Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in an interview with the Financial Times that the economic recovery will be felt in Spain this year, when the reforms implemented by his government will start "to bear fruit."

"I think that the second half of 2013 is when we will start to see a recovery, and it will come through very clearly in 2014," Rajoy told the FT during the interview at the Moncloa Palace, his official residence.

The prime minister noted that Spain's exports were rising and the risk premium on its debt had fallen, all signs of an economic recovery.

Unemployment is still Spain's "most important problem," but the labor market reforms implemented by the government have helped Spanish firms become more competitive, the 57-year-old Rajoy said.

"Recent job losses have taken place in the real estate sector, in the financial sector and in the public sector," the prime minister said. "But in other sectors of the economy jobs have not been lost. So the labor reform has started to bear fruit."

Rajoy said he was "proud and happy" to be from Galicia, a region in northwestern Spain that is a bastion of his conservative Popular Party, or PP, and defended himself against criticism that he was slow to make decisions.

"It is the old cliché that Rajoy never takes decisions," the prime minister said. "They say about the Gallegos (Galicians) that they like to wait and see - and they say the same thing about me. But in the year since I took over the government I reduced the public deficit in a situation where we were in recession. I pushed through structural reforms and a reform of the banking sector. I would like to know: How many non-Gallegos would have taken those decisions?" EFE