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Spanish government in new bid to revive economy

26th April 2013, Comments0 comments


Spain's government, seeking to cut its deficit amidst a double-dip recession, is to unveil new measures Friday aimed at reviving the economy, a day after registering record unemployment.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government is to unveil its latest package of economic reforms at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT), a day after violent protests over news that unemployment in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy had surged past 27 percent in the first quarter of 2013 -- a new record.

Neighbouring France also posted a record unemployment rate Thursday, as jobseekers in the eurozone's second-biggest economy surged by 36,900 in March to 3.224 million, beating a record set in 1997.

In Madrid about 1,000 people, mostly youths, gathered Thursday evening near the Spanish parliament in response to a call by a hardline protest movement for demonstrators to "besiege Congress" indefinitely to force the conservative government to quit.

Chanting "We are not afraid", the protesters marched to a square in front of parliament protected by police barricades.

Some protesters held signs reading "6.2 million reasons", a reference to the latest jobless figure.

"We are protesting to try and win back the democracy that has been stolen from us," said one demonstrator, 31-year-old Manuel, who would not give his last name.

"The money that the government should be giving to help people get jobs, it has given instead to ruined banks, while it is the people who need help."

Police wielding batons charged a group of stone- and bottle-throwing demonstrators who stayed behind after the main crowd dispersed.

Emergency services said 29 people were injured, including 13 police.

Before the demonstration police arrested four members of anarchist groups suspected of plotting to set fire to a bank and 11 people accused of blocking access to a university.

Spain's jobless rate now stands at 27.16 percent, just below that of bailed-out Greece which has the highest rate in the European Union at 27.2 percent.

Unemployment reached 57.2 percent among those under 25, the National Statistics Institute said.

Spain, once the motor of job creation in the 17-nation eurozone, is now struggling through the aftermath of the collapse of a property bubble in 2008.

Its economy contracted by 1.37 percent last year, the second-worst yearly slump since 1970. The government forecasts it will shrink again by between one percent and 1.5 percent this year.

The surge in unemployment is a major headache for Rajoy, whose conservative Popular Party swept to power in a landslide general election win in November 2011 on the back of promises to reverse the tide of joblessness.

Rising unemployment has caused evictions to soar, overwhelmed food banks with demand and forced tens of thousands of people, particularly youths, to leave in search of work abroad.

The government has already reformed labour laws to make it easier to hire and fire workers and imposed harsh austerity measures that Rajoy says are needed to curb the public deficit and help the country save 150 billion euros ($195 billion) by 2014.

In France, March was the 23rd consecutive month of rising unemployment, as Socialist President Francois Hollande struggles to revive a stagnant economy threatened by recession.

The French labour ministry did not provide a current unemployment rate, but said it was 10.2 percent at the end of 2012 and remained below the 10.8 percent record set in 1997.


© 2013 AFP

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