The Catalan Government had a 1.96% deficit in 2012, according to the Spanish Finance Ministry
The Catalan Government has reduced its deficit by half over the last year, dropping from a 4.02% figure to a deficit of only 1.96%. However, despite the significant reduction, the figure is still above the 1.5% target unilaterally imposed by the Spanish Government. The Catalan Executive had been warning the Spanish Government that a 1.5% target was not realistic, as it did not relate to its spending responsibilities managing the basic Welfare State services. The Autonomous Communities had a total deficit of 1.73%. Spain as a whole ended 2012 with a 6.74% deficit, according to the Spanish Finance Ministry, over the 6.3% target imposed by Brussels. The Spanish Government posted a final deficit of 3.83%; Social Security – managed by the Spanish Government – had a 0.96% deficit and local governments a deficit of 0.2%. Barcelona City Council ended up with a budget surplus of €117 million.
Madrid (ACN).- On Thursday the Spanish Finance Ministry announced the deficit figures for 2012 and the Catalan Government had a deficit of 1.96% last year. This means that the Catalan Executive \u2013 which is called the Generalitat \u2013 reduced its deficit by half in just one year, dropping from a figure of 4.02% to only 1.96%. Despite the significant reduction, the figure is still above the 1.5% target unilaterally imposed by the Spanish Government. However, the Generalitat had been warning the Spanish Executive since it was decided that a 1.5% target was not realistic, as it does not relate to its spending responsibilities managing the basic Welfare State services. Furthermore, the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, insists that the 0.7% deficit target is unfair and not rigorous in the context of an economic recession. The Autonomous Communities \u2013 which manage 36% of Spain\u2019s total public spending \u2013 had a global deficit of 1.73% between them. Spain as a whole ended 2012 with a deficit of 6.74%, according to the Spanish Finance Ministry, Crístobal Montoro. This figure is 0.44 points over the 6.3% target imposed by the European Union. The Spanish Government posted a final deficit of 3.83%; Social Security \u2013 managed by the Spanish Government \u2013 had a 0.96% deficit and local governments a deficit of 0.2%. Barcelona City Council ended up with a budget surplus of \u20AC117 million. These figures do not take into account the banks\u2019 bailout. If the money allocated to rescue some banks was accounted for, Spain would have ended up with a 10% deficit in total. The bank\u2019s bailout represents 3.25% of Spain\u2019s GDP. This should be added to the Spanish Government\u2019s deficit, and therefore it would have increased from a 4.79% deficit (resulting from adding on the Social Security deficit) to an 8.04% deficit.
The Government of Catalonia had a deficit of 1.96% according to the Spanish Executive, just below \u20AC4 billion. However, this figure \u2013 which is already very accurate \u2013 is not the definitive one, which will be known in a few months after the official audits are finished and all the payments have been taken into account. The Generalitat had already corrected the initial preliminary figure last week, which was released in late January, in order to have an early estimation of the deficit\u2019s magnitude. In late January, the Catalan Government released a preliminary figure of 2.3%. It also stated that, if the Spanish Government had acted loyally and paid Catalonia its debts and not transferred part of its deficit, the Catalan Executive would have ended 2012 with a deficit of 1.53%. The preliminary figure of 2.3% was corrected last week with more accurate data and the Catalan Finance Minister, Andreu Mas-Colell, announced that the Generalitat deficit would represent 2% of Catalonia\u2019s GDP.
The strict deficit targets do not correspond to the high spending responsibilities
The Catalan Government had already warned months ago that the 1.5% deficit target unilaterally imposed by the Spanish Government was not in line with the Autonomous Communities\u2019 spending responsibilities, which manage 36% of the total public spending. Catalonia proportionally manages a greater share since it has more devolved powers, such as prisons, police and short and medium distance trains. In 2012, the Autonomous Communities were given 23.8% of the 6.3% deficit allowed by Brussels to the entire Spanish public sector, corresponding to the 1.5% deficit target. In 2013, the EU is imposing a 4.5% total deficit on Spain and the Spanish Government is keeping 85% of it for itself and only allowing the Autonomous Communities 15.5% of it, corresponding to a 0.7% target. The Catalan Finance Minister has stated that if he had to design the 2013 budget with deficit of 0.7% it would be \u201Cmonstrous\u201D, since it would oblige him to implement much tougher budget cuts, affecting the public services in Catalonia to the bone, including healthcare, education and social affairs, in the middle of an economic recession.
The Catalan Government asked for greater flexibility in 2013
Therefore, Mas-Colell has asked for the deficit targets to be internally redistributed among the different government levels, raising that of the Autonomous Communities. Mas-Colell will insist on this petition if the European Union finally allows Spain a higher deficit target. It would not make sense to raise the total deficit target of the Spanish public sector and not raise that of the Autonomous Communities, managing 36% of the total public spending, including healthcare and education. In this vein, a few weeks ago Mas-Colell sent a letter to the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rhen, asking to guarantee that if Spain is allowed more flexibility, the Spanish Government will not be able to keep it only for itself and will have to share the additional room to manoeuvre with the Autonomous Communities. However, the European Commission \u2013 as it usually does with uncomfortable questions and petitions, especially if they go against the direct interests of a Member State government \u2013 stated that it is \u201Can internal matter\u201D and refused to answer.
Montoro refuses to review the deficit targets for 2013
However, despite the Catalan Government\u2019s claims, the Spanish Finance Minister stated that the deficit targets for 2013 will not be modified, at least, not until Brussels allows Spain a higher deficit target. The Spanish Government has asked the European Union to raise the 4.5% deficit for 2013 and the Olli Rehn stated a few days ago that he will not take any decision without having firstly assessed the 2012 data.
Montoro defends the Autonomous Communities\u2019 system
In a press conference presenting the deficit figures for 2012, Crístobal Montoro wanted to defend the Autonomous Communities\u2019 system, emphasising the significant effort made by the regional governments to reduce their deficit. The Autonomous Communities ended 2012 with a total deficit of 1.73%, only 0.23 points above the 1.5% target. Montoro stated that those who are suspicious about their capacity to manage their finances had no base for their suspicions. However, over the last few months, Montoro has played an ambiguous role on this issue, not fighting against it and even promoting the Autonomous Communities being discredited. The reason for that might be to focus the attention on this government level, and away from the Spanish Government itself. Another reason is that by discrediting the Autonomous Communities\u2019 managerial capacities, those supporting the recentralisation of Spain have an argument that goes beyond Spanish nationalist feelings.
Furthermore, Montoro advised that despite the Autonomous Communities\u2019 relatively positive results for 2012, the effort \u201Cmust continue\u201D. However, Montoro stated that in 2013, \u201Cno further adjustments will be needed\u201D \u2013 besides those already in place \u2013 because most of the Autonomous Communities have already closed their budgets for 2013 and \u201Cthe objectives are set\u201D. Catalonia, since it held elections in the last term of 2012, is still making its budget for 2013.
Finally, Montoro refused to talk about any possible sanctions on the Autonomous Communities that have not met the deficit targets for 2012. They are: the Valencian Community \u2013 also known as Valencian Country \u2013 (3.45%), the Region of Murcia (3.02%), Andalusia (2.02%), Catalonia (1.96%), the Balearic Islands (1.83%) and Castilla-La Mancha (1.53%). \u201CWe are already implementing\u201D the Budget Stability Law, \u201Cbecause [otherwise] these results would not have been possible\u201D, said the Minister. Montoro also stated he will wait to have the definitive data before disclosing further actions.
Local governments ended the year with a deficit of 0.2%, below the 0.3% target
Town halls and provincial councils ended last year with a deficit below the 0.3% target imposed. Altogether they had a 0.2% deficit, while, individually, many of them posted a budget surplus. One of them is Barcelona City Council, which had a budget surplus of \u20AC117 million out of a \u20AC2.3 billion budget.