On Saturday, after an internationally-mandated makeover,
Three years ago as the debt crisis fires were engulfing
To avoid that ignominy, sclerotic
Despite a 0.7 percent quarterly contraction in the first three months of the year that the Portuguese government blamed on production stoppages at major exporting factories,
Its recovery is seen by European political leaders as evidence that the much-maligned austerity prescription was the right medicine for the country's ills. For many Portuguese, though, the success has come at an unacceptable price and the straitened times are set to continue.
"The main goal of the bailout program — to get reasonably-priced financing from markets — has been accomplished," said
A key step in meeting that target was reducing the budget deficit — the amount the country spends beyond how much it receives in taxes and other revenue. At the end of 2013, that was down at 4.9 percent of the country's annual gross domestic product against 10.1 percent three years earlier.
Growth has also resumed after a three-year recession that sent unemployment sky-rocketing, particularly among the young. The IMF is predicting growth of 1.2 percent this year, just shy of the average in the 28-country
What's pleasing many, particularly those that advocated the austerity program, has been the unexpected improvement in the country's exports, which rose by 27 percent between 2010 and 2013. Foreign sales by the traditional footwear and textile industries grew 40 percent and 11 percent respectively over the same period as companies belatedly modernized.
One of the purposes behind the austerity program was to make goods and services more competitive in international markets.
Consumers are also feeling a bit perkier. Passenger car sales, for example, jumped 40.5 percent in the first quarter, compared with an average 8.4 percent rise across
Are there risks of a relapse?
The first quarter economic contraction highlighted the fragility of the recovery especially in such an interconnected economy such as the eurozone.
Unsurprisingly then that Finance Minister
"It's not like we've struck oil," Albuquerque said recently. "The Portuguese economy is still fragile ... structural reforms start to bear fruit after three years, but they're not completed after three years."
Government debt remains high, at 129 percent of GDP last year, way above the EU average of 87.1 percent. That is one of the long-term worries that have kept Portuguese bonds classified as junk by the three main international ratings agencies.
And politically, there is no broad, cross-party endorsement for the path to follow like there was with the 2011 bailout agreement.
Ahead of next year's general election, the main opposition center-left
But the worst is over, isn't it?
When the Portuguese wake up on
"The future will be very demanding," Prime Minister
And in a further reality check, President
That's hardly a headline that's going to create a buzz in a country that seen living standards tumble and over 200,000 people, feeling their aspirations crushed, emigrating over the past three years.
Some 2 million adults — about one-fifth of the population — lived on around
Many Portuguese have protested, marched and staged strikes, but they couldn't stop the austerity policies.
"I just feel like everything is going on above my head, I don't have much of a say in anything," said
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