IMF says Spain taking right steps towards stability

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Spain is taking the right measures for economic stability, the head of the International Monetary Fund has said.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn said he was "confident" Spain's economy would recover and called on all Spaniards to back the government's austerity work.

He was speaking after a meeting in Madrid with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Mr Zapatero had earlier denied his government was seeking an IMF bailout, but markets have been nervous.

Mr Zapatero said on Thursday that Spain's economy was solid and solvent, and the visit by Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a scheduled one.


Mr Strauss-Kahn said all the measures being put in place by the Spanish government were "clearly being done for the benefit of the economy".

"I am really confident in the medium and long-term prospects for the Spanish economy, providing the efforts that have to be made will be made," he added.

He specifically praised continuing efforts to liberalise the Spanish labour market, saying they went in "the right direction".

Mr Zapatero said that during the meeting he had conveyed to Mr Strauss-Kahn "the determination of the Spanish government to implement and to make effective every single one of these reforms that we have launched".

Nervous markets

Mr Zapatero's government recently introduced a package of spending cuts and a reform of the labour market in an attempt to persuade nervous financial markets that Spain's finances are under control.

However, that's a difficult task, as after the crisis in Greece, the financial markets have been concerned that Spain could be the next country to require outside financial assistance.

As a result, Spain is having to pay record rates to sell its debt, and this week a senior banker revealed that Spanish financial institutions are struggling to get funding on international markets.

Spain is now promising to publish the results of what are known as "stress tests" on its banks, to prove that any fears of their failure are unfounded.

The country is still reeling from the collapse of the construction sector, has a budget deficit of 11%, and one in five workers is unemployed.

To help reduce the jobless count, the Spanish government wishes to liberalise labour laws that currently deter Spanish firms from taking on full-time staff because of the difficulty of making redundancies.

However, this has already faced strong opposition from unions, who are threatening to hold a general strike in September.

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