Convergencia Research, Consultoría especializada en Latinoamérica y Caribe
Thursday, January 18, 2024

Davos: Pedro Sánchez defended Spain's entry into Telefónica and warned of the challenges of AI governance

The president expressed his opposition to a drastic reduction of the public sector. This follows the government's decision to enter the operator's capital by acquiring 10% of the capital stock.

The Spanish President Pedro Sánchez's presence at the World Economic Forum conveyed various messages linked to the technological sector. In his speech, delivered after the presentation by his Argentine counterpart, Javier Milei, the Iberian leader expressed opposition to a drastic reduction in the public sector: "Spaniards know that neoliberal policies do not work, that the option of reducing the size of the public sector and leaving citizens and small businesses alone when problems arise makes no sense. When we collaborate and stand together, we are stronger," he emphasized.

The Spanish government recently decided to acquire a 10% stake in Telefónica through the State Corporation for Industrial Participations (SEPI, a Spanish public company). This move marks the return of the state to the telco's capital, 26 years after its privatization.

In geopolitical terms, the state's entry follows the acquisition of a 6.5% stake in Telefónica by the Saudi operator STC, which even considered the possibility of conducting financial operations to increase that stake to 9%. Ultimately, STC decided not to proceed with that step.

In an interview with Bloomberg as part of his trip to Davos, Sánchez justified the decision to strengthen Spain's cybersecurity by opting for a "public-private relationship to collectively address these challenges."

As part of his official speech in Davos, Sánchez presented the governance of AI as a challenge. He argued that it should be approached with a focus on "the fundamental rights of citizens, above the interests of states and corporations." He called for more attention to be paid to workers, youth, and the elderly, "and less attention to the empty promises of some Silicon Valley gurus, who are more interested in gaining followers or climbing the Forbes billionaires list than in the true progress of humanity. Those of us who learned not to believe in the invisible hand of the market cannot now profess a blind faith in the invisible hand of Artificial Intelligence. Invisibility is often sought to do harm, not good. I only trust the hands of flesh and bone."

He positioned himself as a "strong advocate of technological progress" and praised digitization as "good and necessary." In this regard, he asserted that Spain is "determined to play a leading role in the current industrial revolution."

During the interview with Bloomberg, the Spanish leader also referred to "the geopolitical battle for semiconductors," in which, in his opinion, "the European Union can play a key role." In this regard, he announced that Spain will allocate €12 billion to attract investment for the creation of a new semiconductor and chip ecosystem: "We have good cooperation with companies such as Intel, Cisco, and Qualcomm, and we hope to strengthen it even further," he stated.

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