The Portuguese government will be seeking a renegotiation of its international bailout agreement at Monday’s Eurozone finance minister meeting as the nation’s economy slides deeper into recession and as civil unrest continues to mount over the austerity measures imposed by its international lenders.
The troubled region’s finance ministers are expected to discuss Portugal’s request to be granted more time to repay its loans and to receive a concession that would help the country fund itself after the bailout programme worth €78 billion ends. If approved the deal would mirror the terms agreed with Greece last year. The Portuguese are already awaiting approval on a request to be granted more time to cut its deficit to the target level of 3%.
The Portuguese government is under growing pressure from voters after half a million took to the streets last weekend to voice their anger at austerity making the protest march one of the biggest yet seen in Europe. The crowds chanted “It’s time for the government to go”, and there were also slogans declaring “Austerity Kills” and “Screw the Troika”.
“We want the government out because it is pushing through a program that is only bringing hardship to the population,” said Nuno Almeida, one of the organizers of the protest.
Last week, Portugal’s government insisted it could not change its austerity programme, saying it would be “rudderless in a sea of storms” if it couldn’t rely on the support of the International Monetary Fund and the IMF.
In neighbouring Spain things have gotten even gloomier for the nation’s economy. The number of people out of work has broken a new record after rising by 1.2% in February meaning that now up to five million people are jobless. The Labour ministry reported that the number of registered jobless in Spain rose by another 59,444, as the country’s economy continued to contract. The data doesn’t include around 1 million people who are out of work, but not registered as such.
The heavy austerity being imposed by Mariano Rajoy’s government is being blamed for stifling any chance of economic growth and for driving people out of work. More and more young people are looking to leave their home nations as they desperately try to make a future for themselves, something that is being denied them due to austerity.
Euro finance ministers will begin today’s Eurogroup meeting at 3pm Brussels time, or 2pm GMT. A press conference is expected at 8pm GMT.
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