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Portugal's budget deficit reduction targets likely to be eased again if necessary: Eurogroup president


08:38, May 28, 2013

LISBON, May 27 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said here Monday that Portugal is likely to get its budget deficit reduction targets eased again if that proves necessary although so far the debt-stricken country has not submitted any such request.

"It's very important now for us to work constructively in all the structural adjustment that is necessary, not only in Portugal, but in the whole eurozone," Dijsselbloem told a joint press conference after his meeting with Portuguese Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar.

"If, on the basis of effort, compliance and reaching structural targets, more time is necessary due to economic setbacks, more time will be considered. Now it's time to continue with the program and meet the agreed structural objectives," he added.

He stressed that the priority of Portugal now is to continue its efforts in pushing forward the economic reform in order to further enhance international community's confidence with Portugal and finally meet the budget deficit reduction targets.

For his part, Gaspar said that "greater flexibility cannot be excluded" in Portugal's budget deficit reduction targets set by international lenders "if circumstances make it necessary." He did not elaborate.

On May 24, Portugal's Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said during a parliamentary debate that Portugal might request the troika to ease the deficit reduction targets in its 2014 budget.

Earlier this month, the troika comprising the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank completed their seventh review over the implementation of the bailout plan for Portugal and gave a green light to the next tranche of 2.1-billion-euro (about 2.7 billion U.S. dollars) loan for the country.

The troika revised in March its budget deficit reduction targets set for Portugal which is 5.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of 2013, 4 percent and 2.5 percent in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Under a 78-billion-euro bailout agreement with the troika in May 2011, Portugal has been implementing a harsh austerity policy which has sparked widespread protests across the country in recent months. The austerity measures have been blamed for the country's deepening recession since the troika bailout two years ago.

Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister, had separate meetings on Monday with Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva, Passos Coelho and Gaspar. It's his first visit to Portugal since he assumed Eurogroup presidency in January this year.

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