark.

Last year, the region was also the second car producer in Spain after Castilla y Leon. Nissan and Volkswagen, via its brand Seat, have factories there. Spain is the second-biggest vehicle maker in the European Union after Germany.

Catalan universities are among the best in the country - of the top five Spanish universities in the widely watched annual ranking compiled by the independent Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, three are Catalan.

These are Pompeu Fabra, the University of Barcelona and the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Its business schools - Esade and IESE - are well known and Barcelona also has big publishing houses.

With its Barcelona and Costa Brava beaches, Catalonia is the Spanish region that most attracts foreign tourists and the trend is on the rise.

More than 18 million visitors went last year, or a quarter of all foreigners who came to Spain.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'Region is major powerhouse of Spanish economy'. Print Edition | Subscribe