Monday, November 29, 1999

Spain spending cuts take toll on govt ratings

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Spain's conservative opposition has more than doubled its lead over the ruling Socialist government since new spending cuts were imposed to help rein in a budget deficit, a poll showed on Sunday.The Demoscopia poll published in leading left-wing newspaper El Pais showed the Popular Party (PP) has a 9.1 percentage point advantage over Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists, versus a 4.2 percentage point lead two weeks ago.The poll was taken on May 13, one day after cuts in civil servant pay and a pension freeze were announced.The poll also showed that the approval rating for the prime minister, at 3.7 points (of 10) was still a notch above PP leader Mariano Rajoy, who got 3.6 points.But three in four Spaniards think that despite 15 billion euros in extra spending cuts, the plan stops short of what is needed, the poll said.The poll will likely influence the government's strategy regarding efforts to reform the labour market expected to be announced this week and considered by analysts to be crucial to tackling 20 percent unemployment, twice the euro zone average.Most of those polled approved of the cuts in civil servant pay but disapproved of the freeze in pensions.Most also supported tax hikes affecting those who are wealthier, something the government has not ruled out.(Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary, editing by Diana Abdallah)
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