- The decision to tap the pension/social security reserve fund for €3bn was surprising. Generally this is a fairly last resort approach, but why Spain felt the need to do this to get its hands on only €3bn isn’t clear, especially with short term borrowing costs still low. Could Spain’s liquidity problems be greater than thought?
- The interest Spain will have to pay on its debt will go up by €9.7bn, compared to a total package of cuts of €40bn (undoing almost a quarter of them). For a country the size of Spain even seemingly substantial cuts can easily be offset by the massive debt burden.
- The majority of the savings (58%) will come from spending cuts rather than tax increases – there is an on-going debate over which is more effective but in the short term spending cuts are likely to harm economic growth (especially given the reliance on the state as an economic driver in Spain).
- Tax revenue is expected to go up by 3.8% - given that growth is likely to falter this seems incredibly optimistic, even with some tax increases.
- The basic macroeconomic forecasts for the budget haven’t changed – this suggests that the overly optimistic growth forecasts are likely still in place, despite most investors and international agencies reducing their forecasts.
- Unemployment is predicted to have topped out this year – again this seems hopelessly optimistic given that structural labour market reforms are yet to take full effect (and there are still more to come) while internal devaluation will need to continue at a rapid pace (see our recent briefing here for more info on this).
So, plenty of issues already, with what seems to be a fairly unconvincing budget given the state of the Spanish economy.
One final point to note is that Spanish Economy Minister Luis De Guindos kept insisting that the measures were all in line with recommendations from the EU/IMF/ECB troika or in some cases even went further. This looks to be leading into a Spanish reform programme as part of a bailout/bond buying scheme, hinting that Spain may be preparing that request after all.