LISBON, July 18 Portugal's prime minister said
on Thursday the economy may have grown in the second quarter as
he defended his record against a no-confidence motion that the
ruling coalition is set to defeat in parliament.
A painful austerity drive under Portugal's 78-billion-euro
EU/IMF bailout has pushed the country into its worst recession
since the 1970s, but Passos Coelho said growing exports and
external surpluses offered signs of a turnaround.
"As a result of all these signs, it is increasingly likely
that in the second quarter that ended in June we registered
economic growth, precisely what the Portuguese have justly been
waiting for," he said.
The prime minister added that he will continue to work for
the country to exit the bailout programme "in a controlled and
The centre-right ruling coalition that has a comfortable
parliament majority is expected to easily defeat the
no-confidence motion later on Thursday after overcoming an
Disagreement within the ruling coalition on austerity
policies earlier this month sparked a political crisis that has
threatened Portugal's plans to exit the bailout smoothly in June
President Anibal Cavaco Silva has requested the coalition
and the main opposition Socialists reach a broad political deal
that will allow Portugal to complete its bailout and then hold
early elections. The parties have given themselves until Sunday
to reach agreement.
"The country needs a Socialist Party that can accept the
president's request so we can launch the concrete and realistic
basis of our collective future," Passos Coelho said.
The Socialists have said they will support the no-confidence
motion, but said the process - tabled by the small Green Party -
would only serve the coalition's interests.