Portugal Seeks Int'l Bailout as Europe Debt Crisis Spreads

Manila Bulletin, April 7, 2011 | Go to article overview

Portugal Seeks Int'l Bailout as Europe Debt Crisis Spreads


LISBON, Portugal (AP) - Portugal asked for a bailout Wednesday to relieve its crushing debt, joining Greece and Ireland by becoming the third European nation to ask for outside help amid a bruising European financial crisis.Prime Minister Jose Socrates went on national television to announce that Portugal must take international assistance to save its rapidly deteriorating economy, after months of insisting that he would do everything possible to avoid a bailout.Socrates said his caretaker government asked "for financial help, to ensure financing for our country, for our financial system and for our economy.''He did not say how much Portugal would seek, but analysts have predicted Portugal will need up to Euro80 billion ($114 billion). That amount is bearable for Europe's finances unless other nations - notably Spain - end up asking for help.Portugal urgently needs the rescue because has been forced to pay increasingly unsustainable interest rates to persuade investors to buy its debt. Banks from Spain to Germany are heavily exposed to the possibility of a Portuguese default, which would threaten the very existence of the eurozone.But experts believe a package to save Portugal will be crafted by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement the Portugal's request "will be processed in the swiftest possible manner.''The IMF said in a statement Wednesday night that it had not yet received a request for financial assistance from Portugal, but added that "we stand ready to assist Portugal.''Portugal has one of the 17-nation eurozone's smallest and weakest economies and has struggled for months to finance its economy amid investor fears that it is incapable of settling its debts.Socrates announced his resignation two weeks ago after opposition parties refused to accept additional austerity measures he proposed to stave off a bailout, but he agreed to stay on as a caretaker leader until the nation holds new elections in June.There was confusion over whether he could ask for a bailout in his current post because of doubts whether Portugal's constitution permitted an interim leader from doing so, but Socrates said in his speech that he hoped opposition party leaders would support his decision."This is an especially grave moment for our country,'' he said. "And things will only get worse if nothing's done.''Other European nations have been urging Portugal for months to accept outside help in a bid to contain the continent's debt crisis from spreading to other European nations, amid market fears that the eurozone itself could break apart if it didn't. …

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