MADRID (AP) — Spain’s conservative government targeted its austerity program on the education and health care systems Friday with €10 billion ($13 billion) in spending cuts and increased fees as part of a drive to reduce its deficit.
The cuts will include a crackdown on so-called health tourism, in which foreigners from the EU and elsewhere come to Spain to use its universal health care system. In 2009 alone, abuse of the system cost the government €900 million ($1.2 billion), Health Minister Ana Mato said after a Cabinet meeting. Another measure was to stop immediate entitlement to health care for undocumented immigrants, which is expected to save the government €500 million.
Speaking on the eve of the meeting, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the measures were necessary because state coffers were running dry.
“It’s necessary, imperative because at this moment there is no money to pay for public services,” said Rajoy, who was in Colombia for an official state visit.
“There’s no money because we have spent so much over the last few years. So we have to do this so that in the future we can get out of this situation,” he said.
The new measures also include hikes in what people covered by the state health system pay for medicines over the counter.
In education, the government approved increases in university fees, raised pupil-teacher ratios in schools and working hours for teachers, Education Minister Jose Ignacio Wert announced.