Catalonia puts at risk 11,995 million of GDP growth due to the suspension of the expansion of El Prat

The 1,700 million euros that Aena was going to invest in the expansion of El Prat would have a positive impact on the Catalan economy by raising its GDP from 6.8% to 8.9%. However, the suspension of the project means that Catalonia renounces, at a minimum, that its GDP in 2042 is 7,379 million euros higher (2.24% more) than the forecast (329,434 million euros).

And we say at least because a complementary study on the ‘Estimation of the impact of the JT Barcelona-El Prat Airport on the long-term GDP of Catalonia’ carried out by the University of Barcelona reveals another scenario in which there is a much higher figure at stake than the one mentioned above.

In the worst case scenario, the break between the Generalitat and the Government of Spain puts at risk 11,995 million euros of GDP growth (3.64% more) estimated for 20 years from now. This scenario includes the expansion of the aerodrome together with another Aena’s star real estate project: the airport city of El Prat.

Catalonia's GDP differentials for Year 21 (2042) between scenarios with respect to the baseline scenario.  Source: University of Barcelona.

Catalonia’s GDP differentials for Year 21 (2042) between scenarios with respect to the baseline scenario. Source: University of Barcelona.

And be careful because the alerts come on here. Although the plan is still in place, it is closely related to that of enlargement. “The development is planned in 20 years and will be closely linked to the development of the hub, since the attractiveness for potential companies will depend to a large extent on the airport’s connectivity ”, Aena assures us on the website created to justify the El Prat project.

It should be remembered that the planned uses will be linked to air cargo, hangars, passenger services, logistics, offices and corporate headquarters, and an integration area with the residential area of ​​El Prat, promoting common spaces and construction and sustainable mobility .

The one in Barajas has already been presented and the one in El Prat was scheduled to take place later. It has not yet been produced, but it is known that the total planned investment is 1,264 million euros in total. This, in addition, has the participation of the Generalitat and a project that includes guarantees of environmental and urban sustainability. These last two data coincide with the same approach to the extension of the now suspended runway.

On the other hand, the authors of the study warn that if none of the planned actions were carried out (neither expansion nor airport city), the weight that the airport would have on the GDP of 2042 estimated for the baseline scenario would decrease to 5.1%.

Beyond GDP

But what is behind these growth figures that the region is giving up? The main thing is the loss of passengers. Taking 2019 as a reference – the year before the Covid – El Prat received 53 million passengers and peaked. The airport reached its maximum level of capacity. With the enlargement it was going to decongest. Too allowed to increase to 72 million travelers. By which gives up almost 20 million passengers annually.

And if we detail what type of tourist would lose, the drama is even greater. Why? Because the projection of this international hub was going to attract qualified tourists of quality or luxury, that is, those who leave more money at the destination and that, by the way, Spain is losing due to Covid and tourism policies.

What else is missing? Job. The economic impact of the expansion was significant as it would imply the creation of 83,000 new direct and 364,000 indirect jobs, according to a second study by Aena and the University of Barcelona. The report assures that it would increase direct billing by almost 100% and indirect billing by 68%.

In the operational aspect, not extending the runway 500 meters towards the protected land of La Ricarda implies that 80 operations per hour are not exceeded, that significant delays in takeoffs not preferential in the hours of high demand, the possible limitation to the growth of long-haul traffic and maintaining the acoustic impact, according to a report by Enaire.

It is also a matter of image at a national and international level that puts future investors in projects in the region on alert.

And finally, it is a simple and straightforward matter of pride. The possibility that one day the airfield had to reach and even overtake Barajas, who is moving forward with both its expansion plan and that of the airport city. An eternal rivalry in which, in this case, Barajas will again take advantage. At least five years, the deadline to restart this extension if there is consensus between the parties.

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