Carles Manera speaking in Palma on Thursday. | Pilar Pellicer

At the start of a two-day Chamber of Commerce conference on 'transition to sustainability' on Thursday, a former Balearic finance minister, Carles Manera, observed that the model of economic growth cannot be transformed over a short period. "It can't be abrupt. There are no precedents for such rapid radical changes, other than the transformation of the Soviet Union into a capitalist system, with the results that we all know."

Manera was finance minister during the 2007 to 2011 PSOE-led government. Now a Bank of Spain director and professor of applied economics at the University of the Balearic Islands, he is recognised as one of Spain's leading economics authorities. His research has often focused on tourism and he has in the past been critical of what he sees as an unrealistic idealism among elements on the left of Balearic politics.

Taking up the theme of economic diversification, he insisted that "we must start from what we have, not from what we would like to have". This diversification "cannot be a pipe dream, so we must be realistic". In this regard, he offered some figures for contribution to Balearic GDP - the ParcBit technology park "generates two per cent, more than that of agriculture".

"There are groups who would like a quick change and others who consider that nothing needs to be changed, except for some modifications." Emphasising the importance of tourism, he stated that "halving the number of tourists in the Balearics would represent a 40% drop in our GDP". "We must take this into account and remember that the drop in GDP during the 2020 pandemic was 21%."

On GDP, though, he returned to a theme that he has previously addressed: "GDP is important as an indicator, but it is insufficient in the face of current challenges such as climate change and its impacts on the financial system, which requires the use of other indicators and new metrics."