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Spain in trouble as borrowing costs rise over 7%

A man walks near the Kio Towers, headquarters of Bankia in Plaza de Castilla on June 9, 2012 in Madrid, Spain.

Jeff Horwich: The leaders of the G20 meeting in Mexico plan to issue a statement -- all comity and solidarity -- later today. They'll pledge unity to boost global growth, and to stop short any meltdown in Spain or anywhere else.

But tensions are keyed up. And at one point, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso got bumped off the harmonious talking points.

Jose Manuel Barroso: This crisis was not originated in Europe. This crisis was originated in North America. But we are not putting the blame on our partners, what we are saying is, lets work together when we have a problem. Like the one we have today.

... and we're all friends again.

If yesterday was all about Greece, today belongs to Spain. Concern about Spanish banks has pushed the government's borrowing costs over 7 percent. That's a level that pushed other smaller European countries -- like Greece -- over the edge.

Alfredo Pastor is a former deputy finance minister and now an economist at the IESE Business School. Professor Pastor, welcome.

Alfredo Pastor: Good morning.

Horwich: Connect the dots for us here if you would: in a fairly short time, it seems like, we've gone from talking about the bailout of a single bank -- albeit, a large one, Bankia -- to talking about Europe needing to intervene to essentially support the entire Spanish economy and government. How did we get so quickly from A to B?

Pastor: Well, I think that the way that the Bankia crisis was handled scared the markets a little bit. For the time being, they seem to distress the entire Spanish banking system. Until the report comes from these two companies that have been hired to look at the banking accounts, I think that the markets will remain wary about financing the Spanish banking sector.

Horwich: I read a report from an analyst this morning that suggested a sovereign bailout for Spain is inevitable at this point. Do you agree with that?

Pastor: No, I don't. The problem we have is not a problem of public debt; it is a problem of private debt. Now of course, if you assume that the entire banking debt is going to be nationalized, then of course, you have a problem with the public debt. But there is no reason to assume that.

Horwich: If it were to come to that, the current president of Spain seems to think a bailout can proceed without having to make the kind of changes that will affect people's way of life -- austerity is the watchword for it. What do you think?

Pastor: If we did have a bailout, then the intervention would be much more strict than it is today. People who bail us out would want to keep a closer eye to what we do; certainly, conditions would change.

Horwich: That is the critical difference between the private bailout of a bank and the sovereign bailout of Spain.

Pastor: Yes.

Horwich: Professor Alfredo Pastor, thank you very much.

Pastor: You're welcome.

 

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

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