Unless there is an unexpected breakthrough within hours, it’s likely the end of the line for Portugal’s Prime Minister who has threatened to resign if parliament does not approve austerity measures he seeks.
Please consider Portugal Braces for Govt Collapse Over Debt Vote
Portugal’s government is on the verge of collapse after opposition parties withdrew their support for another round of austerity policies aimed at averting a financial bailout.
The expected defeat of the minority government’s latest spending plans in a parliamentary vote Wednesday will likely force its resignation and could stall national and European efforts to deal with the continent’s protracted debt crisis.
The vote comes on the eve of a two-day European Union summit where policymakers are hoping to take new steps to restore investor faith in the fiscal soundness of the 17-nation eurozone, including Portugal.
The governing Socialist Party’s parliamentary leader Francisco Assis made an 11th-hour appeal for opposition rivals to negotiate changes to the latest austerity package and ensure the government’s survival. Prime Minister Jose Socrates, who heads the government, has said he will no longer be able to run the country if the package is rejected.
But opposition parties say the center-left government’s latest austerity plan goes too far because it hurts the weaker sections of society, especially pensioners who will pay more tax. The package also introduces further hikes in personal income and corporate tax, broadens previous welfare cuts and raises public transport fares.
The leader of the main opposition center-right Social Democratic Party, Pedro Passos Coelho, said late Monday that the political deadlock made an early election “inevitable.”
As in Greece, the austerity policies have prompted numerous strikes, with train engineers set to walk off the job during the morning commute Wednesday.
Portugal’s plight stems from a decade of miserly growth. While growing at the tepid rate of 1 percent a year, it ran up debt to finance its western European lifestyle.
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates will today face a vote in parliament against his deficit-cutting plan which threatens to push the country toward early elections and the need for a European Union bailout.
Lawmakers will discuss the government’s so-called stability and growth program of austerity measures at 3 p.m. in Lisbon. The opposition Social Democratic and Communist parties both pledged yesterday to table resolutions against the plan.
“If parliament decides on a motion against the stability and growth program, that means the government is not in a condition to make commitments internationally,” Socrates said on March 15. “That would mean a political crisis. In my understanding, the consequence of a political crisis is the worsening of the financing risks of our economy and would lead Portugal to request external intervention.”
Portugal is going to fail. Wednesday is as good a day to do it as any.
Thus, sooner, rather than later, another bailout is coming. However, it will not be Portugal who is bailed out, but rather German, French, and UK bank that lent money to Portugal.
Eventually Greece, Ireland, and Portugal will default, even though pretending otherwise may continue for a while.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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