Martin Wolf is the associate editor and chief financial commentator at the Financial Times.  And he has just published an extremely interesting op-ed piece on the lessons the British can learn from the Basque Country for revitalizing areas that are in decline.  The article has appeared in the FT, as is logical, but it has already been picked up by the Mexican daily Milenio.

He analyzes what has happened in the last forty years in this part of our country, and how Basque society has solved the many problems and challenges it has had to face.  And he comes to the following conclusion: “Perhaps the most important lesson is that those who live and are responsible for a region must have both the resources and the freedom to make decisions.”

This reminded us a lot of the description Richard Armstrong, Director of theSolomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, gave a few years ago, to describe the keys to the success of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum.  When the interviewer directly asked him what the key to the museum’s success was, his answer was, “Money, combined with a strong political will and the desire to reinvent the Basque Country.”

We think that this “third part” is perhaps no so clear in this magnificent piece by Martin Wolf.  To carry out this process, it is quite true that it is necessary to have resources and the ability to make decisions.  But there must also be a plan, long-term goals, and the ability to create political consensus between the leading figures in politics and society.

Along with all of this, there must also be sufficient political willpower to follow through on it.  This political willpower must be able to face up to all types of obstacles it may come up against, including the complete lack of understanding of wide swathes of political groups.  And in our country, those obstacles have been, and are, abundant, starting with the ETA’s opposition to any project that arose from the institutions, to the appears of groups exactly the same thing to each of the projects that were set in motion.  There were also the media who have had, and have, the same main goal of not really informing on matters, but rather weathering down the image of the institutions.  The aphorism in the media is well known: “Don’t let reality ruin a good headline.”

There is another important matter.  Basques are used to legislating, collecting, and managing their own taxes.  They’ve been doing it for 500 years.  This means that, given the principle of”unilateral responsibility” that governs the Economic Concert and Agreement, they are very prudent as regards money, because they know they don’t have anyone to turn to.

It’s quite interesting, really, to read the comments this excellent article is generating.

Financial Times -30/11/2021 – Great Britain

Lessons in ‘levelling up’ from the Basque country

How are declining regions to be revitalised? This question arises wherever erstwhile bastions of heavy industry have collapsed in high-income countries. Nostalgia for the past is futile. One must regenerate and renew instead. The Basque country in Spain has succeeded in doing so. Its success suggests some big lessons: first, renewal must come from within; second, it is never finished.

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Milenio  – 1/12/2021 – Mexico

Lecciones del País Vasco para obtener “nivelación”

¿Cómo revitalizar las regiones en declive? Esta pregunta se plantea allí donde los antiguos bastiones de la industria pesada se han hundido en los países de altos ingresos. La nostalgia del pasado es inútil. En su lugar, hay que regenerar y renovar. El País Vasco, en España, lo ha conseguido. Su éxito sugiere algunas grandes lecciones: en primer lugar, la renovación debe venir de dentro; en segundo lugar, nunca se termina.

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