Spain's crisis budget aims at spending cuts not tax rises

Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:59pm EDT
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By Andres Gonzalez and Paul Day

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain announced a crisis budget for 2013 based mostly on spending cuts on Thursday in what many see as an effort to pre-empt the likely conditions of an international bailout.

Ministry budgets were slashed by 8.9 percent for next year and public sector wages frozen for a third year as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy battles to trim one of the euro zone's biggest deficits.

"This is a crisis budget aimed at emerging from the crisis ... In this budget there is a larger adjustment of spending than revenue," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a news conference after a marathon six-hour cabinet meeting.

Beset by anti-austerity protests and threats of secession by the wealthy northwestern region of Catalonia, Rajoy is resisting market and diplomatic pressure to apply for a rescue, partly out of concern for national sovereignty but also because European Union paymaster Germany insists Spain doesn't need help.

The central government sees budget savings of 13 billion euros in 2013, with spending down 7.3 percent -- not including social security and interest payments -- and income rising 4 percent thanks to a 15 percent leap in value-added tax take.

The budget goes to parliament on Saturday and debates could last weeks. The country's 17 autonomous regions still must present budgets and find an additional 5 billion euros in adjustments to meet overall public deficit reduction goals.

Spain, the euro zone's fourth largest economy, is now at the center of the euro debt crisis. Investors fear Madrid cannot control its finances and question whether Rajoy has the political will to take all the necessary but unpopular measures.

Madrid is talking to EU authorities about the terms of a possible aid package that would trigger an European Central Bank bond-buying program and ease Spain's unsustainable funding costs.   Continued...

Protesters shout slogans during a protest against cuts in public education in central Madrid September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Susana Vera