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Finance boss: Debt-cutting slower than expected

LONDON — Britain’s Treasury chief acknowledged Sunday that the economy is taking longer than expected to recover from the financial crisis, but he insisted he will not waver from his policy of tax hikes and spending cuts.

George Osborne said the British government might miss its self-imposed goals of cutting debt as a share of national income by 2015-2016 and of balancing the current budget.

Mr. Osborne said he would introduce new tax measures for the rich on Wednesday, along with further moves to trim welfare spending.

The Conservative-led government is cutting $80 billion in spending through 2015 in a bid to slash the national debt, which stands at more than $1.6 trillion.

But critics say the government’s austerity policy has failed to kick-start the economy, which has been through two periods of recession since 2008.

“It is clearly taking longer to deal with Britain’s debts. It’s clearly taking longer to recover from the financial crisis than one would have hoped, but we have made real progress,” Mr. Osborne told BBC television.

He insisted that any change of course now “would be a complete disaster.”

Ahead of Mr. Osborne’s semi-annual statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility will announce financial figures expected to show higher borrowing and lower growth than previous estimates.


Iberia airline workers to strike before Christmas

MADRID — Labor unions representing most workers at Spain’s Iberia airline say they will stage six days of strikes right before the Christmas holiday season to protest the company’s plans to lay off 4,500 workers.

The stoppages by Iberia’s ground staff and cabin crews will be held Dec. 14 and Dec. 17 to 21.

Francisco Rodriguez of the General Workers Union, Spain’s largest union, said the strikes are to protest “the unnecessary layoffs of workers.”

The pilots’ union is not among the six unions backing the strike.

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