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ECONOMY

Spanish economy no longer “in the news” at latest G20 summit: Rajoy

Prime Minister says leaders of the group acknowledge “overall improvement” and pledges to reverse public debt trend

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took heart from the fact that the state of the Spanish economy was no longer at the forefront of what was discussed at the latest G20 summit, which ended on Friday in Saint Petersburg.

Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the summit, the Spanish prime minister said G20 leaders had acknowledged the “overall improvement” in the Spanish economy since the last summit of the group in Los Cabos in Mexico in June 2012, when there were fears Spain would have to seek a full-blown bailout from its European partners, with the country’s risk premium soaring and the economy locked in the grip of recession.

“Many things have changed for Spain since the last G20 summit,” Rajoy said. “In the last G20, there was talk of the possibility of a bailout, of the risk premium, of the euro crisis,” the conservative Popular Party leader said. “Spain is no longer in the news in the G20 for that.”

The director of economic affairs of the prime minister’s office, Álvaro Nadal, showed reporters graphs indicating that Spain’s risk premium is now at the same level as Italy’s at around 250 basis points for the first time in 18 months, and well below the levels seen before the Los Cabos summit. “Things are completely different,” Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said. “We had a bad time of it there and that is something I will write about in my memoirs.”

We had a bad time of it there and that is something I will write about in my memoirs”

Rajoy spoke briefly with US President Barack Obama in Saint Petersburg summit on Thursday, a spokesman for the prime minister’s office said Friday. He said Obama asked about the incipient recovery in the Spanish economy and was open to an official visit by Rajoy to Washington.

The Spanish prime minister said G20 leaders acknowledged that Spain had fulfilled all of the commitments it had taken on in previous summits of the group, adding that they believe his government’s approach to reining in the public deficit is “credible.” Rajoy said he believes Spain will be able to reverse the increase in public debt to levels of 100 percent of GDP from 2016 onward.

“In Spain, the challenges are greater than the advances that have been made,” Rajoy said. “The recovery is still weak and the level of unemployment is unacceptable.” He said the last economic figures were “encouraging” but nothing “to celebrate.”