Spanish government wins support for budget

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Despite facing accusations of minimising the country’s deepening economic crisis, the Spanish government won parliamentary support for its 2009 budget.

22 October 2008

MADRID - The Spanish government Wednesday won initial parliamentary support for its 2009 budget despite being accused of downplaying the impact of the country's deepening economic crisis.

The backing of two regionalist parties allowed the governing Socialists to reject amendments that several parties had proposed to the budget, which is still pending definitive approval.

The amendments were scrapped with 177 votes, while 170 legislators voted for them and one abstained.

The opposition conservatives have argued that the 1 percent growth forecast the budget is based on is unrealistic, given that growth has plummeted from 3.8 percent in 2007 to close to zero this year.

A budget which was not based on a consensus lacked for credibility and could not create confidence, the main opposition conservative People's Party (PP) and the Catalan regionalist CiU have argued.

Economy Minister Pedro Solbes, however, said the budget was "rigorous, austere" and comprised adequate measures to protect citizens affected by the crisis.

The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) gave its backing to the government in exchange for more than EUR 100 million annually for Basque police, scientific research, infrastructure and other regional competences, according to press reports.

The Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) also supported the budget in exchange for similar concessions.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero failed to win an absolute majority in the March elections, and needed seven votes from other parties to reject the budget amendments.

The budget cuts income by 2.2 percent to EUR 295 billion and increases spending by 5 percent to EUR 304 billion.

The defence budget is trimmed by nearly 4 percent while spending on unemployment increases by 24 percent. The government has also announced a salary freeze for Zapatero and his ministers.

The budget will pass through a parliamentary economic commission for possible modifications, before being returned to the plenary session for definitive approval.

[dpa / Expatica]

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