Recortar el gasto sin perjudicar a los pobres

PARÍS – ¿Por qué algunos gobiernos gastan más que otros? La pregunta es más compleja de lo que parece, sobre todo en el caso de los gobiernos europeos.

La respuesta puede parecer obvia al comparar, por ejemplo, Dinamarca (donde el gasto público, excluyendo los pagos de intereses de la deuda, alcanzó el 58% del PIB en 2012) y Estados Unidos (donde la misma cifra fue de un 35%). No hay duda de que la explicación está en la amplitud de los servicios públicos y el alcance del estado de bienestar. Los datos parecen reivindicar la famosa frase de la canciller alemana, Ángela Merkel, de que el problema de Europa es que tiene el 7% de la población, produce el 25% del PIB y debe financiar el 50% del gasto social del planeta.

Desde esta perspectiva, los gobiernos europeos se enfrentan a una elección incómoda. La mayoría está buscando maneras de limitar el endeudamiento público, recortar los déficits y reducir el gasto sin perjudicar a sus ciudadanos más pobres. Pero, a juzgar por la experiencia de EE.UU. y otros países no europeos, es posible que se vean ante la disyuntiva de elegir entre la insolvencia y la desigualdad. Tras haber alcanzado el punto en que apenas pueden seguir aumentando los impuestos, les resulta imposible pagar sus deudas manteniendo en simultáneo el gasto social en los niveles actuales.

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