KEY POINTS

  • Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said the plan would be targeted to families who really need the assistance regardless of the impact on the budget
  • Spain had been expected to run a $35 billion budget deficit and the IMF has reduced its 2020 GDP estimate to 1.6%
  • The government introduced a $216 billion stimulus package last month and issued a moratorium on mortgage payments

Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calvino says the government is working on a permanent universal basic income plan to help counter the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Calvino, who also serves as deputy prime minister, told broadcaster La Sexta in an interview Sunday the plan would be rolled out as soon as possible despite the impact on the budget. The crisis has worsened the country’s budget deficit, which is expected to hit $35 billion.

The plan is being coordinated by Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriva, and the government hopes to keep the program in place even after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

Spain has reported more than 135,000 confirmed coronavirus infections – the largest cluster outside the United States even though its population is only 15% the size of the U.S. population – with 13,169 deaths.

She said the program would be rolled out slowly and targeted toward families who really need the help.

"The work is complicated and we are on many fronts at the moment, but the ministry is working decisively on it and we will do it as soon as possible," Calvino said, adding the government wants to make sure “no one is left out or left behind.”

Calvino declined to be pinned down on the size of the stipends or when the program would start. She said the government wants to make sure “it is useful, but not only for this exceptional situation, and that it stays forever.”

The government rolled out a $216 billion public/private package to boost the economy late last month. A moratorium was issued on mortgage payments with another in the works for utilities and other essential services. Businesses were promised a cash boost.

The International Monetary Fund revised its estimate for Spain’s 2020 gross domestic product down to 1.6% as a result of the pandemic, which will keep the country on lockdown at least through April 26.

Hotels across Spain have been converted into medical care centres to free up beds in hospitals flooded with COVID-19 cases Hotels across Spain have been converted into medical care centres to free up beds in hospitals flooded with COVID-19 cases Photo: AFP / PAU BARRENA