Strategic lines of inquiry
1. The crisis of the euro and the future of the EU.
The current crisis has revealed, in all its harshness, the constraints facing the euro area as it is currently designed. In particular, it has shown the imbalances that monetary integration can cause, in the absence of the necessary budgetary and institutional integration, and with a European market in which the mobility of factors of production and the real integration of some markets are not what an optimal currency area would call for. Today, the opinion, debate and reflection on the limitations of an incomplete monetary union (and, in particular, on the need for monetary integration to be accompanied by the necessary political and institutional integration) is a strategically crucial topic for the future of the European economy. This question is almost inseparable from that of the economic policy appropriate for dealing with the crisis, and in particular the appropriate balance between austerity (and fiscal consolidation), on the one hand, and the stimulation of economic growth, on the other, two issues which are, of course, closely intertwined.
2. Emergence from the economic crisis in Spain and the transformation of the model of competitiveness.
In the specific case of Spain and Catalonia, recovery from the crisis is only possible with a real project of adjustment and reforms, which should not only resolve the basic imbalances, but also produce a profound change in the economy’s model of competitiveness. In reality, this change is already occurring to a large extent,. It is essential to examine the basic vectors of this transformation and analyse the underlying changes that are already taking place in the economy during the crisis. It is similarly important to emphasize the real fundamentals, in many cases much more positive than the economic climate would lead us to expect, in order to address these transformations. Finally, in this strategic approach, it is essential to stress the crucial importance of political factors: the adjustments require sacrifices which are only feasible in the presence of certain indispensable political conditions: leadership, vision, credibility, pacts and consensus. That is why the construction of a narrative of emergence from this crisis, analysing and explaining the adjustments and reforms that must be implemented to correct the basic imbalances in the Spanish economy, is a fundamental aspect of the present moment.
3. Taxation and the welfare state.
The crisis has brought the sustainability of the welfare state into question. In fact, it has deepened an already existing debate, and on some occasions has served as a pretext to reopen it. It is never advisable to adopt solutions to structural problems on the basis of short-term priorities. This is also applicable to the present issue, however obvious it may seem that the crisis is going to modify some of the previous structural parameters (for example, the potential GDP growth rate and, therefore, the level of public resources that we could consider ‘natural’ ). In any case, the debate on the future of the welfare state is, without a doubt, one of the great debates on the agenda today, with the status quo stubbornly defended by positions as negative as those which, more or less covertly, seem to favour its dismantling. Only a strongly reformist attitude will consolidate and strengthen the basic core of the welfare state. The Scandinavian countries, leaders in the art of combining competitiveness with a welfare state, are a good reference point. Very often the political debate leads to a great simplification of the real alternatives with regard to increases or reductions in public services and taxation. In any event, no welfare state is feasible or sustainable without a broad political and social consensus on taxation and public services, since in the final analysis it is based on an agreement on income transfers (between social sectors and generations) which is sustainable only if it is beneficial to all.