A highly symbolic song from Portugal’s democratic revolution almost 40 years ago is again being sung loudly after two years of austerity measures.
Although he has lived in Brussels for the past 28 years, Joaquim Pinto da Silva understands the outrage: “The question of the so called “state grease” or excessive bureaucracy must be eliminated, but not by firing civil servants, like they want us to believe. It should be done by eliminating some sectors or agencies that have been created over the last 20/30 years and that are absolutely useless for the Portuguese economy, that are a burden.”
Portugal received 78 billion euros from the troika of lenders until 2014.
In addition, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho, leader of Portugal’s center-right coalition, increased taxes, fired public servants and cut expenditure in services like education and health.
But the measures appear to have made the country worse off than in 2011, according to European Commission indicators:
*There’s been a huge rise in unemployment.. (from 12.9 to 18.2)
deficit gone up from -4.4% to -5.5%
Public debt increased from 106% to 123%
The economic growth fell from -1.6% to -2.3%*
What’s more nearly a quarter of a million people have emigrated. Some expats are now questioning whether Portugal should remain in the eurozone.
Sara Poeta, is a radiotherapy technician, who moved to Belgium nearly three years ago: “I am aware of the facilities that I had by the fact that we belong to the EU and that I could come here to work without any bureaucratic difficulties. But in fact, I’m not sure, right now I’m not sure that staying in the eurozone is the best solution because. I think at this point we have to think of Portuguese people who are suffering, they’re starving, or don’t have health care. Is remaining in the eurozone the best for our people now?
The European Parliament sent a delegation to Lisbon last month to review the situation. A MEP from the junior party in the government’s coalition hopes that the EU will give more time and incentives for growth.
Centre-right MEP Diogo Feio said: “We don’t have anyone to sell our products, but we need to make our economy grow. Therefore, we must find a balance…on the one hand, consolidation of public accounts, on the other hand, growth. But the plates on the scale are, at this point, clearly unbalanced”
Part of the delegation was an left-wing MEP Marisa Matias who wants a renegotiation of Portugal’s bailout terms with the troika and early elections.
“Everyone knows that this government has lost all legitimacy. It has the democratic legitimacy of having been elected, but legitimacy for the exercise of functions is totally lost. The government did not accomplish a single goal, it only applies measures that are systematically challenged in the streets,” said Marisa Matias.
But the Portuguese government and the troika think that the program is working because the country returned again to the financial markets last week issuing 10 years public debt worth some 3 billion euros.