Companies want Madrid to spend €140bn on Covid repair projects faster
Spain eased corporate concerns about managing the multi-billion-euro EU recovery fund, insisting it had reached "cruising speed" in developing investment plans and would meet stringent auditing standards to secure its next cash supply.
The country was the first to receive payments from the EU's Pandemic Recovery Fund last year and is expected to receive a total of 140 billion euros, making it the EU's second-largest recipient of aid after Italy. Spain's experience, however, has been bumpy and underscores the daunting task countries face in managing an 800 billion-euro plan aimed at repairing the damage caused by Covid-19 and making the economy greener.
In recent weeks, Spain's Socialist-led government has faced grievances from business partners - including Volkswagen, an ally in the electric car project - and questions over the speed and transparency of the allocation of funds.
The so-called Next Generation EU Fund, which includes about 70 billion euros in non-repayable grants and a 70 billion euro loan for Spain, will be used for projects ranging from household solar panels to small business online stores.
But some business leaders have accused Spain of obscuring the situation with figures, arguing that the speed at which it opens bids for projects — a metric highlighted by the minister — is not the best measure of performance or economic impact.
Círculo de Empresarios, one of Spain's largest business lobbies, emphasizes actual payments to regional and local governments and companies, which will be used for approved projects.
The metric shows that it was only 22.3% of the $28.4 billion at the end of September
The government is also alarmed by uncertainty over one of its landmark projects - Volkswagen Group Seat's plans to build a new car battery factory in Valencia and modernize two existing plants to produce electric car.