INFLATION in Spain has soared to 9.8% in March- the highest rate since May 1985, according to figures from the National Statistics Institute(INE).

The rate stood at 7.6% in February.

The INE said the March increase was due to the surge in electricity and fuel prices, but also by the rise in the cost of food items due to the war in Ukraine.

Speaking to Congress on Wednesday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said: “ It is a bad figure which affects our economy, especially more vulnerable groups … due to runaway energy prices.”

The government approved plans on Tuesday to give €16 billion in help to businesses and homes hit by the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The package running until the end of June includes a cut of 20 cents per litre for fuel at the pumps.

“We are convinced that the national response plan and especially the agreement reached in Brussels to set a gas reference price… will allow us in the near future to bend the inflation curve and stabilise the evolution of the cost of living,” Sanchez added.

Spain is poised to be among Europe’s worst-hit economies by the energy shock unleashed by the Ukraine war, with JPMorgan last week slashing its 2022 economic-growth projection to 4.2% from 6%.

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