Portugal rightly proud of its low deficit?

Portugal is making headlines with the lowest budget deficit in 45 years, strong growth and a radically reduced unemployment rate. The driving force behind this positive trend is finance minister and Eurogroup chief Mário Centeno. But recent strikes reflect widespread discontent among the population. The press's elation over the good financial data is not unclouded.

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Sábado (PT) /

Keep expectations low and then surprise them

This masterly achievement was meticulously planned, Sábado stresses:

“That Portugal's budget deficit for 2018 was only 0.5 percent (or even less) is no surprise to anyone - and it's hard to imagine that the Ministry of Finances didn't reckon with the figures being better than originally planned. The strategy employed by Finance Minister Centeno's team seems to consist in keeping expectations low. In this way it kills two birds with one stone: for Europe it comes as a surprise (which boosts Portugal's public image and credibility). And at home it helps the Socialists to cast themselves as a responsible left-wing party.”

Público (PT) /

Austerity alone is not enough

Pedro Filipe Soares, leader of the leftist parliamentary group Bloco de Esquerda which supports the minority government, criticises in Público that the low deficit is above all a reflection of the strict austerity policy:

“This is one of the problems with the current financial policy in which deficit reduction targets have dogmatically taken precedent over the priorities set out in the budget. ... The question now is how this unexpected surplus will be used, and which priorities will be addressed. ... In the 2019-2023 stability programme, in which Lisbon must present its key economic decisions for the next four years to the Commission, we will see which side the government comes down on: a zero deficit or using this surplus where it's really needed.”