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Spain's public deficit meets EU limit for first time in over a decade

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Madrid (AFP)

Spain's budget deficit fell below the European Union's limit of 3.0 percent of economic output last year for the first time in over a decade, the government said Friday.

The deficit contracted to 2.63 percent of gross domestic product in 2018 from 3.03 percent in the previous year, Finance Minister Maria Jesus Montero told a news conference.

The is the first time since 2007 when Spain posted a budget surplus equal to 1.92 percent of its economic output that the country has respected the EU's budget limit.

"The deficit has been reduced without putting at risk economic growth and without leaving anyone behind," Montero said.

"The Spanish economy maintains its strength and even picked up steam in the second half of 2018," she added, saying this had boosted state coffers.

The eurozone's fourth-largest economy expanded by 2.6 percent last year, after growing 3.0 percent in 2017, final figures released Friday by national statistics institute INE showed.

The figures give Montero's minority Socialist government a potential boost ahead of a snap general election on April 28.

Spain suffered a prolonged period of economic decline when a decade-long property bubble burst in 2008, throwing millions of people out of work and pushing the country to the brink of a bail out.

The country budget deficit surpassed 10 percent of economic output in 2012 at the height of the crisis.

Spain returned to growth in 2014 and economic output has since outpaced much of the rest of Europe.

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