Portugal passes 2014 budget as protesters rail against austerity

 
City A.M. Reporter
PORTUGAL’S parliament passed the country’s 2014 budget yesterday, the last under its three-year EU/IMF bailout, but its approval is likely to trigger court challenges that could disrupt the country’s exit from the bailout programme.

Several thousand unionists and pensioners converged in front of the building to protest the budget’s public-sector wage and pension cuts, which follow tax hikes and spending cuts already under way. Inside, a small group chanted “Resign! Resign!” from the public gallery as the finance minister spoke.

The ruling centre-right coalition has a big majority in parliament, so the budget passed easily. But all the other parties, including the main opposition Socialists, whose government had requested the bailout in 2011, voted against.

In 2014, Lisbon needs to cut the budget deficit to four per cent of gross domestic product from 5.5 per cent this year. The budget foresees the first year of economic growth since 2010 next year.