Spain posts budget surplus for third year in a row

( AFP ) - Spain posted a budget surplus for a third consecutive year, topping 2.0 percent of gross domestic product for 2007, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Saturday.

"The fiscal surplus in 2007 was over 2.0 percent of GDP," he told a meeting of his Socialist Party.

Spain posted a budget surplus of 1.8 percent of GDP in 2006.

The prime minister's remarks came as his party approved its list of candidates for March 9 general elections which polls indicate will be close -- and in which the state of the economy is shaping up to be a key campaign theme. Zapatero credited the budget surplus to his government's sound management of the economy, saying it would allow for further tax cuts if the Socialists are re-elected.

But the conservative opposition Popular Party has pointed to a raft of recent negative economic indicators to back its argument that growth is slowing.

Earlier this month Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy promised to swiftly unveil a package of economic reforms aimed at "reviving the economy" if he is elected.

"If you feel ill and you go to the doctor, and the doctor tells you that you are fine, you have a bit of a problem because you can get much worse. And that is what is happening with the Spanish economy," he said Saturday.

Rajoy also vowed to cut taxes for up to three million working women if he is elected "to help make up for the difficulties which women face in their working lives."

Last month the government cut its economic growth forecast for 2008 to 3.1 percent after predicting an expansion of 3.3 percent in July. It also estimated the economy would expand 3.0 percent in 2009 and 3.2 percent in 2010.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund lowered its 2008 growth projection for Spain from 3.4 percent to 2.7 percent, the slowest pace since 2002. It estimated the economy expanded by 3.7 percent in 2007.

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