Pesadillas californianas

STANFORD – Mientras que problemas fiscales plagan a los gobiernos centrales en muchas economías, una crisis paralela envuelve a muchos gobiernos subnacionales en todo el mundo. Desde España a China a los Estados Unidos e Italia, los gobiernos de regiones, Estados, provincias, ciudades y pueblos se enfrentan a enormes desafíos fiscales. Los niveles gubernamentales superiores están “agarrados por el cuello”, es decir no tienen otra salida, que rescatar a los gobiernos locales insolventes, e incluso pueden sufrir rebajas en la calificación de sus bonos como consecuencia de ello; en España, Italia y China, ese papel corresponde al gobierno nacional, y, en el caso de las ciudades y pueblos de los Estados Unidos dicho papel corresponde a los Estados en los que se encuentran.

Hay muchas similitudes dentro de y entre países en términos de la naturaleza y las causas de estas calamidades fiscales a nivel local. Los funcionarios locales utilizaron los ingresos crecientes durante periodos de auge para financiar sus proyectos favoritos o para aumentar salarios y beneficios, prestando escasa atención a los costos futuros. En periodos de recesión, los ingresos y las subvenciones procedentes del gobierno central colapsaron  y llegó la hora de pagar facturas. Trucos creativos de contabilidad enmascararon la magnitud  total del problema. Ahora viene la hora del ajuste de cuentas.

Para financiar empresas locales, los gobiernos locales chinos utilizan los llamados “vehículos de financiación de los gobiernos locales” (en inglés: “local-government financing vehicles”, o LGFVs) para eludir prohibiciones relativas a préstamos directos. En España, los colapsos en los ámbitos de la vivienda y el empleo han golpeado fuertemente a los ingresos. Existen rumores de una inminente espiral de incumplimientos en Sicilia, cuyo gobernador dimitió cuando los préstamos se dispararon después de se aplicaron recortes desde Roma. Un nuevo informe de un grupo de trabajo copresidido por el ex presidente de la Reserva Federal, Paul Volcker, indica que los costos no financiados en los ámbitos de pensiones y de salud hacen que, a mediano y largo plazo, las perspectivas fiscales de muchos Estados en los Estados Unido sean sombrías.

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