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Spain plans new reforms before legislature ends

Source: Reuters - Tue 28th Jun 2011

Spain will propose new reforms to set spending caps for its autonomous regions and protect indebted home owners from eviction in the final months before general elections in March, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Tuesday.

Spanish media have speculated Zapatero would not see out the current legislature and would call elections before the end of 2011 but the government said it wants to complete its reform programme before facing the ballot.

The Socialists trail the conservative Popular Party (PP) by double digits in opinion polls and suffered a humiliating drubbing at local elections in May.

"The government has undertaken, and will undertake, all the necessary reforms to improve competitiveness and stimulate growth," Zapatero said in his last state of the nation address on Tuesday.

New proposals, which he said would be introduced in the next few weeks, include measures to protect homeowners at risk of eviction and a rule on autonomous regions' spending.

The collapse of Spain's housing sector in 2008 has left millions of homeowners struggling to pay mortgages, while heavily-indebted regions could threaten the government's efforts to reduce one of the largest deficits in the euro zone.

"The government proposes finalising the reform processes in the last leg of its legislature ... It's an intense work programme and more than enough for the months left," he said.

There are 36 bills awaiting completion with parliament and further reforms will be added, he said.

The state of the nation address focused on the economic crisis and Zapatero said he expected the economy, which has been in recession or near stagnant for three years, to gain pace in the second half of the year.

However, he forecast annual economic growth to be a few decimal places above 1.5% by the 4th quarter of this year.

The government's official forecast for annual growth is 1.3% in 2011 after a 0.8% rise in the first quarter.

Zapatero reiterated that his government expects to meet its public deficit target of 6% of Gross Domestic Product this year.

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