25 September 2008


25 September 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Of the 10 biggest industrialized countries in the world, Spain spent the most on development, its Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, told correspondents today.

He said Spain had now attained 0.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for official development assistance (ODA) and would reach 0.7 per cent by 2012.  It would definitely fulfil its responsibilities towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which was a historic duty and an ethical and moral obligation of all Governments and peoples.  That collective task demanded the commitment of all industrialized countries.  It was a question of fulfilling the promises of eight years ago, of preventing millions of children from dying of disease, and it meant providing education where there was none.

Despite all current challenges –- energy, environment, finance -– the main challenge facing humanity was that 1 billion people lived in abject poverty, he said.  On the positive side was a will to renew commitments, as the Chairman of the European Commission had noted this morning.

The financial crisis in the United States had triggered a financial crisis worldwide, he said, adding that he had met with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister of Australia, the President of Brazil and several others to discuss the financial system.  The meeting had concluded that the international community should support the United States’ bail-out plan.  The various international institutions must start to deal with the situation in the coming weeks and must urge industrial countries and countries with emerging economies to implement new rules and regulations in the international financial system, with a focus on more transparency, more supervision -- including more global supervision -- and more guarantees.  If possible, those new rules should be backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

While speaking yesterday to a large group of companies with big investments in Spain, he had discovered that United States companies with investments in Spain were planning to increase those investments.  He had given them assurances of Government backing.  He had also met with his Chinese counterpart and had offered Spain’s help in the baby milk crisis.  He had met with Bill Gates to discuss closer cooperation between the Bill Gates Foundation and Spanish agencies, and the need to focus on malaria in West Africa.  That cooperation could be extended to Central America.  The disease could and should be eradicated by 2015.

Answering questions about the impact of the financial crisis on the Spanish economy, he said public spending would be increased in the budget, with 6 per cent more investments in infrastructure, a boosting of social policies and a 6 per cent increase in pension payments.  In past years the Government had saved money to spend when times were hard –- unlike some other Governments, he added.

Spain had a very sound financial system, on par with the best in the industrialized world.  No banks had failed.  In all other countries, including in the United States, banks were “falling apart”.  He hoped that the opposition in his country would echo that assessment.  After all, it was not his Government that had built the system; it was a product of Spain’s democracy.

Although there were proposals in that regard, he said he did not think that changing the rules on restructuring and labour reduction in his country would help to restore confidence in the international financial markets, he replied to another question.  Spain had a social dialogue, and that issue should be taken up with the unions anyway.  The heart of the matter was to restore trust in the international financial system, so that credit could become available again.

Asked about global supervision of the international financial markets and the chances that those markets would accept such supervision, he said the markets would indeed be most interested, as they had suffered the most from the crisis.  The main players should welcome new rules and more transparency.  There was a need for international financial legality, for common rules and supervision.  What little regulation there was had not been able to prevent the crisis.

Regulations and supervision did not mean intervention, he added.  There should be no return to protectionism or closed borders.  Agreed standards were the logical reaction to the crisis.  Every country with a large share in the financial markets should implement them, in cooperation with IMF.

To questions about the Millennium Development Goals, he said the industrialized countries should maintain their commitment to raise their ODA to 0.7 per cent by 2015.  After all, ending poverty was creating wealth.  Bill Gates had spoken about innovation and the power of technology in the battle against poverty.  Combating poverty made humanity more dignified.

Asked about his vision on the Middle East peace process and Lebanon -- Spain was a troop contributor to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) –- he said the situation in Lebanon had clearly improved.  There was hope for the Annapolis road map and the peace process.  There was now an ongoing dialogue and the countries in the region were working in a more positive way.

Regarding United States Senator John McCain’s comment that Spain was not really a friend of America, he said he could not comment on what a candidate for the presidency had said, but the Government of Spain would cooperate with whomever the people of the United States elected.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.