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2012 OECD Economic Surveys: Portugal 2012

image of OECD Economic Surveys: Portugal 2012

OECD's periodic economic review of Portugal that examines recent economic developments, policies, and prospects. In addition, this edition focuses on improving credit and investment allocation.

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Solid foundations for a sustainable fiscal consolidation

Owing to slow growth and a relatively weak fiscal position, Portugal’s public debt had been rising for almost a decade when the global crisis struck, sharply increasing the deficit. The loss of confidence in Portuguese and other euro area sovereign bonds required international financial support. Weak fiscal performance reflects a wide range of fiscal structural problems resulting in poor control of expenditure. At both the central and local levels, this was compounded by the non-transparent accumulation of payment arrears, future spending obligations via public-private partnerships (PPPs) and off-balance sheet debt in state-owned enterprises (SOEs). In line with the EU-IMF programme, the government is steadfastly implementing an ambitious front-loaded consolidation plan underpinned by a wide range of structural reforms. In a context of weak private sector demand, the government’s ability to regain control over public debt dynamics depends crucially on avoiding spending overruns. This will require reinforcing the fiscal framework to improve expenditure control, tackling payment arrears and avoiding further negative surprises from loss-making SOEs, PPPs and local governments. The success of the programme will also require maintaining social consensus around it, notably through continuous attention to its implications for the poorest. If growth is far lower than projected in the programme, the automatic stabilisers could be allowed to operate at least partially to reduce the risks of a deeper recession and higher unemployment.

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