|Portugal faces key tests in turning page on bailout
Auditors from the EU and IMF begin their final health check on bailed-out Portugal on Tuesday, a day before the country faces an acid test with a return to regular borrowing on the debt market.
Portugal, set next month to follow Ireland and become the second rescued eurozone country to emerge from near bankruptcy and austerity-driven suffering, is expected to pass both tests with confidence, AFP reports.
But ordinary people complain they will go on bearing the brunt of the radical measures imposed by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in return for rescue loans of 78 billion euros.
Those measures, including a new round being applied now, hacked back public spending, cut pensions and enforced structural reforms to make the economy more competitive and boost exports.
Vice Prime Minister Paulo Portas, commenting on Monday on the visit by the auditors from the EU, IMF and European Central Bank, said: "It's the final check-up. It is the examination which must enable us to win back our political and financial autonomy.''
The Portuguese are waiting to see the back of those they call ``the men in black'', but in the knowledge that the three years of severe belt-tightening will not be relaxed.
The IMF warned on Monday that Portugal must broaden its commitment to budget discipline to ensure it can carry its debt load and retain the confidence of financial markets.
The government is not yet saying how it intends to navigate out of the rescue program as planned on May 17.
It could opt for a precautionary line of credit or take the route risked by Ireland four months ago -- an outright return to the debt market without any backup.