ECONOMY

PP regions bow to Rajoy over need to slash deficit

Andalusia to square up against austerity at key meeting

Ahead of a key meeting Tuesday on the parlous state of the regions' finances, Popular Party barons on Tuesday closed ranks around Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has ordered regional leaders to adhere strictly to the deficit target set them for this year of 1.5 percent of GDP.

"We have to cut the deficit and not ask for anything more," said the economic commissioner for the Valencia region, José Manuel Vela. "The 1.5-percent figure appears reasonable."

The main opposition at the meeting of the Council for Fiscal and Financial Policy is expected to come from Socialist-controlled Andalusia's economy commissioner, Carmen Martínez Aguayo, who has accused Madrid of trying to lay the burden of nursing the state's finances back to health on the regions.

Andalusia and Catalonia, the country's two biggest regions, on Sunday asked the Rajoy administration for greater breathing space on the deficit target, arguing that achieving it would entail big cuts to essential services such as education and health.

Catalan economic commissioner Andreu Mas-Colell on Tuesday said he was open to any developments that emerged at the meeting, but insisted that the onus should be shared equally by all the regions.

A big blowout in regional finances was the main reason behind the country's public administrations overshooting last year's deficit target of six percent by 2.5 points.

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