Madrid – Spanish Prime Minister-elect Mariano Rajoy on Monday unveiled the general policies of his government, including reducing the public deficit by 16.5 billion euros ($21.4 billion) in 2012 and increasing the portion of the budget going to pensions.
In his much anticipated speech before the lower house of Parliament, which on Tuesday will vote on the inauguration of the leader of the conservative Popular Party as the new head of government, Rajoy cited as his administration's two biggest tasks "stopping the bleeding" of unemployment and stimulating growth.
After confirming that the deficit will settle this year, according to predictions by the current government, at around 65 billion euros ($84.4 billion), or 6 percent of GDP, Rajoy announced that in 2012 "we will have to reduce it by 16.5 billion euros ($21.4 billion)."
By doing so, the 4.4 percent of GDP fixed as the debt limit would be respected.
"That is the objective, that is our commitment," said the PP leader.
Rajoy, due to be sworn in on Wednesday, also enumerated several measures that have been proposed, among them a forthcoming budget-stability law, finalizing the reorganization of the financial sector and "structural reforms to make the economy more flexible and more competitive," including an overhaul of labor law.
After noting that the panorama "could not be more dismal" with a Spanish economy that is not growing and "the number of people seeking employment without finding it ... at 5.4 million" (23 percent of the workforce)," he emphasized that he will focus "on stimulating growth and fostering the creation of jobs."
The conservative leader warned that "the only and exclusive" portion of the budget that he intends to increase in 2012 are those funds allocated to increasing pensions so that retirees may recover lost purchasing power.
The freezing of pensions was one of the most criticized measures adopted by the outgoing socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to reduce the public deficit to 6 percent of GDP this year.
All the other spending items are "subject" to cuts, Rajoy emphasized.
The Socialists' parliamentary spokesman, Jose Antonio Alonso, called Rajoy's speech "very ambiguous and disappointing," and added that it "concerns (the Socialists) a lot" that he offered no concrete figures "on the financing of essential public services."
Along the same lines, the spokesman for the centrist Catalan nationalists of the CiU party, Josep Antoni Duran Lleida, reproached the prime minister-elect for not saying "how he's going to finance some of the announced measures."
For the leftist IU coalition, the PP leader's address to Parliament was a mere formality, because - it said - the approval that is important to Rajoy is "that of (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel and (French President) Nicolas Sarkozy."