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Spain's Rajoy defends austerity measures

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Spain's Rajoy defends austerity measures

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Spain’s prime minister has faced the media for the first time since his new government passed a raft of austerity measures.

Mariano Rajoy reassured Spaniards that raising VAT won’t be next on his hit-list. But the centre-right leader took responsibility for tax hikes already announced.

“I wanted to give a signal in Spain and abroad that here is a prime minister who is going to step up to the mark and is not going to hide,” said Rajoy, stressing that he personally oversees the government’s economic decisions.

Elected by a landslide in November, tackling unemployment is one of Rajoy’s biggest challenges in crisis-hit Spain. Its jobless rate is more than double the European Union average. Latest figures show it has risen to nearly 23 per cent.