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Spanish Economy Facing Systemic Economic Meltdown

February 6th, 2009
Spain may be following Iceland as the next country facing systemic economic collapse due to the global financial and economic crisis. Recently released macroeconomic data is illustrative of a national economy in free fall. Not even the United Kingdom, with its insolvent banks and a collapsing currency, is in as decrepit economic shape as is Spain.
Among the eurozone economies, it clearly has the worst performance. Not that the other eurozone countries should gloat, for the Spanish economic contraction is a roadmap for the destination in store for the European Union as a whole. Official tabulations reveal that in the month of December, Spain’s industrial output declined by 19.6%. In just one month, nearly a fifth of Spanish output eliminated! This is not merely a recession, but wholesale economic collapse. Other figures elaborate on the depths of the disaster. Spain’s National Statistics Institute disclosed that in the last quarter of 2008, 1,082 companies filed for bankruptcy. To put this number in perspective, the last quarter of 2007 had a bankruptcy rate barely more than a quarter of that grim statistic.
Without question, the Spanish economy is grinding to a halt, significantly increasing the unemployment rate, which currently stands at 14.4%. The European Commission is forecasting that Spain’s unemployment rate may reach close to 19% by 2010, reflective of an economy that has not reached bottom, despite wishful thinking by some financial analysts.
As with the United States, the perception of prosperity in Spain was largely fabricated on the basis of a housing boom and highly leveraged real estate speculation. Again matching the American experience, the housing asset bubble in Spain was punctured, in the process crippling financial institutions and curtailing access to credit by Spanish enterprises. The ripple effect brought on by the collapse in housing and the banking crisis has crippled the broader economy to such an extent, cascading business and personal bankruptcy rates and massively rising levels of unemployment seem irreversible.
There exists another parallel with the United States. As the Global Economic Crisis evolved, the Socialist government in Madrid led by Prime Minister Zapatero, as with the Bush administration in the U.S., at first denied the nation was in the throes of a virulent economic recession. Only when the dire facts overwhelmed political spin did both governments begin to face reality. By then, in both Washington and Madrid, it was too late. As with many other panic-stricken leaders across the globe, Zapatero will seek massive deficit spending as a means to stimulate the failing economy. Being a member of the eurozone with its own central bank, monetary policy falls outside the immediate purview of options available to the Spanish government. So fiscal stimulus, inevitably hampered by an inability for a left-leaning government to talk soberly to labor unions, will be the feeble response to the worsening disaster.
Spain will likely experience a level of economic decline unprecedented in the last half-century of her history. However, in this journey of gloom and doom, she will be far from alone. 
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