Brussels sees darker times for Spain and Europe
By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 6, 2012
Brussels sees no green grass across the fence when it comes to an economic recovery. The economic forecasts for 2013, which will be made public on Friday, will describe a dark and rainy future for Spain and most likely the rest of Europe.
Forecasts are just that, good or bad omens based on leading indicators. But it remains to be seen whether or not they are right. But if the predictions issued by Brussels become reality, that reality will mean serious trouble for Spain and the rest of Europe. The European Commission anticipates that the GDP falls 1.6% this year and 1.5% in 2013.
Spanish government forecasts were more hopeful before the statement from the EU with phrases such as “We emerge from the crisis” and “there are hopeful signs”. These phrases were issued by the Minister for Employment, Fatima Banez, who had said that Spain would see a contraction of 1.5% for this year and a decrease of 0, 5% for 2013.
Next to the real exit from the crisis, the troubling data made public by Brussels is the government’s deficit. The massive austerity measures adopted by Spain only helped reduce the deficit by a meager 0.2 %. The painful measures that combined tax increases with deep cuts in expenses related to social programs did not work; just as it was intended to. The deficit will end the year at 8%, according to the Commission, but this number does not take into account the effect of recapitalization of banks. Expect the Spanish deficit to be much larger.
For 2013, the fiscal gap is 6%, and 5.8% by 2014. These numbers again do not include the bailouts of the banking system and the possible bailout of Spain as a whole. As predicted months ago, Spain will not be able to lower its deficit to 3 % of the GDP, which is the target requested by Brussels. That leaves three possibilities. The first is to extend the deadlines to meet targets, which has been demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Brussels. This alternative is now getting stronger and is supported by several countries that are hanging from the debt cliff.
The second is to ask Spain for additional efforts. That is, more austerity and spending cuts, which as it has been seen in Greece, would result in no solution whatsoever. Most economists expect that agreements reached during future meetings will include a combination of both austerity and an extension for Spain and the other countries to reach their deficit goals.
Spain’s Economy Minister Luis de Guindos, expected a deficit of 7.3% this year, 4.5% next year and 2.8% in 2014, far below the projections made by analysts and official data from both Brussels as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for next year and the next.
The Commission did not comment yesterday on the data. Clearly on all forecasts, Brussels and the Spanish government, weigh several unknowns, especially those relating to the effect of the increase in VAT (a real social experiment, with the country in recession) and the tax amnesty.
However, the Vice President and Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, gave some clues in Madrid yesterday about the situation: government budgets for 2013 and associated economic forecasts show the efforts being made by both sides — income and expenses — but the accompanying macroeconomic picture is “far from the consensus.”
Almunia also hinted that Brussels has the feeling that Spain has denied the complete evidence, the depth of the crisis and the need to act thoroughly. “The delayed reaction is too often associated with Spain,” he said. Speaking at the New Economy Forum, he called “giving in to defeatism” and explained that the crisis “has a solution, tha will be overcome and is beginning to be overcome.”
“Trees should not impede us all to see the forest,” said Almunia. But the trees are just too tall. Brussels projections that approximate the most to those of the Spanish government are related to public debt. And even in that section the figures speak for themselves: the debt will end this year at 83.7%, the next at 89.5% and will be at 93.9% of GDP by 2014.
One thing is for sure: there is no sign that shows when the debt will stop growing. Meanwhile, Europe continues to advance an agenda that keeps on using the same old recipe of more austerity, while government expenses continue to grow. As we have explained here in multiple occasions, both Spain and Europe are — intentionally — going through a vicious cycle that will not result in the reduction of the deficit or the rescue of the economies that are heavily burdened by debt.
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