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Portugal austerity budget awaits parliament vote

Portugal austerity budget awaits parliament vote
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The Portuguese parliament votes on Wednesday on an austerity budget that is essential to protect the country from the turbulence of global markets, according to the minority socialist government.

Portugal has one of the most fragile economies in the eurozone.

Despite some heated exchanges in parliament, the main opposition party has agreed to abstain, ensuring the bill’s passage.

The prime minister Jose Socrates told MPs the budget was needed to safeguard stability next year, and to put into practice measures being approved.

Public sector pay and welfare benefits are being cut; taxes are going up.

The deal with the Social Democrat opposition leader Pedro Passos Coelho was thrashed out at the weekend.

He has called for an early general election, but that is thought impossible with a presidential election already due in January.

Portuguese banks, the EU and foreign investors had put pressure on both sides to reach agreement and avoid the need for a Greek-style international bailout.