Spain has not yet recovered from the harsher cuts in health, education and social services of the economic crisis. This is reflected in a report published this Wednesday by the Association of Directors and Social Services on the evolution of regional budgets throughout all these years with data from the Ministry of Finance. In 2009, regional governments allocated 116,851.7 million euros to the social field. In 2018, the last budget settled, the figure was 116,857.31 million. In 2013 the lowest level of investment was registered, less than 100,000 million euros, and then, between 2014 and 2018 “there have been increases in budgets”. But in 2019, “the trend has broken” and, with the budget already final, it once again remains at 116,850.46 million euros, slightly below in absolute terms both in 2018 and a decade ago.
Investment in public education chains ten years of declines while funds for concerted education are higher today than a decade ago
Average social spending per inhabitant in our country was € 2,498.54 in 2019; they are € 36.81 less than in 2009 and € 11.75 less than in 2018. “Now with the pandemic we all remember health, residences, with the return to school of education … but the State of Well-being had been badly treated from the previous crisis and we dragged it down “, sums up José Manuel Ramírez, president of the Association, which is a benchmark in the sector. The General State Budgets (PGE), whose amounts are transferred to the communities, have also been frozen and extended since 2018, and that “has hampered the trend of recovery of spending on social policies, putting it in serious danger,” they value.
The overall spending in the State has not reached the levels of 2009, but there are marked territorial differences. Much of the burden of not achieving the social investment of 10 years ago is due to Catalonia. It is that and Castilla-La Mancha the communities that have maintained a greater cut in percentage terms in these 10 years, despite the general economic recovery: a reduction of 19.6% and 15.4% respectively. “They are the two communities that slow down recovery the most, for different reasons. Catalonia in recent years, since 2015, and Castilla-La Mancha because it had very hard cuts as of 2011. You have to assess both where you are and where you are comes “, summarizes Ramírez. Aragon, Galicia and Castilla y León are also regions with a deficit balance.
On the good side, twelve communities have managed to exceed the social investment they made in 2009 in 2019. The Valencian Community is the one that has achieved a greater quantitative increase in its social policies, 1,656 million, something that Ramírez recognizes to the current regional government and qualifies as “spectacular”. The Balearic Islands win in relative terms, it has a growth of 24.8% increase. There is a third group that remains at levels similar to those of 2009, with increases of between 0.5% and 5% (La Rioja, Canarias, Extremadura, Andalucía and Madrid).
“The question would be how we would have addressed the COVID-19 crisis with strong essential services, in which the investment would have been higher and they would not have suffered the cuts from the previous crisis,” continues the Association. What they ask as a solution is a “budget shield” of the three matters that make up social spending, “urgent” formulas that give air to the autonomies to invest in it and that does not depend on any political color. They also regret that lack of new PGEs since 2018. In those of 2019, which did not go ahead due to political negotiation, 500 million were included for the dependency system, which would not solve all its deficiencies –waiting lists increased last year– but that they would have lightened the situation somewhat. “In a political scenario as serious as the current one, the well-being of the people cannot end up being held hostage to partisan strategies and the lack of political stature,” they say.
The autonomy debt has also been accumulating this decade, in more than 360%, something that is directly related to the general situation. “The trend has been the drastic reduction in spending on other policies, cuts in health, education and social services, and the exponential increase in spending on debt.” The 2020 regional budgets are not yet closed or settled, they are “initial” – three communities, Castilla y León, Madrid and La Rioja, have extended theirs. Catalonia, for its part, has tried to alleviate the sustained decline in investment in Health, Education and Social Affairs with accounts for 2020 that grow by 3,000 million, the first expansive in a decade.
Although on paper the scenario improves compared to the year of 2019 and spending on public services does increase, “they must be taken with all the precautions since the forced action with budgets extended in the communities will generate important imbalances in public accounting”, explain, more for the current situation of the pandemic.
Less in Health and Education, a little more in Social Services
By specific areas, the regional budgets are still below those of 2009 in Health. They are 1,740.3 million euros less in 2019 compared to what was spent in 2009, 2.7% less. Twelve Communities (Balearic Islands, Navarra, Cantabria, Basque Country, Murcia, Asturias, Castilla y León, C. Valenciana, Andalusia, Canary Islands, Madrid and Galicia) have increased spending on Health at this stage, but on the contrary Catalonia stands out, whose spending in 2019 was 27% lower than in 2009. In Education spending has also been lowered, although somewhat less: the communities have invested 393.5 million euros less, 1%. There are nine communities (Balearic Islands, Valencian Community, Extremadura, Aragon, Cantabria, Andalusia, Navarra, Murcia and La Rioja) that increase their spending (Madrid maintains it practically the same as in 2009). And Castilla y León and Catalunya stand out for the low: they invest 8.1% and 12% less in education respectively.
In social services it is the only area in which things improve. All the Communities except two (again, Castilla-La Mancha and Catalunya) recovered in 2019 the level of expenditure of 2009 in this matter, and in the whole of Spain the autonomous expenditure ends with 2,132 million more, 17.9% increase. Even so, “insufficient”, taking into account factors such as the increase in the dependency care lists.
In addition, from the Association they express a fear. Currently, the bulk of social services goes to three sections: basic insertion income, community services and the long-term care system. And they see in “clear risk” that, after the approval of the Minimum Vital Income, “when it finally starts, the communities consider that with this it is necessary and the money destined for rents is invested in something else. We believe that we will have to be vigilant. ”