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Spanish Think Tank Fedea That Criticized Rajoy Gets New Leader

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Fedea, a Spanish research institute that’s critical of the government’s policies, will be led starting next month by Angel de la Fuente, an economist previously picked by Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro to audit regional funding.

De la Fuente, an expert in regional economics at the University of Barcelona, said the think tank, best known for its No Free Lunch blog, will refrain from getting involved in politics in future.

“Fedea shouldn’t do such things; it should be apolitical,” de la Fuente said in a phone interview today. The institute’s current focus is “generally good,” he added, and it will research regional issues, transport, tax and regulation.

The Madrid-based institute raised its profile during the financial crisis with its blog, which reached as many as 183,000 monthly readers featuring writers from Columbia Business School, the London School of Economics and the University of Pennsylvania mixing political commentary with economic analysis.

De la Fuente, who starts as executive director on April 1, said he hasn’t decided what will happen to the blog. A Fedea spokeswoman confirmed the appointment.

Fedea, which carries out economic research and is financed by companies including Iberdrola SA and Banco Santander SA, created its blog early in the crisis and published criticism of both the Socialist and People’s Party administrations. It attracted most attention in June 2012 when three contributors wrote a front-page editorial in El Pais newspaper calling for a new government six months after current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took office.

‘Mistake’

“That was a mistake,” de la Fuente, 51, said.

De la Fuente was chosen by the institute’s patrons, which include the Bank of Spain and companies including Abertis SA and Repsol SA. He is a specialist in regional finances and has written articles in El Pais disputing the Catalan regional government’s assertions about the benefits of independence.

A Bank of Spain spokesman declined to comment.

Montoro chose de la Fuente to lead a study into what each region pays out and receives from the national tax system. That report is being prepared as the government negotiates a new system for financing the regions.

To contact the reporters on this story: Emma Ross-Thomas in Madrid at erossthomas@bloomberg.net; Esteban Duarte in Madrid at eduarterubia@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Stephen Foxwell at sfoxwell@bloomberg.net Ben Sills, Eddie Buckle

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