Inter-regional disparities in per capita public spending on education, health and social protection ran to almost 60%, and even after the cutbacks of recent years, some regions with greater abundance of resources like the Basque Country, Asturias and Navarre are currently spending much more than other regions before the onset of the crisis. These differences are due considerably more to funding disparities than to each region’s differing needs.
These are some of the main conclusions found in the BBVA Foundation and Ivie study Servicios públicos, diferencias territoriales e igualdad de oportunidades, directed by Francisco Pérez, Ivie Research Director and Professor of Economic Analysis at the University of Valencia, in collaboration with Ivie economists, Laura Hernández and Vicent Cucarella.
The study examines the trajectory of BPS expenditure in Spain and its autonomous communities over the course of the 21st century in order to provide objective data which can be referred to in assessments and decision making. The authors highlight the important differences in spending on these basic services among regions and how this affects the equal access to them.
"The main differences in spending on basic public services are not a result of decentralization, as they existed before since the main government did not distribute services equally among all territories. However, the permanence of these disparities is a cause of instability among regions", suggests the study. "If deep unequal regional funding persists, spending on basic public services in Spain will continue presenting asymmetries incompatible with regional equity and equal opportunities," according to the authors.
The study reveals that the improvement of policies of basic public services in Spain requires the attention of four important initiatives:
- The sustainability of these services requires financial medium- and long-term horizons, based on prudence and accompanied by provision funds during the boom years to fulfill commitments and avoid current frustrations
- Promote institutional loyalty so that all public administrations share the same priority of policies to provide them with the corresponding funds, regardless of the administration that manages them
- Revise the high territorial differences in spending that question the policies of equal opportunities
- Reform the regional funding systems to meet the constitutional right of inter-territorial equality
The publication includes a database that offers new information for the 2002-2013 period on the basic public services expenditure for each region by level of government: central administration, autonomous communities, local corporations and social security administrations.
"More than half of total public expenditure is spent on education, health and social protection. These three basic public services are essential to achieve the goal of equity that public actions pursue, especially the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities."
Further information (in Spanish)
The monograph has been updated 20th May 2015 to incorporate the changes made by the General Intervention Board of the State Administration (IGAE) in the official data of the autonomous community of Asturias during the fiscal years 2012 and 2013.