Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A FOUR-STEP, ZERO-COST plan to fix the Spanish economy, by Daniel Lacalle at the WSJ:
According to Spanish Finance Minister Luis de Guindos, investors are not taking Spain's "growth potential" into account. There is truth in that assessment, but Spanish authorities seem resigned to the notion that they can do no more to actualize this "potential." I believe there is a lot more they could do.

Spain has failed to restore investor confidence in its ability to repay its debts predominantly because the reforms pushed by the Rajoy government so far have focused mostly on revenues, namely tax increases, while the government's bloated administration and massive subsidy culture remain in place. As such, the economy deteriorates and taxes go up, while debt continues to grow.

Spain seems stubbornly intent on restoring tax revenues that were the product of a giant real-estate bubble, and those will not return easily. Tax collections per capita increased almost 40% between 2003 and 2008 due to the housing bubble, driving a similar increase in government spending. Spain created a public sector perfectly suited for an economy that would grow 2% per year forever. It didn't. Once the bubble burst, those revenues disappeared but the spending stayed. That funding gap, which took Spain to an 8.9% deficit in 2011 from a 2% surplus in 2007, can not be tackled through taxes, but only through cuts in spending.
Read it all.