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Portugal: 30,000 jobs cuts, working hours increased and pension age rises

The cuts should save an estimated €4.8 billion by 2015.

Portugal's Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho delivering the plans.
Portugal's Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho delivering the plans.
Image: (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

PORTUGAL’S PRIME MINISTER  said late Friday that the government aimed to slash 30,000 public sector jobs as part of a sweeping package of spending cuts to the EU/IMF bailout.

In a speech to the nation, Pedro Passos Coelho also said that the full pension age would be pushed back from 65 to 66 years old and civil servants would be expected to work 40 hours per week instead of 35.

The measures were announced in order to keep the small debt-hit eurozone member eligible for another slice of its much-needed bailout.

Coelho was unveiling the contents of the centre-right government’s new “medium-term programme”, under which Portugal is hoping to save a total of €6 billion.

His measures, which promise to be deeply unpopular, included plans for a special pensions contribution that would spare the least well-off.

In all, the package would bring in around €4.8 billion by 2015, the premier said.

“To hesitate now would harm the credibility that we have already won back,” Coelho declared, adding that the measures were aimed at avoiding a second bailout.

With the cuts, Portugal’s public deficit is anticipated 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 percent.

€78 billion bailout loan

The plans will need to get the green light from its troika of international lenders – the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – which granted Portugal a €78 billion bailout loan two years ago.

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

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Last month, the government was forced to revise its 2013 austerity plans when the country’s Constitutional Court rejected several projected cuts it now has had to find elsewhere.

“We will not raise taxes to correct the budgetary problem resulting from the Constitutional Court’s decision,” Coelho said. “The way must be through the structural reduction of public spending.”

But Coelho is struggling for support. Austerity policies to meet bailout conditions have grown deeply unpopular and sparked several protests.

Portugal’s main Socialist opposition party, which was in power when Lisbon sought the bailout in 2011, has accused the government of applying “excessive austerity” that has made recession and unemployment even worse.

- © AFP, 2013

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