Cut or be cut time for Spain

The Spanish Prime Minister has vigorously defended the austerity policies that united thousands who protested against the harsh cuts this week by warning that the country risks being shut out of the financial markets unless it works to bring its debt burden under control.

As Madrid's borrowing costs spiked to levels widely seen as unsustainable, Mariano Rajoy warned that there was "a serious risk that [investors] will not lend us money or they will do so at an astronomical rate".

His comments came as investors and policymakers, mindful of the threat of contagion, kept a nervous watch on Greece's woes.

Rajoy said that, with the risk premium investors attach to Spanish debt rising to record levels, the country faced a "difficult and complicated situation".

"The risk premium has risen a lot and that means it is difficult to finance yourself at a reasonable price."

Given this backdrop, he said, his Government was "taking the measures we have to take. We must continue cutting public spending."

As if to underline Rajoy's point, the interest rate that investors charge to lend money to Spain rose to about 6.5 per cent yesterday before retreating to around 6.3 - levels that eventually paved the way for costly international bailouts for Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

A key fear for Spain is that if Greece is allowed or obliged to leave the euro it will set a dangerous precedent for countries with financial difficulties.

With recent figures confirming that the Spanish economy has been in a double-dip recession since October and unemployment standing at 24.6 per cent, there is little doubt that Spain falls into that category.

- Independent

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