The Portuguese president has asked the country’s top court to decide whether the controversial 2013 budget is legal.
The budget came into effect on Tuesday.
It was approved by parliament in November, despite opposition from the left who threatened to go to the consitutional court.
But Anibal Cavaco Silva has now seized the initiative, albeit after the fact.
Addressing the nation on television, he admitted that tax hikes and a reduction in social services would affect everyone, but some more than others.
This situation raises questions about the just and equal share of the burden, he said.
The budget measures are the toughest in living memory, with tax rises for most workers equivalent to a month’s wages.
Unemployment is nudging 16 percent. There has already been a general strike and street protests have become a familiar feature.
The country has to meet the terms of a 78 billion euro bailout deal from the eurozone and IMF.