LISBON, March 15 Portugal's creditors have eased
fiscal goals and allowed more time for deeply unpopular spending
cuts under a bailout after the economy's outlook worsened
further, Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar said on Friday.
He told a news conference the country had passed the seventh
bailout review by inspectors from the 'troika' - the European
Commission, IMF and European Central Bank - which would qualify
it for the next tranche of rescue loans worth 2 billion euros.
As resistance to further austerity has grown in Portugal in
recent weeks, the lenders have granted an extra year for Lisbon
to make permanent spending cuts worth 2.5 percent of gross
domestic product, or roughly 4 billion euros. These now have to
be carried out incrementally until 2015 and not 2014.
Gross domestic product is expected to slump by 2.3 percent
this year, much deeper than the 1 percent drop seen at the time
of the last review in November. Last month, the European
Commission forecast a contraction of 1.9 percent this year,
mainly blaming Europe's recession.