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Disturbing levels of public debt

The hike in borrowing raises questions about the progress being made to bring down the deficit

The Spanish economy is suffering from an agonizing problem: unemployment, which has become an obstacle to growth and a key factor in terms of the pessimism in Spanish society. What's more, the different pieces aimed at adjusting the stability of public finances are not coming together, even though such an adjustment is considered a priority in the effort to cut spending. In the first quarter of this year, Spain's public debt again grew sharply, by more than 39 billion euros. Following this latest spike, it now stands at about 992.828 billion, which is 88.2 percent of the country's GDP. This figure is way above the European average and will probably continue to rise.

There are various reasons why the government should be asked for an explanation for the persistent increases in public debt. It is true that conditions to finance debt are much better than in 2012; but some of the more important hikes continue to raise concerns, and are factors for instability. It is not enough to explain that lower financial costs have helped to advance these issuances. It could be a correct assessment, but that will only be verified at the end of the year. Meanwhile, the question remains as to why economic policy committed to reducing the deficit — albeit with mediocre results — continues to generate voluminous debt commitments.

We should take into consideration another hypothesis, which is that the evolution of public debt is not in line with the required adjustment — which is an annual level of 6.5 percent of GDP — and public spending is once again spinning out of control. And although we need to review the economic policies designed to reduce spending — with the multiplying effects on growth that the destruction of companies and jobs has caused — it would not be desirable or even sensible at this time to move from drastic budgetary constraints to increase spending without an economic plan to justify it, direct it and control it. In other words, spending more money on extravagances such as the unused Castellón airport, would be, at this stage, suicide.

For this reason, the government's financial team should strive to explain these percentage hikes of debt in rational economic terms. Surely, even in difficult times, this type of rationality does exist.

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