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Austrian report Austrian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-11-16 07:13:58
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Debt brake as spreads over bunds hit record

Austria’s cabinet today signed off a draft law for a debt brake to cut its debt level to 60 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 as the yield spread on the Alpine republic’s 10-year bonds widened to a euro-era record. The draft law, which is modelled on German regulation, aims for the structural deficit not to surpass 0.35 percent of GDP as of 2017, Chancellor Werner Faymann told reporters in Vienna today. In order to meet the debt-brake criteria, about 2 billion Euros ($2.7 billion) of the structural deficit must be cut every year, Faymann said.

Austrian 10-year yields raised 14 basis points to 3.56 percent at 11:16 a.m. Vienna time. The difference in yield, or spread, over benchmark German bunds widened 14 basis points to 178 basis points, a euro-era record. The government aims to put the debt-brake rule into the constitution. This would require a two-third majority in parliament, which means that the governing coalition of Social Democrats and pro-business People’s Party will need the support of at least one opposition parties.

Austria’s central bank “endorses the government’s commitment to introduce a debt brake for Austria into its constitution as an important contribution to sustaining public finances and strengthening fiscal policy,” Governor Ewald Nowotny said in an e-mailed statement. “This will help Austria to safeguard financial market confidence and, over the medium term, recapture fiscal flexibility.”


Austria exhumes Nazi-era remains from hospital cemetery

Officials in the Austrian province of Tyrol say they have completed the exhumation of more than 200 skeletons from a Nazi-era graveyard. The site, at a disused hospital cemetery in the town of Hall, was discovered earlier this year. Researchers believe the bodies may have been people killed by the Nazis because of mental or physical disabilities.

Over 220 bodies have been dug up since the process of exhumation began after the snows melted in the spring. Scientists say many of the skeletons, which date back to the Nazi-era, have broken bones, injuries apparently inflicted by hospital staff. During World War II, the Nazis murdered thousands of disabled people they thought unfit to live.

But researchers in Hall say more work is needed before the causes of death of those found can be confirmed. The bodies now have all been identified. Their ages range from 14 to 90. Attempts are being made to contact descendants and those who had links to the hospital personnel.


Austria will balance budget faster-finmin

Austria will try to balance its budget faster than first planned and use a constitutional debt brake to get a firmer grip on public finances and protect its AAA rating, officials said on Tuesday. The steps come amid mounting market pressure on euro zone members to reduce debt and some market talk that Austria -- one of only six top-rated sovereigns using the euro currency -- could drop out of the club.

"We will set spending caps that will lead us to a balanced budget faster than originally planned, and we want to bring the debt down to 60 percent of gross domestic product by 2020," Finance Minister Maria Fekter said in a radio interview. The head of one of Austria's main research institutes raised the possibility last week that it’s triple-A rating could be at risk if the euro zone crisis continued to deepen. That has prompted a round of market speculation on a downgrade. The governing coalition has agreed to adopt a debt brake in the constitution that will automatically cap the euro zone country's national debt.

Euro zone leaders last month embraced such an approach as a way to master the region's sovereign debt crisis. Fekter said the plan was to limit federal budget deficits in future to no more than 0.35 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Austrian provinces and municipalities would have to present balanced budgets by 2017. The government has projected national debt to peak at 75.5 percent of GDP in 2013. Its 2012 budget due up for final approval in parliament on Friday envisions a 3.2 percent deficit. Spreads on 10-year Austrian government debt over benchmark German Bunds have widened to euro-era highs on talk Austria could lose its AAA, but government officials have said they had no indication of this from ratings agencies. In the radio interview, Fekter called for tighter rules on agencies.

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