The Spanish Riotcam Has Arrived
Spain's honeymoon with its new government is over.
Following months of hope that Spain will somehow tiptoe around the sensitive topic of austerity, despite promises of such and slow leaking of bond yields wider, yesterday the government promised to generate savings of €27 billion of about $36 billion (Spanish GDP is less than one tenth of America's, so an equivalent US cut would be about $400 billion), as demanded by Europe, but which will leave a harsh aftertaste with the general population. As Reuters notes: "The central government could meet its target but there's still a risk from the regions and the social security budget," economist at Madrid-based think tank Funcas Angel Laborda said. "I get the impression the central government has created a budget it can meet but has left everyone else in a rather difficult situation." Well, technically no. After all what Spain is doing is following the Greek playbook page by page, as expected back in October 2011 - first Spain sabotages its economy, then it demands more money, then it promises austerity, then it never keeps its promises but in the meantime, Germans are on the hook for hundreds of billions in more bailout cash. At the end of the day (for the euro), it will be they who are in the worst position, but since they get to retain their export partners (whose current account deficits the Bundesbank funds), all is well. That is, at least, until this latest unsustainable bubble pops.
Furthermore, as noted yesterday, it will be Spain's regions that are about to become front and center for the bond vigilantes:
The regional authorities, which account for around half of the total spending budget and were responsible for a large part of the fiscal deviation last year, must slash their own deficits in half this year.
But, with few details on Friday of how the central government cuts will affect the regions - a full breakdown will be published on Tuesday - it is still unclear if Madrid's austerity comes at the cost of the 17 autonomous communities.
What is clear is the regions, which hold the purse strings of the much treasured state health and education systems, will be forced to make unpopular cuts which could fuel growing public anger like that seen during the general strike on Thursday.
Marches across the country saw violent flashes for the first time since the crisis began last week as frustration erupted at the government's failure to address the 23-percent unemployment rate which rises to almost 50 percent for under-25s.
The economy is expected to shrink by as much as 2.7 percent this year and could find little to spark growth if the government is forced to raise taxes to meet this years 5.3 percent deficit goal and the target of 3 percent in 2013.
Rajoy was wrong to push Brussels for a loosening of the original deficit goal of 4.4 percent of GDP for this year and should have asked instead for a two year extension of 2013 target, an editorial in the left-leaning El Pais wrote.
Spanish regional debt currently stands at 13% of GDP and has surged from EUR60bn in 2006 to over EUR140bn currently. As Credit Suisse points out, the top four regions account for the majority of GDP, two-thirds of regional debt, and, with the exception of Madrid, substantially missed their deficit targets. What is more worrisome is the heavily front-loaded nature of the maturing debt with substantial refinancing needs in the next 2 years and this regional debt is split between bonds and loans - with many of the latter from Spanish banks - yet another illustration of the interconnected contagion that is building more rapidly. The growing crisis in refinancing (liquidity and costs) for regional debt developed the idea of Ponzibonos 'Hispabonos' - debt issued by regions but guaranteed by the central government. The conditionality of these guarantees with regard to deficit targets wil be critical but once they are issued, the risk is that the regions are unable to get their finances under control, the Spanish debtload increases, and there is no longer the flexibility for a regional debt restructuring, should one be necessary.
Spanish regional debt has grown dramatically in recent years...
But the refinancing needs are massively front-loaded (and rely not just on markets but the banks to roll loans also)...
As a reference, front-loaded means the can can not be kicked down the road. It has to be resolved soon.
So as Greece is supposedly fixed, at least until its 3rd bailout, which was hinted at yesterday by the PM, Spain has once again officially joined the fray.
In the meantime, the people are less than delighted with this latest episode of mean reversion, sometimes incorrectly called austerity, as can be seen on the following pictures from last week's General Strike across Spain, which morphed into a less than general riot. Since more tax hike are imminent, we will very likely soon have to find a local version of the Syntagma square riot cam, preferably one situated in the middle of Plaça Catalunya.