Pensions wont be frozen, promises Spains Rajoy

MADRID — Spains Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday fended off criticism over stagnant pensions by promising to raise payments if he gets opposition backing for the delayed 2018 budget.

Rajoy said he will propose tax cuts for retirees and families, as well as increases for minimum pensions and payments to widows under the framework of budget negotiations, which are due to start later this month.

“As long as Im the prime minister, pensions wont be frozen … they will rise as much as possible,” he told Congress in a special session called in response to pensioners protests and criticism by the opposition.

Labor unions have called fresh demonstrations for Saturday, demanding payment increases in line with inflation, which reached 2 percent in 2017. Pensions have risen by 0.25 percent annually in the past five years.

Rajoys minority government managed to assemble a fragile multiparty coalition to back the 2017 budget, but its unclear whether it will be able to do the same this year, with some key opposition groups hesitant to lend their support.

The Socialists and far-left Podemos have tried to sink their teeth into Rajoy on pensions, an issue dear to the ruling Popular Partys aging constituency: An estimated 36 percent of over-65s voted for Rajoy in 2016, when he received 33 percent of the total vote.

“You should be ashamed to raise pensioners payments by €2 and come here boasting,” Margarita Robles, the Socialist speaker in Congress, told Rajoy on Wednesday.

“You say theres no money. Its not true,” said Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Podemos, accusing Rajoy of wasting taxpayers money by bailing out the banks.

“We cant spend what we dont have because that is precisely what sank our country and were obliged to meet our European commitments in terms of the public deficit,” Rajoy replied.

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