Regions fuming about Catalan debt "privilege"

Madrid mayor says PM "discriminating" against capital

A number of local Spanish leaders are up in arms about what they consider to be preferential treatment granted to the cash-strapped region of Catalonia, which is being allowed to take on more debt at a time when the rest of the country is being urged to tighten belts to meet deficit-reduction targets and suffering its own liquidity problems.

Objections also stretched to Castilla-La Mancha and Aragon, two of the regions controlled by the ruling Socialist Party. Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero agreed to allow Catalonia to issue more debt at a meeting with regional premier Artur Mas of the CiU Catalan nationalist group on Monday, despite the northeastern region's failure to hit its budget targets last year under Mas' Socialist predecessor.

More information
Government extends some debt issue relief to all regions

The premier of Castilla-La Mancha, José María Barreda noted that all Spaniards are equal before the Constitution and that the government should "treat all regions in the same way and not give privileges to any of them."

Ramón Luis Valcárcel, the conservative Popular Party (PP) head of the southeast region of Murcia, which has seen street protests against cuts in social spending, requested an urgent meeting with Zapatero on a par with the one granted to Mas.

PP Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, who failed to persuade Zapatero to allow him to refinance debt this year, said: "There is clear discrimination against Madrileños."

Like Catalonia, Madrid is also struggling to pay its suppliers. Gallardón went so far as to say that Zapatero's snub to Madrid's refinancing request was motivated by "political reasons" rather than the government's desire to restore the country's finances.

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