New Portuguese government sees EU aid boosting economic growth

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Members of Portugal’s center-left Socialist Party are due to be sworn in Wednesday for the party’s third consecutive term in government as the country prepares to begin spending some 45 billion euros ($50 billion dollars) in aid from the European Union to help revive one of the bloc’s weakest economies.

The Socialists won 120 seats in the 230-seat parliament in a landslide election in January, paving the way for far-reaching reforms long postponed by political wrangling. The main centre-right opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, has 77 seats.

Prime Minister António Costa, the leader of the Socialist Party which has ruled the country since 2015, has promised an economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic but now faces headwinds resulting from the invasion of Ukraine by the Russia.

Portugal, a country of about 10.3 million people, has been marked for more than two decades by low growth, low productivity and low wages.

New challenges include a sharp rise in the cost of living, including higher electricity and gas prices for households and businesses, following Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Consumer confidence registered its second biggest drop on record in March, the national statistics agency reported on Wednesday. He also said housing rental prices jumped more than 8% at the end of last year.

Despite the promise of increased public spending, new finance minister Fernando Medina said maintaining a firm ceiling on the national debt was a “fundamental priority” for the new government, adding that international credibility of the country depended on it.

However, due to delays in holding general elections and counting votes, the newly sworn in parliament on Tuesday is not expected to pass the 2022 state budget until the end of June due to bureaucratic procedures.

Expected EU assistance in the coming years includes €15.3 billion ($17 billion) in immediate pandemic recovery assistance and nearly €30 billion ($33.4 billion). billion) under EU grants until 2027.

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