Front-runner for Spanish PM makes employment a priority

31st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

The frontrunner to be Spain's next prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, vowed Monday to tackle the towering 21.52 jobless rate as a priority if elected on November 20.

Rajoy said job creation was an "obsession" as he addressed his conservative opposition Popular Party, expected to crush the governing Socialists in polls as voters express anger over the economy.

"Our main goal, our obsession, is employment. There is no greater priority in a country with five million unemployed, with nearly a million young people seeking work."

Nearly 1.5 million households had not a single member of the family employed, said the 56-year-old Popular Party leader.

"We should focus all our policies, all our resources and all our efforts on the creation of employment as the first economic goal, as the main guarantee of social wellbeing and as a real national emergency," he said.

The Popular Party would free up the labour market by simplifying employment contracts and giving preference to wage deals struck by a company and its workers instead of broader collective agreements, he said.

The party has a commanding lead with backing from more than 45 percent of potential voters compared to just over 30 percent for the Socialists, according to polls published Sunday by the dailies El Pais and El Mundo.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is not running in the elections, bowing out after two four-year terms. His former deputy and interior minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, is leading the uphill election fight.

The bad news kept piling up for the Socialists, as the central bank issued a report Monday estimating the economy had stalled at zero growth in the third quarter.

"Those who created the problem cannot be the solution to the problem," said Rajoy, promising to abide by Spain's commitment to cut the public deficit to 4.4 percent of GDP next year from a target of 6.0 percent of GDP this year.

The party would introduce tougher sanctions for public authorities that spend unbudgeted money, cut waste, and close down public bodies whose work can be done by the administration, he said.

Rajoy also promised a temporary lower VAT rate on house buying to boost the property market, still in a slump after a 2008 housing bubble burst leaving millions out of work.

A summary of the party's manifesto said it would also modify the abortion law reformed by the Socialists last year to make access to the procedure easier.

"We will change the current legislation model relating to abortion in order to reinforce the protection of the right to life as well as female minors," the document said.

© 2011 AFP

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