major macro economic indicators
|2020||2021||2022 (e)||2023 (p)|
|GDP growth (%)||-11.3||5.5||4.7||1.0|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||-0.3||3.1||8.4||5.0|
|Budget balance (% GDP)||-10.3||-6.9||-4.2||-4.5|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||0.8||1.0||0.9||1.0|
|Public debt (% GDP)||120.4||118.3||113.1||111.5|
(e): Estimate (f): Forecast
- Strong comparative advantage in renewable energy (solar, wind)
- Important reforms (labour market, banking sector, bankruptcy law, etc.)
- Increasing financial support from European institutions
- Important private-sector deleveraging (pre-pandemic)
- Manufacturing sector has shown reinvention capacity in recent times
- High private and public debt, highly negative international investment position
- Dual labour market, high structural unemployment
- Large quota of small, low-productivity companies
- High exposure to pandemic-sensitive sectors
- Fragmented and polarized political landscape, territorial unity threatened by the Catalan independence movement
Recovery dynamics still incomplete
While Spain was badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic due to its dependence on the tourism sector (12% of GDP and 13% of employment), its recovery dynamic has deteriorated sharply following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. With the environment remaining unfavourable in 2023, GDP will still not return to its pre-crisis level. Despite a rebound in 2022, tourism was still 15% below pre-pandemic levels with 15% fewer foreign visitors than in 2019. Nevertheless, unlike other European countries, Spain is not very dependent on Russian gas and obtains its supplies mainly from the United States and Algeria. Moreover, its geographical isolation and low level of gas connection with the rest of the continent mean that it is less exposed to the risk of supply disruption. This is all the more true as the country has numerous infrastructures (6 terminals) for importing liquefied natural gas. This isolation also allows the country, in the current context, to benefit from more attractive prices via the MIBGAS market (with Portugal). In addition, an "Iberian derogation" granted by the European Commission has allowed the country to cap the price of gas used in electricity generation since mid-2022 and until May 2023. Inflation, driven down by the moderation of gas and electricity prices at the end of 2022, should therefore continue its downward trend. Nevertheless, as the rise in energy prices has spread to all products and services - core inflation reached 7% in December 2022 - inflation will remain at levels well above those recorded before the crisis. With wages growing at a slower pace, households will see their purchasing power shrink. As this period of uncertainty is conducive to precautionary savings, households will reduce their consumption. At the same time, companies will continue to suffer from higher input costs and wage increases, while facing much higher financing costs as the ECB continues to tighten monetary policy early this year. The consequent reduction in margins, in a context of high economic uncertainty, will hamper business investment. In this gloomy panorama, activity will nevertheless still be supported by European funds, with EUR 69.5 billion in subsidies (6% of GDP) for the period 2021-2026. In terms of foreign trade, exports will be limited by the sluggish regional economy, since 62% of its exports are destined for the rest of the European Union (68% including the United Kingdom).
Public finances still in deficit due to the extension of support measures
The public accounts will remain largely in deficit in 2023 due to the extension of numerous support measures. The government will thus continue the measures to limit the impact of the rise in energy prices on households (reduction in the price of fuel, VAT on essential goods and taxes on the price of electricity), and some measures introduced during the pandemic (partial activity, guaranteed loans). Social spending will reach a record level (60% of the total budget). The government will finance part of these measures through temporary taxes on windfall profits of banks and energy companies (estimated revenue of EUR 7 billion or 0.6% of GDP over two years). As the ECB has announced that it will start reducing its asset portfolio in March 2023, by not reinvesting part of the maturing bonds, the cost of funding will increase further. In this context, the sustainability of the very high public debt will be one of the challenges in the medium-term.
On the other hand, since 2013, the country has consistently posted a current account surplus, which has narrowed significantly in 2020 due to the fall in tourism revenues. The large surplus in the balance of services (5% of GDP before the pandemic, 2% since) offsets the structural deficits in the balance of goods, largely due to the country's energy dependence, and in the balance of income (remittances from the Latin American and Moroccan diasporas to their countries of origin). Despite the confirmation of the return of foreign tourists, the current account surplus will remain stable in 2023, due to a still high energy bill and a sluggish external demand. Despite a downward trend in recent years, the country's net external debt remains among the highest in the European Union (69% of GDP by mid-2022).
Highly uncertain 2023 general election, which could see the return of the main opposition party PP
At the head of a heterogeneous coalition government since January 2020, supported by Unidas Podemos (UP, far-left, 33 seats) and a multitude of small parties, including regionalist parties, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE, 120 seats out of 350) will see his term of office end in 2023. The general elections, which will take place by December at the latest, look particularly uncertain. In early 2023, polls gave the main opposition party, Alberto Núñez Feijóo's centre-right Popular Party (PP), 31% of the vote vs. 25% for the PSOE. However, as the political landscape is particularly polarised and fragmented, the PP would likely be forced to form a coalition with the far-right Vox party (15% of voting intentions). While such an agreement has already been reached in the region of Castilla y León in March 2022, the negotiation of such an alliance at the national level is more uncertain, especially given Feijóo's more centrist position. Regardless of the outcome of these elections, the many small regionalist parties are once again likely to play a major role in building a majority. Thus, the negotiations for the future governing coalition could be long and uncertain. Although Pedro Sánchez has granted pardons to nine separatist leaders sentenced in 2019 for organising the referendum, the issue of Catalan independence remains topical, as the current executive is still calling for a referendum on self-determination in the context of negotiations on the region's status.
Last updated: Février 2023
Cheques are widely used for corporate transactions in Spain. They offer similar legal safeguards under the juicio cambiario (Civil Prodecures Code) in the event of default. The same is true of promissory notes (pagaré), which, like bills of exchange and cheques, are instruments enforceable by law. If unpaid, they are recorded in the registry of unpaid acceptances (RAI, Registro de Aceptationes Impagadas). Attached to the Centre for Interbank Cooperation, the RAI is the country’s most important registry. It records all commercial payment defaults of over €300, thus allowing banks and other deposit institutions to verify a company’s payment record before extending credit.
In contrast, bills of exchange are rarely used commercially. In the event of defaults, they offer creditors certain safeguards, including access to special collection proceedings with instruments for negotiation under the civil procedures code (juicio cambiario). Bills of exchange that have been guaranteed by a bank can be somewhat difficult to obtain, but they do limit the risk of payment default by offering creditors recourse to the endorser of the bill of exchange.
Electronic transfers via the SWIFT network, widely used by Spanish banks, are a fast, fairly reliable and cheap payment instrument, provided the purchaser orders payment in good faith. If the buyer fails to order a transfer, the legal recourse is to institute ordinary proceedings, based on the unpaid invoice. Banks in Spain have also been implementing SEPA standards for euro-denominated payments.
Unless there are special clauses included in the commercial contract, the applicable rate of interest is that applied by the European Central Bank in its most recent refinancing operation (performed prior to the first calendar day of the half year concerned), with an additional eight percentage points. The rate is published by the Finance Minister every six months, in the Boletín Oficial del Estado. The statute of limitations for ordinary claims is five years.
There are no formalities or conditions for the dispatch of a reminder to the debtor, but it is advisable to send a claim to the debtor first. The creditor can obtain guarantees for the payment of the debt.
If no settlement agreement is reached with the customer, the creditor can initiate a legal collection process, using civil procedure law (ley de Enjuiciamento civil).
Exchange proceedings are used for claims based on bills of exchange, promissory notes and cheques. A judge of the first instance (juzgado de primera instancia) verifies that the ‘exchange title’ has been correctly implemented and then orders the debtor to make payment of both the principal amount and the late interests and costs, within ten days. The judge will also order a seizure for security (embargo preventivo) on the debtor’s assets, equivalent to the outstanding amount. The debtor has ten days to dispute the ruling.
If there is no payment received or opposition within the prescribed time, the judge will order enforcement measures. If necessary, the judicial representative will carry out attachment. When claims are contested, a court hearing is held to examine both parties’ arguments and a judgement should be handed down within ten additional days. Although this is time frame that is prescribed under Spanish law, it is rarely adhered to by the courts.
In addition to the juicio cambiario, creditors unable to reach a payment settlement out of court can enforce their rights through a civil procedure (juicio declarativo). Civil procedures are divided into ordinary proceedings (juicio ordinario) for claims of over €6,000 and oral proceedings (juicio verbal) – a more simplified system – for smaller claims. Both proceedings are initiated with a lawsuit served on the debtor.
The claimant is required to explain the facts of his claim and provide all supporting documents – either originals, or copies that have been certified by a public notary – on filing its initial petition. Prior to the investigation of the case, the judge will summon the parties during a first hearing (audiencia previa), using ordinary proceedings, to encourage a conciliation. If this is unsuccessful, the lawsuit will be pursued. The court can then order specific measures to clarify issues or facts that remain unclear, before passing judgment.
Monitory proceedings (Juicio monitorio)
For monetary, liquid and overdue claims, whatever the outstanding amount (previously limited to up to €250,000), creditors can now benefit from a more flexible summary procedure. The filing of a petición inicial is directly submitted to the judge of first instance (juzgado de primera instancia) where the debtor is located. After reviewing the supporting documents, the judge can order the debtor to pay within 20 days.
If the debtor does not respond, the judicial representative will inform the judge and request confirmation of the decision in favour of the initial request. The judicial representative then hands down a ruling confirming the conclusion of monitory proceedings, which is transmitted to the creditor. This allows the creditor to contact the Enforcement Office for the next phase. If the debtor disputes the ruling and provides motivated arguments for this within a written statement signed by a barrister and a solicitor, a full trial on the case will be instigated.
Enforcement of a Legal Decision
When all appeal venues have been exhausted, domestic court decisions become enforceable. If the debtor fails to satisfy the judgment within 20 days, the Court Clerk, upon request, can seek out the debtor’s assets and seize them.
Decisions on foreign awards rendered by EU countries benefit from enforcement conditions, such as EU Payment orders and the European Enforcement Order. Judgements rendered by non-EU countries are recognised and enforced, provided that the issuing country is party to a bilateral or multilateral agreement with Spain. If no such agreement is in place, Spanish exequatur proceedings will be followed.
A debtor has the possibility of negotiating a formal refinancing agreement (acuerdo de refinanciacion formal) with his creditors. This agreement must be signed by the court. Within this agreement, the parties are free to write off as much of the debt as they deem necessary.
Bankruptcy proceedings are launched by filing a petition for an insolvency order. After examination of the petition, the judge makes an insolvency order. Creditors are expected to notify their claims within one month of publication of the insolvency order. The court appoints an insolvency manager, who examines the debtor’s financial situation and establishes a report on its debts. If there is no opposition to the report, the insolvency manager submits the final version to the judge. The judge subsequently orders the commencement of the arrangement phase with its repayment schedule, viability plan and alternative proposals for repayment.
During these proceedings, the debtor may file for liquidation:
- upon petition of the debtor, at any time;
- when the debtor is no longer able to make the scheduled payments or the obligations incurred, as defined in the arrangement;
- upon petition of a creditor, for breach of the arrangement;
- upon petition of the judicial administration, upon termination of professional or commercial activity.
The judicial administration draws up a liquidation plan in order to realise (sell) the assets, consisting of the bankruptcy estate, which is submitted to the judge for approval.
Liquidation in Spain aims to sell the company’s assets. During this phase, the company retains its legal persona. Liquidators are appointed to execute the process and they can also take over the function of administrative body and company representative. The liquidator cannot redistribute the company’s assets among its associates until all of its creditors have been paid and payment demands against the company have been settled. Aggrieved creditors can contest transactions that they believe may have taken place illegally during the allocation of the assets.