SPAIN'S pension overhaul will be “as ambitious” as the government's initial proposal, which included an increase in the retirement age, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said.

The Socialist government has said the Cabinet will approve the pension bill on January 28, a year after it first proposed raising the retirement age to 67 from 65 and increasing the number of years used to calculate benefits.

The legislation “will be as ambitious, in terms of the aim of guaranteeing the sustainability of the public pension system, as our initial proposal in January 2010,” Zapatero told Parliament in Madrid yesterday.

The government has failed to secure consensus in Parliament over extending the retirement age, meaning the new pension bill may break with a tradition in Spain that changes to the pension system should be agreed in a cross-party parliamentary committee.

Labour unions have threatened a second general strike if the government raises the retirement age for all workers.
Zapatero, who has been implementing the deepest austerity measures in at least three decades, is suffering a slump in popular support. The opposition Partido Popular has a 13.2 percentage-point lead over the ruling Socialists, Publico newspaper reported on December 20, citing a Publiscopio poll. The PP, a traditionally pro-business party, opposes increasing the retirement age.


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