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Suffering in silence in Portugal?

Por: | 04 de julio de 2011

Their economies are bad, their debts are suffocating and many of their young people are out of work. Spain, Greece and Portugal face similar problems and their citizens are equally bitter – some just show it more than others.

While Greeks are clashing violently with police on the streets and Spaniards have been holding – generally peaceful – protest camps across the country, the Portuguese have just watched their new government push through harsh austerity measures with barely a whimper. 

Over the coming months, the Portuguese will be paying more at the supermarket thanks to an increase in VAT on some products.  They will earn less due to changes to income tax benefits. Civil servants will get no salary increases. Pensions will be trimmed. And, as an additional gift, much of Portuguese workers’ annual Christmas bonus – equal to one month’s pay – will be swallowed by a one-off tax.

All this on the back of austerity measures already imposed this year and last by the previous Socialist government, which collapsed in March and was replaced last month by a centre-right coalition promising, not less austerity, but more. More even than demanded by an €78-billion bailout package agreed with the EU and the IMF.

No one in Portugal is happy about the current state of affairs or the additional economic pain that surely lies around the corner, but the Portuguese in general have been far less vocal about expressing their displeasure than the Spaniards or the Greeks. There have been protests, yes, and in March a youth movement sprang up in Lisbon taking its cue from the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. But the protests were largely peaceful and the movement failed to take root or gain the international attention that, a couple of months later, focused the world’s gaze on Spain as young people demonstrated and camped out in city squares under the banner of the 15-M movement. Portugal will undoubtedly see more protests over the coming months – unions are already planning them – but it seems unlikely that they will dramatically influence the government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho who trounced the Socialists in the June 5 general election.


Passos Coelho has interpreted, perhaps correctly, his strong result at the ballot box as a mandate for change and he has had few qualms about publicly acknowledging that things will have to get worse before they can get better.

Is this just a case of Portuguese practicality? Do the arguments of mainstream economists (embodied in organizations such as the IMF) that small government, lower public spending and fewer social benefits will lead to increased competitiveness and long-term growth sit more comfortably in the Portuguese psyche than in the minds of Greeks and Spaniards. Perhaps.

But it should not be forgotten that the Portuguese are accustomed to hard times. While Spain and Greece were experiencing growth rates in excess of 3 percent for much of the last decade, the Portuguese economy was stagnant. Portugal has been suffering its own economic malaise longer than the others, muddling through until it succumbed to the debt crisis that swept across the euro-zone. Trying a different course of action, even if that means short-term pain, may therefore be more palatable.

And, let’s not forget, that this is the country of Fado, a music filled with loss, pain and mourning. It has long been stereotyped as one of Europe’s most unassuming and introverted nations, a place where the past is gazed upon with a sense of melancholy, where being sad about something is part of the daily rhythm of life. The Portuguese have plenty to be sad about at the current time, but they are surely hoping (quietly) for a happier future.

Andrew Eatwell is a freelance journalist co-editor of Iberosphere, a website dedicated to comment and analysis on Spain and Portugal.

Hay 7 Comentarios

Pues eso. So much for the stupid ethnical homogeneity they are seeking around Brussels...

In Anlehnung, sagte diese Person Atom war viel zu langsam und nicht einfach eine Option.

Dei feriti nel recupero ospedale Christian louboutin del popolo norvegese sono generalmente interessati al problema. I. 26 a piangere le vittime nel studentesse ha detto di sperare che i feriti sono christian louboutin schuhe stati rapidamente possibile.

João Banderirinha is right, I'm sure you don't know any portuguese.

It will be interesting to see if sparks don't eventually begin to fly over in Portugal. The news today certainly would make one think so.

Do everything the 'market' says and the new god rewards you with a trash bond rating.

Time to tell them to stuff it and start making your own towels once again I'd say!

Keep on commenting about Spain and so. Nothing to see here for you man, your prose is full of stereotyping bullshit: "this is the country of Fado, a music filled with loss, pain and mourning. It has long been stereotyped as one of Europe’s most unassuming and introverted nations, a place where the past is gazed upon with a sense of melancholy". Not this kind of shit again common...

Saramago once commented that one difference between Spaniards and the Portuguese is that the former are more dramatic like the latter are more lyrical. I'm not sure about the lyrical part, but the Portuguese definitely seem to be less dramatic than the Spanish, at least, since the early 20th century when the Portuguese killed the last king and his heir. The revolution of 1974 was about as lyrical as a revolution can be and Portugal still have a much more diverse group of political ideologies than does Spanish, the latter country is essentially divided into the Popular Party, a fairly extremist right-wing party...and an everyone who isn't a extreme right-wingers.

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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