Sunday, November 21, 2010

PORTUGAL TODAY

From Afghanistan to value-added tax

Portugal can today afford to pause for a moment of self-satisfaction having successfully hosted such a mighty gathering of world leaders and their momentous agreements on war and peace. Next week is going to be rather less glitzy and agreeable.

The NATO summit ended with all-round accord on an exit strategy in Afghanistan. NATO combat operations are to cease and the vast majority of the 138,000 international troops will have left Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The other good news is that Russia has agreed in writing that it and the NATO nations pose no threat to each other. The old Cold War enemy has promised to co-operate on defence matters, particularly on the setting up of a ballistic missile shield.

Tomorrow is another day, of course, and fears have been expressed that a bailout in Ireland “may unleash market vigilantes on Portugal.” Unfortunately, even NATO could not cope with such an attack. In describing the dilemma on whether to seek an EU rescue plan, The Ecomomist quoted a Lisbon-based economist as saying: “Portugal does not want to ask for help, but it may have to.”

Tuesday will be a good day for us ordinary folk to get out and about and deal with normal daily chores because Wednesday could be problematic. Tens of thousands of public and private sector workers plan to stage a general strike in Lisbon and cities througout the country.

Organised by the biggest trade unions, the strike is in protest against the Government's austerity measures, which are designed to help solve the nation's economic woes. Many people doubt that cutting public sector wages by 5 percent, freezing pensions and raising value-added tax from 21 percent to 23 percent is the right way of going about it.

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