Alongside growth and corporate responsibility, institutional quality represents one of the three centerpieces guiding the considerations of the Círculo de Empresarios. It has been a fundamental issue of our concern since the beginning of our association more than forty years ago. It can be shown empirically that the progress and well-being of society are intricately bound up with the quality of its institutions. The balanced development of the economy and society as a whole are unattainable in the absence of institutional quality and legal certainty.
Following a long period of dictatorship, the transition to democracy represented a major step forward in terms of institutional quality, however the recent economic crisis has awoken the mistrust of wide swathes of the population concerning the workings of our institutions and the quality of our politicians, rulers, judges, regulators and public authorities.
Perhaps the impression of these public servants is somewhat unjust, however there is no question that a few, very poor examples can tarnish the image of any group as a whole. However one looks at it, the task of recovering trust in our institutions and their servants is essential to our youthful democracy should we wish to progress both collectively and as individuals.
Achieving democratic renewal in Spain and overcoming the misgivings and discontent of citizens regarding our institutions will prove possible only through significant improvements to their workings. Economic recovery and improved equality of opportunity perceived by all will naturally have an impact in dissipating this distrust and dissatisfaction. Improvements in institutional quality will also improve the competitive position of Spain over the medium term, enabling higher growth rates that will drive wealth creation, employment and tax revenues.
Given the significance of this for the health of Spanish democracy and our economic and social program, and faced with the need to seek out solutions to this issue, it appears to us crucial that we tackle the matter with the goal of improving the quality of Spanish institutions. This has been driven by the Working Group on Institutional Relations of the Círculo, presided over by the member of the Board of Directors, Carmen Mateo, under the guidance of Professor Víctor Lapuente. The latter, together with a group of prestigious experts, has analyzed the matter from various points of view and suggested a series of recommendations.
The conclusions ultimately offered as a summary invite us to avoid both exaggeration and inactivity. As pointed out by Lapuente himself, quoting from the work of Manuel Villoria, studies show that the Spanish are among the most reluctant in Europe to hand over cash, gifts or favors to public officials in exchange for a favorable administrative service or ruling. For some time we have been seeing the same conclusions coming out of the work of Transparency International, a distinguished and highly regarded organization with whom we wish to share the endeavors of this study. We therefore gratefully acknowledge the collaboration of the organization’s President in Spain, Jesús Lizcano.
In order to improve the institutional framework in Spain and create a country that is more democratic, fairer, more competitive, better administered and more transparent, this work is rounded off with a proposal for a gradualist manifesto, with measures that are institutional rather than political. Measures that each and every one of us should engage with, to build a country that works better for all.
John de Zulueta,
President of the Círculo de Empresarios