Here is something that the American media has not really picked up. It is notworthy in the sense that we have been fed information that the G20 world economic situation is improving slowly. Count the Spain of that scenario. They have officially slipped into an economic depression.
Spain’s Jose Luis Zapatero, prime minister says recession will Spains softer compared to other European nations. This contrasts sharply with the findings of the research group in Madrid RR de Acuña & Asociados who said that the collapse of the construction of Spain’s economy will contract for the next three years, with a peak at the loss of hollow over 11pc of GDP.
Spain tips into depression
Spain is sliding into a full-blown economic depression with unemployment approaching levels not seen since the Second Republic of the 1930s and little chance of recovery until well into the next decade, according to a clutch of reports over recent days.
The Madrid research group RR de Acuña & Asociados said the collapse of Spain’s building industry will cause the economy to contract for the next three years, with a peak to trough loss of over 11pc of GDP. The grim forecast is starkly at odds with claims by premier Jose Luis Zapatero, who still says Spain’s recession will be milder than elsewhere in Europe.
RR de Acuña said the overhang of unsold properties on the market, or still being built, has reached 1,623,000 . This dwarfs annual demand of 218,000, and will take six or seven years to clear. The group said Spain’s unemployment will peak at around 25pc, comparable to the worst chapter of the Great Depression.
Spanish workers typically receive 50pc to 60pc of their former pay for eighteen months after losing their job. Then the guillotine falls. Spain’s parliament has rushed through a law guaranteeing €420 a month for long-term unemployed, but this will not prevent a social crisis if the slump drags on.
Separately, UBS said unemployment will reach 4.8m and may go as high as 5.4m if the job purge in the service sector gathers pace. There is the growing risk of a “Lost Decade” akin to Japan’s malaise after the Nikkei bubble.
Roberto Ruiz, the bank’s Spain strategist, said salaries must fall by 10pc in real terms to regain lost competitiveness, replicating the sort of wage squeeze seen in Germany after reunification.
There is no sign yet that either Spanish trade unions or the Zapatero government are ready for such draconian measures. Talks between the unions and Spain’s industry federation (CEOE) broke down in acrimony in July.
Mr Ruiz said the construction sector will shrink from 18pc of GDP at the peak of the boom to around 5pc, making it unlikely that there will be any significant recovery before 2012. Even then growth will be “slow, weak, and fragile”.
The Spanish government can do little to cushion the downturn. “The room for manouvre in fiscal policy has been exhausted,” said Mr Ruiz.
The rocketing cost of jobless benefits has added 3pc of GDP to the budget deficit. Mr Zapatero has ordered all ministries to cut 8pc of discretionary spending to help plug the gap left by collapsing tax revenues. The axe is likely to fall on research and big projects such as high-speed railways.
The root cause of Spain’s trouble is that it joined monetary union before its economy was ready. EMU halved Spanish interest rates almost overnight. Real rates were minus 2pc for much of this decade. Combined private and corporate debt reached 230pc of GDP, funded by French and German savings.
The credit boom masked a steady decline in productivity over the last decade. Spain’s unit labour costs have risen by about 30pc compared to Germany.
The Bank of Spain made heroic efforts to counter the effects of the bubble by forcing banks to put aside extra reserves, known as dynamic provisioning, but the sheer scale of the problem has washed over the defences.
Original article at The Telegraph