ZAPATERO must have had a not too pleasant breakfast this morning upon reading this by Victor Mallet at the Financial Times:
Elena Salgado, the normally sprightly Spanish finance minister, could not disguise her discomfort when she announced an austerity plan designed to slash successive budget deficits and restore the country's credibility on international markets.It goes on.
She had good reason to be uneasy. The table of figures she presented on Friday showing Spain's "fiscal consolidation path" through €50bn ($69bn, £43bn) of savings over four years had some embarrassingly blank spaces for projected budget deficits in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Spain, the empty boxes tell us, wants to reduce its total public sector deficit from 11.4 per cent of gross domestic product in 2009 to the European Union target of 3 per cent of GDP in 2013, but is not sure if it can - or how to do it.
Central government intends to play its part, but budget cuts need the support of autonomous regions, local authorities and trade unions. They may not co-operate.
It is bad enough that investors have lost faith in Greek economic policy but, if the eurozone is to remain intact, it is essential that Spain swiftly restores order to its public finances.
As one of the "big four" eurozone economies - with Germany, France and Italy - Spain is four times as large as Greece, five times the size of Ireland and six times that of Portugal.
Yet Spain's immediate prospects are dismal.
UPDATE. If this didn't sour Zapatero's breakfast, this has probably done it: "Spain January Jobless Claims +3.1% On Month, +22% On Yr " And that's registered unemployment; joblessness is much bigger.