Friday, March 23, 2012

And now Portugal one more time

This is sick.  The austerity ghouls, having worked their financial magic on Greece, will now turn their attention to Portugal (again).  Just remember, doing this dirty work is someone's full-time job at places like IMF.  And things won't get better until the austerity ghouls get new marching order they can believe in.  Hearts and minds, folks, hearts and minds.

Portuguese death rate rise linked to pain of austerity programme

Portugal's health service is being forced into sweeping cuts as last May's EU/IMF bailout terms begin to bite

Giles Tremlett in Lisbon, 19 March 2012

Maria Isabel Martins got up at 5am to catch a bus from the eastern Portuguese country town of Portalegre to see a consultant in Lisbon about her diabetes. It is a 130-mile journey that takes three hours. It used to be free, but not any more.

"This is shameful. Now each visit costs me €44 (£36) and I have to come back in a few weeks," the 53-year-old said, wheezing as she left the consultant's surgery at the Santa Maria hospital.
There is a chart on the wall beside a machine that accepts credit cards. It shows the charges for seeing a doctor in one of western Europe's poorest countries, where opposition politicians blame budget cuts for a thousand extra deaths in February, 20% more than usual.

"They hiked the fees in January," said the receptionist, pointing to the new charges for everything from jabs and ear washes to having stitches removed. "Now a visit to the emergency room costs €20 instead of €9. A consultant costs €7.50. People are angry."

The health service is just one victim of sweeping cuts and increased charges for public services across Portugal. After the €130bn second bailout for Greece was signed off last week, bond markets switched their attention to southern Europe's other failing economy.

A general strike on Thursday will show just how angry the Portuguese are about the terms of a €78bn EU and IMF bailout last May that has so far brought only pain and recession. Official forecasts are for the economy to contract 3.3% this year and unemployment to rise to 14.5%.

"They are driving the country towards disaster," said Arménio Carlos, the leader of the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, who adds that as health, electricity and public transport charges shoot up, the €432 monthly minimum take-home wage now dooms hundreds of thousands to poverty.

But popular reaction to the bailout has been stoical so far and the general workers' union is not backing this week's strike.

Many analysts believe Portugal is fated to follow Greece into a second bailout. The European commission put Portuguese debt at 110% of GDP last year, and the yield on 10-year bonds on Monday stayed above 13% – double the level considered remotely sustainable for it to borrow on its own. Goldman Sachs sees Portugal needing up to €50bn more until 2014.

"There will be a big debate about how to split the burden between the EU, creditors, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank," Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive of Pimco – the world's biggest bond investor, with $1.36tn under management – told Der Spiegel at the weekend. "And then financial markets will become nervous, because they are worried about private sector participation."

Analysts are split on whether private sector lenders will be forced to take a "haircut" to write off some of the country's debt, as with Greece. "A haircut? Naturally, if you add in the private debt, Portugal's debt is not sustainable given its future growth outlook," said Edward Hugh, an economist in Barcelona. more
Yuppies do conventions—unions do strikes.  How either can slow the bankster agenda is beyond me but ya gotta try something. (I guess) Anyway, one can only wish the Portuguese the best of luck.  The folks out to destroy them probably have no idea even IF there is such a thing as a Portuguese culture (not that having a culture did anything to save the Greeks).

Unions launch 24-hour general strike against austerity

Portuguese unions began a 24-hour general strike on Thursday to protest government austerity measures agreed to as part of a rescue deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

AFP - Portugal's major cities ground to a halt Thursday as unions began a 24-hour strike against austerity measures agreed by the government in return for an international bailout.

The metros in Lisbon and Oporto, Portugal's second-largest city, were closed because of the strike, forcing tens of thousands of commuters to find an alternative way to get to work or school.

The ferry service linking the two sides of the Tagus river in the Portuguese capital was also suspended while buses and commuter trains in Lisbon were operating only minimum services.

Portugal's airport operator ANA urged passengers to check on the status of their flights before heading to the airport, but air traffic controllers were not taking part in the strike.

The strike is also expected to disrupt public services like schools and garbage collection and force the closure of libraries and museums.

The country's biggest union -- the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP) -- called the strike in February to protest against a reform of the labour code that makes it easier to hire and fire workers.

It is also angry over government austerity measures such as the elimination of public employees' Christmas and vacation bonuses -- each roughly equivalent to a month's pay -- among measures to rein in the public deficit.

Speaking ahead of the strike, CGTP secretary general Armenio Carlos called the labour law reform a "Machiavelic attempt to suppress workers' rights".

Unlike the last general strike held in Portugal in November 2011, Thursday's strike does not have the backing of Portugal's second-biggest union, the historically more moderate General Worker's Union (UGT) which reached an agreement with the government over the labour law reforms.

Portugal is locked into a three-year programme of debt-reduction measures and economic reforms in return for a 78 billion euro ($103 billion) financial rescue package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The centre-right coalition government, which has a majority in parliament, and the main opposition Socialist Party gave their blessing to the bailout conditions in May 2011.

Portugal was the third EU country after Greece and Ireland to receive such a bailout.

The strike comes amid rising concern among analysts and investors that Portugal, like its fellow eurozone member Greece, will need a second bailout -- which the government has strongly denied.

Portugal is racing to implement the bailout terms while grappling with the worst recession since its return to democracy in 1974 after decades of dictatorship.

The Portuguese economy is expected to contract by 3.3 percent this year, after falling 1.6 percent in 2011, and push unemployment up to a record 14.6 percent.

More than three million people participated in the last general strike in November 2011, according to the CGTP, which is close to the Communist Party. more


  1. Thank you!

    I´m very ddisappointed with the passiveness of my people (including me)

    We the ones who still have jobs are worried we can loose our monthly 500€ - 1000€ so we just shut up and stay home

  2. I do NOT condemn anyone who doesn't want to lose a job, get arrested, or get his head busted in a demo that has only a tiny chance to change anything anyway. Yet I understand your frustration that NOTHING seems to happen and want to do SOMETHING.

    Just a suggestion—since there are plenty of people without jobs and probably just as angry as you, let THEM do the protesting while you confine yourself to supporting their efforts in some small way from behind the lines. Buy them a few meals. Participate in some informal meetings where folks hammer out better strategies or ways of thinking about the problems you face. Be creative. Make contact with your comrades in Greece and Iceland, and Ireland and ask for suggestions. Just remember, successful armies these days are about 5% front-line warriors and 95% logistics. Also remember, the overwhelming majority is on your side. If democracy were even a little bit effective, you would win in a walk.

    Good luck! We are all cheering for you!

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