POLITICS

Rajoy justifies austerity pain to avert “intolerable” financial squeeze

Prime minister offers Spaniards “comprehension and solidarity” in official end-of-year address

Spanish Prime Minister and Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy speaks at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid on Friday.
Spanish Prime Minister and Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy speaks at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid on Friday.JAVIER SORIANO (AFP)

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday asked Spaniards for their “comprehension and solidarity” while his government continues to implement painful reforms to deal with the grueling economic crisis.

“I believe that Spaniards are more concerned about results and preserving the welfare system,” the prime minister said during his review-of-the-year address at his La Moncloa residence. This time around, Rajoy said, he wasn’t going to ask citizens “for more patience because Spaniards have had too much already.” Nor was he going to ask them “for blind confidence because politicians owe them a daily dosage of scrutiny.”

“But I am going to ask them for comprehension and solidarity,” he said.

Without his center-right Popular Party government’s reforms, the situation would be “intolerable” while the public deficit would be between 11 to 11.5 percent of GDP, he said.

“And who would lend us money under that situation?” Rajoy asked. “It is better that we don’t think about that because it never occurred.”

The prime minister didn’t give any hints on whether he will introduce more belt-tightening reforms or ask Brussels for a full bailout. But he told the reporters assembled at La Moncloa that his government had no plans to revise its deficit objectives for the regions, despite pleas from cash-strapped administrations around the country.

As to whether he had any intention of reforming the Constitution, as the Socialists have called for to safeguard spending on public services, Rajoy said: “Spain’s priority at this time is not to reform the Constitution.”

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