Dublin meanwhile confirms EUR 85 bln bailout in talks with IMF, EU.
Portuguese rail, air and other services have ground to a halt as workers strike in a bid to weaken the government’s resolve to make budget cuts, according to BBC News. Rail services were paralysed from the north to the south, with nearly 80% of trains not running, and the national airline TAP cancelled most flights. However, road traffic in the capital Lisbon was said to be normal.
The budget, meant to tackle the euro member state’s mounting debt crisis, goes to a vote in parliament on Friday. The Socialist government wants to quell international unease over the country’s public spending and deficit by cutting wages for public sector workers, freezing pensions and increasing taxes. Lisbon is trying to convince international investors that Portugal will not be forced to seek a bail-out like Ireland or Greece.
Meanwhile in central London, lines of police were holding back thousands of student protesters, in a wave of protests against higher tuition fees and university budget cuts. A police van, marooned in the protest on Whitehall, was attacked.
Students were staging occupations at universities including Royal Holloway, Plymouth, Birmingham, London South Bank, UCL and UWE Bristol. Police warned they would make arrests if protests become violent.
DUBLIN UNVEILS FOUR-YEAR AUSTERITY PLAN
The Irish government was set to publish an austerity plan required for its EU- and IMF-led bailout. The four-year plan targets total cuts of EUR 15 bln, or 11% of the Irish economy’s annual output.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Brian Cowen confirmed he was negotiating a bail-out package with the EU and IMF, to be worth about EUR 85 bln. At a heated session of the Irish Parliament, Cowan said that bailout negotiations were ongoing, and that no final figure had been agreed. He described the package as an “overdraft”, which would continue to be available and could be drawn upon as required.