When he was appointed Spanish Minister of Finance in December 2011, Cristóbal Montoro expressed surprise at discovering a deviation from the deficit and held José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero responsible for what had in fact been the fault of PP-governed regions.
Yesterday, four years later, Montoro revealed that in the final year of the PP's mandate the state deficit exceeded all forecasts and was not the 4.5% promised by Mariano Rajoy a fortnight ago, but rather 5.2%. In other words, a shortfall of €10 billion in 2015, which La Moncloa did not realise until the last minute and completely undermines its credibility with Brussels.
When it came to apportioning the blame, however, Montoro exempted the Spanish state and blamed Catalonia, which quadrupled its target of 0.7% - despite reducing it from 2.74% to 2.70% - and to a lesser extent, Valencia.
In his annual budget statement, the Spanish Finance Minister dodged the barrage of questions about the deficit reaching 5.2% (€56 billion) when the target was 4.2% and the maximum Rajoy had admitted to was 4.5%. Had this been concealment or optimism? “Not concealment, not at all,” he refuted. But his words did not reflect well on the acting PM: “What Rajoy said was not a forecast but a generic reference without having received any information from the Ministry of Finance.”
Despite finding Catalonia mainly at fault, Montoro said that all regions except for three - the Basque Country, Galicia and the Canary Islands - would now live under “special supervision” regarding their budget spending.