LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal could request its creditors for a further easing of budget deficit goals if the economy sours more, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said on Monday.
“If there is a necessity, the government would not hesitate in requesting a revision of the goals and that may have to happen according to the macroeconomic outlook,” Passos Coelho told journalists in televised comments.
Passos Coelho was speaking on the same day as the country’s four main industrial lobby groups urged the government to negotiate a new easing of budget deficit goals under a 78-billion-euro bailout by the European Union and IMF.
Weekly Expresso reported this weekend that a further easing of deficit goals was already under consideration. “This is not a question which has been formally raised but it is not something that is ruled out on the horizon,” Passos Coelho said when asked about the report.
Some euro zone officials have said they are open to ease Portugal’s budget goals if the country’s recession worsens.
Portugal is stuck in its longest recession since the 1970s and entered a third year of downturn in 2013. The economy is expected to contract 2.3 percent this year after a 3.2 percent slump last year.
The country’s lenders already agreed to ease deficit goals in March. It now has to reduce the budget deficit to 5.5 percent of gross domestic product this year from last year’s 6.4 percent and then to 4 percent in 2014.
A group of technicians from the ‘troika’ of lenders -- the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF -- arrived in Portugal on Monday to prepare the work for the country’s next, regular bailout review which begins on July 15.
Reporting By Axel Bugge and Daniel Alvarenga; editing by Ron Askew