Portugal

Portuguese PM announces fresh cuts in education and health

Passos Coelho regrets top court ruling against legality of axing workers’ benefits Conservative against raising taxes further

Portugal's Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho addresses the nation from his official residence at São Bento palace in Lisbon.
Portugal's Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho addresses the nation from his official residence at São Bento palace in Lisbon.MARIO CRUZ (EFE)

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said Sunday that deeper cuts will have to be made in health, education, social security and at state-owned companies to make up for the 1.35 billion euros in previous reductions that the country’s Constitutional Court threw out last week.

In a nearly 15-minute televised address, Passos Coelho said he did not agree with Friday’s ruling but would respect it.

A 13-judge panel ruled that the budgetary measures which comprised cutting holiday pay for government workers and retirees, as well as reductions in unemployment and pay during sick leave, were unconstitutional as they placed an unfair extent of the austerity burden on certain sectors of society.

“The financial emergency situation is not over,” the conservative leader said, stressing that it would not mean higher taxes.

Passos Coelho convened an emergency session of his Cabinet on Saturday to discuss the ruling. The government has said that it will respect the court’s decision while Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva reaffirmed his support for Passos Coelho’s conservative government to continue in office.

António José Seguro, the head of the opposition Socialist Party (PS), said it was time to call for new elections.

"At this time, I do not want to create more situations for the Portuguese people. However, this government is a factor of instability in our country; it created a political crisis while knowing from the start that at least two of its budget standards would be considered unconstitutional because they systematically violate the principle of equality. And this has augmented the political crisis," Seguro was quoted by the Lisbon daily Público as saying.

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