In Austerity-Scarred Portugal, Fiscal Discipline Is A Vote Winner | 9/20/2019 | Staff
mayemaye (Posted by) Level 3
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa aims to retain power at Sunday’s parliamentary election with a pledge that looks like an unlikely vote-winner for western Europe’s poorest country – no backtracking on tight spending controls.

As populist governments across the rest of Europe look to ramp up spending amid fears of recession, Costa has campaigned for fiscal discipline to preserve the hard-won results of austerity imposed in the wake of Portugal’s 2011 debt crisis.

Strategy - Socialists - Opinion - Polls - Budget

And the strategy appears to be working. The center-left Socialists are well ahead in opinion polls after recording the lowest budget deficit in the 45 years of Portugal’s democratic history. And the economy is on course to grow 1.9% this year, above the EU average.

“Perhaps it’s best for the austerity not to end completely, or we run the risk of going overboard as happened before the crisis,” said Nuno Almeida, 31, a karate teacher in the town of Barreiro, south of Lisbon.

Almeida - Job - Publishing - House - Socialists

Almeida, who has a second job in a publishing house, said he plans to vote for the Socialists because they “balance out discipline and progress”.

“People don’t want to go through the suffering again and are now much more lucid about deficits and the budget,” said Almeida, whose livelihood was hit when he lost many of his fee-paying pupils during the 2011-14 crisis.

Costa - Government - Page - Austerity - Pay

While Costa’s government declared in 2016 that it had “turned the page on austerity” by reversing some pay cuts and tax hikes imposed by the previous administration, it has since become more frugal. It has refused to raise salaries for teachers and civil servants, while the total tax burden reached a record high 35.4% of GDP in 2018.

Even with wages largely stuck at pre-crisis levels of almost a decade ago, ordinary people say they have felt improvements lately.

Crisis - Lot

“During the crisis, a lot was...
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