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Isabel Rodríguez Tejedo, Professor of Economics, University of Navarra, Spain

Responsibility of all

Wed, 07 Mar 2012 11:46:10 +0000 Published in Ideal de Jaen, Ideal de Granada, La Voz de Cádiz

In Spain we have one of the highest levels of decentralization in the world. Perhaps this is the first thing to put on the table when we talk about deficit and autonomies. Not because it is a complex concept, not even because it gives rise to discussion. Simply because sometimes we all seem to forget it, at least a little.

Great decentralization does not only mean due appreciation of our cultural diversity, adaptation to local needs and the multiplication of autonomous governments. It also implies decision-making capacity and responsibility when it comes to economic issues. If we agree with agreement that a policy of budgetary consolidation is needed in our country, it must be carried out at all levels. And if most of the public expense in our country is not generated by the central administration, it seems logical that budgetary control at the level of the autonomous regions is a piece core topic in the puzzle of stability.

All very reasonable. But it is worth remembering that only at the end of last year, and as a result of a European Union directive, it became compulsory for the communities to present their deficit data on a monthly basis. Previously only the State and Social Security did so, and it was necessary to wait until the end of the fiscal year to get an idea of the total figures. It is not surprising that, as the phrase goes, it was better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

It is a fact that it is the autonomous regions that have deviated the most B from the goal deficit, and it seems unlikely that the central government will have room to make compensatory efforts, as it has done in the past. There is no doubt that the crisis has affected them deeply, and that healthcare and Education (items they manage) are particularly socially sensitive expenditures. We can also point out that their financing system favored fiscally irresponsible behavior, and that not all communities have behaved in the same way, nor did they have the same starting point.

However, the final point is the same as the starting point: in a decentralized state such as ours, the burden of adjustment must fall on all levels. Despite the sacrifices that have undoubtedly been made, the communities cannot again deviate so significantly from the objectives. Out of responsibility, out of necessity, and because it is part of the basic spirit of decentralization.