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Spain climbs above Italy in European per capita income

18 December 2007

MADRID – After well over a decade of uninterrupted economic growth, Spaniards have moved above Italians in the European Union wealth table for the first time ever, but continue to lag behind the average in the 13-member euro zone as a whole.

According to figures released Monday by the European Union’s statistics office Eurostat, Spain’s GDP per capita climbed to 105 percent of the 27-member EU last year from 103 percent the previous year. By contrast, Italy moved in exactly the opposite direction with the figure falling to 103 percent from 105 percent.

The figures are expressed in terms of what is called a purchasing-power standard, an artificial reference currency that factors out inflationary differences between countries.

The average figure for the 13 countries in the single European currency bloc was 110 percent. Spain stood above its neighbour Portugal, where GDP per inhabitant stood at 75 percent of the average – down one percentage point from the previous year. The figure for euro-area newcomer Slovenia was 88 percent, while in Greece it stood at 98 percent.

The range for the EU was 37 percent of the average in the case of Poland and 280 percent in Luxembourg, which was followed by Ireland with 146 percent.

There is a statistical proviso to the figures in that the entry of poorer countries to the EU in 2004 and this year has had the effect of lowering the average.

Spain’s population in the past few years has also been swelled to about 45 million by the entry of around 5 million immigrants.

Nonetheless, the Spanish economy has been growing at rates well above the average for the euro zone as a whole. GDP is expected to increase by 3.8 percent this year, compared with an average of 2.6 percent for the single European currency area as a whole.

The domestic economy, however, is expected to slow toward 3 percent as a massive housing boom comes to an end.

[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL./ ISABEL C. MARTÍNEZ 2007]

Subject: Spanish news