“If I start slipping, you shut up,” he told us a little over a year ago with his mischievous smile. We wish that deep, firm, and clear voice, which has been bringing the ins and outs of business to the public for decades, would slowly lower its tone until it died away many years from now. However, his departure was sudden, unexpected and difficult to digest for those of us who knew him and what Emilio Ontiveros has meant to Spanish economic, business and political life over the past four decades.
Emilio was a staunch and passionate economist who believed that knowledge, analysis and public debate were essential to the progress of society. For him, the academic world was the starting point for a much more ambitious project.
He founded a company with his fellow students and grew it into a respected and successful consulting firm with a culture of technical rigor, always at the cutting edge of market movements and always relying on training. A testament to his anticipatory nose is that today in International Financial Analysts, digital services weigh as much as business, markets or banks.
But his vital pursuits went beyond university and business. Emilio spent a lot of time disclosing things, writing articles and books, talking on TV with other economists who didn’t think like him. He always defended economic opening, financial liberalization, the integration of the Spanish economy into the world economy through trade, foreign direct investment (good cholesterol) and financial markets. With the same vehemence he spoke of the importance of the institutions, of the ordering, redistributing and stabilizing action of the state.
For Emilio, there was no place for dogma in business, so I suspect it wasn’t difficult for him to learn from the financial crisis. During the pandemic, he led Afis’ morning meeting without missing a day and encouraged us to imagine how the economy and markets would adapt to this new catastrophe. He was not an optimist, let alone naive. But he had unwavering faith in our country, as he showed us at meetings of the Vice President’s Economic Advisory Council. He always talked about the betterment of the species in business and how far we had come on the fundamentals of prosperity: institutions, knowledge, stability, integration in Europe.
He was also a passionate politician, one of those progressive people who know that change can only come from being connected to reality. His contribution to the modernization and economic progress of Spain was made through action, teaching, writing and the growth of business. And he did it all with that affable, friendly, radically vitalist manchego streak.
Dear Emilio, you leave us orphans behind in this challenging economic world. It remains for us to follow your example of intellectual honesty, constant questioning, doubting and learning so that economic policy continues to be a tool for improving people’s lives.