Carlos Torres Vila: “We have to invest European funds in long-term growth”
In an interview with ‘La Linterna’ de COPE, BBVA’s Group Executive Chairman said that the EU funds to face the health crisis represent “a great opportunity”. In his opinion, if invested “productively in long-term growth and combined in combination with structural reforms”, they can help tackle key problems of the Spanish economy, such as structural unemployment. "We also need to invest in education, focusing on the world of the future: the digital world, the world of data and addressing the transition to a more sustainable world, socially and environmentally."
Carlos Torres Vila noted that both the European funds and the financial sector will be key to pull out of the crisis. "They are going to be two pivotal axes," he said. Regarding the role of the financial sector during the first months of the pandemic, BBVA’s Group Executive Chairman emphasized that banks "stepped up", implementing measures such as payment holidays, loan installment deferrals and opening lines of credit. Not only in Spain, but also in other countries within their footprint, both for individuals and businesses. For example, across the world, BBVA deferred installments on loans from more than 130,000 businesses worth over €3.5 billion, and offered €20 billion euros in loans to companies through government programs.
“We are putting our capabilities, our balance sheet, our resources, at the service of society when they are needed the most. And going forward, we are going to continue doing so.” Carlos Torres Vila explained that true to its commitment to its customers, BBVA has gone as far as offering emotional support, with initiatives in Spain such as support calls. "Many people are seeing their life's work at risk, and knowing they can turn to professionals like BBVA’s employees for support really makes a difference."
Regarding the prospects for the Spanish economy, he acknowledged that “activity will take time to go back to pre-covid levels,” and that “small businesses and the self-employed - the drivers of economic activity in the country - are bearing the brunt of the crisis.” And this will largely depend, he explained, on the time it takes for a vaccine to be developed. "We all hope to have one by the end of 2020 or early 2021, one whose production can be scaled up and made available to the general public," said the president of BBVA.
In the meantime, "we need to learn how to coexist with the virus, with an appropriate combination of healthcare measures that contributes to curbing its impact on the economic side." In his opinion, the measures adopted in these first months, such as the financing lines offered by the Spanish Official Credit Institute (ICO), payment holidays or furlough schemes (ERTEs) “helped prevent the country’s GDP from declining further."
The work of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, a work that “wins hearts"
BBVA’s Chairman was interviewed on the occasion of the event sponsored by the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, entitled "Tireless women: challenges to and achievements of reinvention in times of crisis”, to recognize the hard work of Latin American women entrepreneurs. In the event, chaired by Her Majesty the Queen of Spain, Carlos Torres Vila was joined by development experts from organizations such as the Ibero-American General Secretariat, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UN Women and representatives of leading technology companies.
Speaking to COPE, Carlos Torres Vila took pride in the work that the BBVA Microfinance Foundation has been carrying out since 2007, promoting Latin America's economic and social development. "The Foundation wins the hearts of everyone who learns about its work," he said.
BBVA’s Chairman emphasized that, two years after their first microcredit, more than a third of recipients are able to pull out of the poverty line. "With the pandemic we have doubled down on our efforts because vulnerable people are the ones who have suffered - and are suffering - the most."
Carlos Torres Vila underscored the impact that the projects financed by the foundation have on communities, especially among women, who accounted for over 60 percent of the business clients served in 2019 by the Foundation. “We see that when we finance a woman the impact is great, first of all, on her children; their children are able to stay in school and, thus, progress. And that translates into economic development for society as a whole,” he said. "They have an impact on their closest circles, which has a contagion effect."
And he noted one more fact: “Of the Foundation’s beneficiaries who pull out of poverty, 83 percent are women. The success rates of our microcredits are higher among women than among men.”