Toni Espasa y el BIAM

Publicado el 12/06/2015

El Departamento de estadística de la Carlos III ha organizado un «Workshop on forcasting time series in honour of Antoni Espasa» y como parte de este taller ayer hubo una mesa redonda para hablar del BIAM y en la que yo tomé la palabra,entre otras personas relacionadas con dicha publicación. En lo que sigue posteo mi intervención que tenía que ser en inglés.

Let me start by saying that The Statistics department has had a very good idea organizing this workshop on Time Series Forcasting to honour Antoni Espasa, an important professor belonging to this Department. This young university has never been far from this topic- time series- as the names of David Hendry,Robert Engel and Clive Granger, all members of our body of Honoris Causa Doctors, show quite clearly. But professor Espasa has been stubburnly closed to it traveling often to England or the United States to meet the mentioned specialists and others besides teaching and presenting his own work.

I am very proud to have been able to steal him fron the Bank of Spain many years ago at the beginning of this adventure called Carlos III but I have to use some minutes to explain that I have known Toni from years before this event since we met too long ago in Bilbao when both of us became politically aware and scintifically unsatisfied with our studies at the University of Deusto.

I have to confess that although I am a little bit older, Toni was a kind of political mentor for me. He was partly responsible for bringing Raimon (a politically oriented singer in catalán) to Bilbao and open our eyes and ears "al vent del mon". He also took me to his beloved Denia and together we had to deal with a Guardia Civil who wanted to take us to jail for not saying good afternoon to him and finally he worked hard to get himself thrown out of that University. But Bilbao wasn´t that terrible for him sice there he made friends with quite clever people and most important of all he met Toñi who carried him to the right path bringing him to England in pursuit of Beckett but in the middle of this path they found LSE and Toni got there his PHD.

We met again in the summer of 1973 at the european meeting of the Econometric Society in Oslo and even though Franco was still alive we were not so revolutionary anymore and we had become much more serious believers in Economic Science, he in Econmetrics and I in Theory. He eventually landed in the Bank of Spain and I in Department of Economic Analysis in Bilbao.

But one day they bribed me to come to Carlos III and after a couple of years I bribed him to join our faculty. And from then on we conspired as we had done in the past to use the kowledge acquired abroad not only to accumulate it but also to try to change the economic situation around by let his thinking move "al vent" once again. After all we were still young--we thought.

And now I turn to the way we thought we wanted to make the world listen to us-I mean to him-.

At he very beginning Carlos III thought that having Institutos de Investigación (Research Institutes) alongside with Departments was a good idea which provided a way of putting together professors with different specilizations to share their knowledge around a particular problem in the real world around us. And so The Institute Flores de Lemus was born in the field of Economics. We did not want only to increase kowledge or teach it to the students but also to propose solutions to problems of any kind occurring around us in fields like Health Economics, Industrial Economics or Inflation or forecasting among others.

The idea was either old fashioned or impossible to carry at a certain stage in the development of a research carreer. Some nice initiatives took place but I dare say that people needed their time to concentrate in their own publications and that cooperating from time to time in a common endeavor had a too large opportunity cost. But, besides several masters which saw the light in this institution, there was Toni who knew that his kmowledge of time series was quite an asset to deal with problems of forecasting time series.

And so, more than twenty years ago the BIAM (Boletin de Inflación y Análisis Macroeconomico) was presented in The Casa de América under the presidency of Gregorio Peces Barba. The evolution of this publication has been rather astonishing. It is now a compulsory reading for the following up of the spanish economy at different levels: in a global context, at he level of Automous Communities and in different productive sectors. And of course taking into account the european context and using, since the beginning, predictions based in econometric models.

It cannot be my job to explain the details of the way the BIAN does its job and, any way, I would not be able to do it, but I feel obliged to mention some special features. At least two which I think I understand. In the first place the compulsion to deliver a point prediction inside a confidence interval as obliged by the use of econometric models, or, in the second place, the integration of regional macro predictions both spacially and temporarily and also mingled with the national predictions.

Snce for several years now the BIAM is also published in english it has become a respected international presence in the field. It has been invited to participate in the Survey of Professional Forcasters and it is a founding member of the European Forcasting Network.

So we were not that crazy when we founded the BIAM. Its independence, corresponding to its nature of a researh oriented public institution as well as its academic seriouness prove that the original objective was attainable. And I regret that this example has not been followed by others, exception made of some masters on the fiels cited above. But there are not many Espasas around.

I am personlly very gratefull for one of the carachteristics of the BIAM. I am reffering here to its openness to the opinion of other economists not necessarily experts in forcasting time series but able to configurate a certain general opinion abot the economic situation. The BIAM has been my intelectual host at times when I needed it and I want to expres my gratitude and my debt to Toni.

In this vein of integrating a reference for the public opinion we decided to conform a Consejo Asesor which I have presided for years, a plesurable task,and which was extremely useful, i have to say. Therefore I wanto to thank at least its present members: Paulina Beato, Guillermo de la Dehesa, Jose Luis Feito, Miguel Angel Fernández de Pinedo, Alberto Lafuente, Jose Luis Larrea, Carlos Mas, Teodoro Millán, Emilio Ontiveros, Amdeo Petitbó, Federico Prades, Narcís Serra; Tomás de la Cuadra Salcedo, Javier Santiso y Xavier Vives.

In the name of them I want to thank The University Carlos III for its help and to Toni Espasa for his leadership and its very nice way of cooperating in extending the name of this University.

Thanks for your attention.