Portugal pushes ahead with sweeping spending cuts

6th May 2013, Comments 0 comments

Portugal on Monday pushed ahead with deeply unpopular plans to slash 30,000 public sector jobs by launching talks with unions as part of a sweeping savings package to satisfy international creditors.

The new "medium-term programme", which also includes pushing back the full pension age for civil servants from 65 years to 66 years and extending their work-week to 40 hours, was announced on Friday.

The programme is intended to keep the small debt-hit eurozone member eligible for another slice of its bailout funding.

Portugal was granted the 78-billion-euro ($102 billion) bailout loan in 2011.

Portugal's "troika" of international lenders -- the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank -- need to approve the programme and will start evaluating it on Tuesday.

Government officials were scheduled on Monday to meet representatives of the country's two main unions, the CGTP and the UGT, to discuss the package, which is intended to be worth about 4.8 billion euros to the treasury by 2015.

The Portuguese economy is expected to shrink by 2.3 percent this year with the unemployment rate poised to breach a record 18 percent.

With the cuts, however, Portugal's public deficit is expected to narrow to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, to 4.0 percent in 2014 and finally to 2.5 percent in 2015, under the EU's ceiling of 3.0 percent.

The programme has been fiercely attacked by both unions and government opposition groups.

"How can you accept this brutal attack on public sector workers' rights," said Ana Avoila with the Public Administration Common Front.

The secretary-general of the Socialist Party, Antonio Jose Seguro, also rejected the plans, accusing the government of bringing Portugal to "the verge of social tragedy" with its austerity measures.


© 2013 AFP

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