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西班牙新政府遇上老问题

Cyrus Sanati 2011年11月23日

西班牙目前还没有马上破产的危险。但如果经济开始萎缩,银行开始倒闭,西班牙就将变得更加类似于其挥霍无度的南部邻国:希腊。

    西班牙人于当地时间20日投票选举产生了新一届保守党政府,期望高层的变更能帮助国家走出经济困境。但新一届领导人能否有所作为,拯救这个正陷入债务泥沼的国家,目前依然是个未知数。

    虽然政府这些年来一直实施审慎的财政政策,但西班牙普通家庭和企业好像成为了私募股权基金的收购对象似的,债务水平持续升高。鉴于西班牙的经济增长前景暗淡,失业率高得难以想象,这些债务或许很快就会成为马德里的问题;而随着这一问题扩散至欧元区,它又将反过来成为法兰克福的麻烦。

    2004年以来,西班牙一直处于由何塞•路易斯•罗德里格斯•萨帕特罗领导的社会党政府的治理之下。社会党政府执政的这几年可以说是自西班牙帝国发现新世界以来经济最繁荣的时期之一。但与16世纪受黄金驱动的繁荣不同,这一次是受债务驱动的。2008年的信贷危机切断了经济的生命线,进而让这段延续了差不多10年的繁荣期宣告终结。西班牙现在必须弄清楚的是,如何利用危机后残存的资本,实现经济增长。

    数年来,由马里亚诺•拉霍伊长期担任党魁的西班牙人民党一直憋着一股劲,期待着重掌权力的那一天。上周日的选举中,这个秉持保守主义立场的政党获得了压倒性胜利,在众议院获得绝对多数席位。这样,人民党不仅赢得了首相一职,还可以凭借强有力的授权,在议会通过该党试图获取的任何法案。

    要想坐稳执政党的位置,人民党就必须采取一些大胆的举措,帮助支离破碎的西班牙经济摆脱阴霾。人民党于11月份发布了一份厚重的文件,概述了部分执政目标。这份文件充斥着保守主义词藻(减税,终结大政府等等),但对具体的措施则轻描淡写。人们普遍认为,人民党将延续社会党政府实行的紧缩措施,但也会着手对小企业减税。人民党不会像社会党曾提议的那样,提高针对富人的税收,但它将削减政府补贴。

寻找工作

    尽快让人们找到工作是人民党和西班牙生存下去的关键所在。人民党的主要提议之一是,从根本上改革西班牙的劳动法,降低企业聘用和解雇员工的难度。危机期间,尽管政府推出了大规模的经济刺激计划,并对银行实施了紧急援助,但西班牙的失业率依然持续攀升。10月份的失业率是21.2%,为欧洲之冠。与此同时,年轻人的失业率创下了令人难以置信的新高——46.2%。要知道,美国“大萧条”时期的失业率水平也不过如此啊!

    但对于高失业率,西班牙人早已见怪不怪了。事实上,可以认为西班牙的经济增长是由债务驱动的。一直到上世纪90年代中后期,也就是信贷危机和欧元启动之前,西班牙的失业率一般都维持在20%左右。西班牙年轻人往往需要出国寻找工作,把赚到的钱寄回国内,很好地促进了家乡经济的发展。

    Spaniards voted in a new conservative government yesterday on hopes that a change at the top could help save the country from its economic woes. But it's unclear if the country's new leaders can do anything to save a nation that is drowning in debt.

    While the government has been fiscally prudent over the years, Spanish households and companies have been levered up like they were private equity takeovers. With limited growth prospects and an unimaginably high unemployment rate, those debts could soon become Madrid's problem, which in turn would become Frankfurt's problem as it spills over into the eurozone.

    Spain's Socialist government, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has governed the nation since 2004, during what was arguably one of the biggest economic booms for the country since Imperial Spain discovered the New World. But unlike the 16th century boom, which was fueled by gold, this one was fueled by debt. The boom, which lasted for most of the last decade, imploded in 2008 when the credit crunch cut off its life blood. Spain's economy now has to figure out how it will grow using whatever capital it has left.

    The conservative Partido Popular (PP) party, led by long-time party boss Mariano Rajoy, has been chomping at the bit to get back in power for years. The party won a resounding victory on Sunday, claiming an absolute majority in the lower house of parliament. That gives it not only the prime minster position, but also a strong mandate to pass whatever legislation it basically wants.

    To remain in power, the PP will need to undertake some bold initiatives to help pull Spain's broken economy out of the gutter. In October, the party released a thick document outlining some of its goals. It was heavy on conservative rhetoric – cutting taxes and ending big government – but light on specifics. It is believed that the PP will continue the austerity measures instituted by the Socialists, but will also move to cut taxes on small businesses. It will not raise taxes on the rich, as the Socialists had proposed, and will instead cut government subsidies and the like.

Finding jobs

    Getting people back to work as soon as possible is imperative if the PP and Spain are to survive. One of the PP's key proposals is to radically overhaul the nation's labor laws, making it easier to hire and fire people. The country's unemployment rate has continued to grow during the crisis despite all the massive government stimulus packages and bank bailouts. Unemployment tipped the scales in October at 21.2%, the highest in Europe. Its youth unemployment rate, meanwhile, hit a mind-bogglingly high 46.2%. To give some perspective, those unemployment levels are near where they were in the United States during the Great Depression.

    But the Spanish are used to high unemployment; in fact, one could see the Spanish economy taking a debt-fueled round trip. Up until the mid to late 1990s, before credit and the euro, unemployment in Spain was normally around 20%. Young Spaniards would usually go abroad to find work and would send cash back home, giving a nice boost to the local economy.

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