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Thousands in Portugal protest crisis cuts

Published on 01/11/2013

Thousands of demonstrators protested in Portugal on Friday against salary cuts and public sector reforms planned in the government's 2014 budget under the country's international bailout deal.

After nearly three years of belt-tightening, the budget aims to save a further 3.9 billion euros ($5.3 billion), partly through cutting public sector salaries and pensions.

Protesters in Lisbon waved signs calling for the government to resign and messages such as “The budget is a theft” and “Get lost, troika” as deputies prepared to vote on a first draft of the budget.

The word troika refers to the three international bodies that agreed Portugal’s 78 billion euro ($108 billion) rescue deal in 2011 — the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In return for the bailout money to prevent the indebted country from financial collapse, the troika demanded economic reforms to get Portugal’s public deficit down to four percent of output by 2014.

“The hour has come for the government to go,” demonstrators shouted at the rally organised by Portugal’s main union (CGPT), which said the budget “destroys jobs, steals salaries and pensions, cuts health, welfare and education.”

The budget plan is expected to be approved easily by parliament where a coalition led by the conservative ruling party holds a comfortable majority.

Labour unions have called a strike by public sector workers for November 8, among various other demonstrations and stoppages.

The government has shown no sign of changing course in its reforms despite the protests, hoping to complete the bailout programme by next June.

The final draft of the budget will be voted on November 26.