This book charts the evolution of Spanish general government spending on education, health and social protection (pensions, unemployment benefit, dependent care and social services) with a breakdown by autonomous region. The study period runs from 2002 to 2013 and accordingly takes in the last years of economic expansion as well as the economic and fiscal crisis gripping the country from 2008 onwards.
The research draws on the extensive public information available for the period, and has given rise to a new data bank which compiles central, regional and local authority and social security spending, with a breakdown by territory and budget head.
The results show that all branches of government have striven throughout the crisis to preserve these key public services by assigning them a larger percentage of their diminishing tax revenues and GDP. Thanks to these efforts, social protection expenditure has remained largely flat, in contrast to the per capita spending cuts in education and healthcare forced on the regional governments. The study also reveals sizeable inter-regional income disparities affecting their expenditure capacity, which undermine citizens’ rights to enjoy equal access to public services regardless of where they live.
The authors propose the establishment of a reserve fund along the lines of that set up for the social security system, as a hedge against education and healthcare spending cuts in future recessions. They also urge a review of the regional financing system in order to reduce income disparities and ensure that funding is commensurate with needs.
The data bank and the analyses presented in this book provide valuable new tools to scholars and analysts of regional and fiscal issues, as well as to the institutions charged with the design and evaluation of public policies.