Archive for 21 Setembro, 2012
A FORTNIGHT is a long time in the euro crisis. In two short weeks Portugal has gone from being a model pupil, praised in Brussels and Frankfurt for steadfastly pressing ahead with a reform programme tied to a €78 billion ($101 billion) bail-out to a cautionary example of the dangers facing governments which attempt to push austerity beyond the tolerance of long-suffering voters.
With his decision to finance a reduction in company costs through a sharp cut in workers’ take-home pay, Pedro Passos Coelho, Portugal’s prime minister, appears to have taken reform past the limit of what is deemed acceptable by large parts of the electorate. Until then, voters had accepted successive rounds of belt-tightening with grudging resignation. [...]
In the 15 minutes that Mr Passos Coelho took to announce his scheme on television earlier this month, he performed the remarkable feat of uniting not only the opposition parties against his “intolerable” plan, but also trade unionists, big business and economists. The move also opened a potentially irreparable breach between the two parties in his governing coalition. By the following weekend, hundreds of thousands of peaceful demonstrators had taken to the streets in Portugal’s biggest anti-austerity protest to date. [...]
Mr Passos Coelho’s policies may have succeeded in emphasising Portugal’s differences from Greece. But he is also discovering that austerity cannot be pushed past a limit that is determined by voters, whether they are violently rioting in Athens or marching peacefully in Lisbon.