Portugal told to stick to deficit reduction targets

Deputy prime minister had suggested a softer goal would be better

Portugal should stick to the budget deficit reduction targets agreed with international lenders, the head of the eurozone finance ministers group Jeroen Dijsselbloem said today.

His comments came after Lisbon said a softer goal for next year would be better.

Portugal's deputy prime minister Paulo Portas this week told a parliamentary commission the budget deficit goal set for next year should be 4.5 per cent of GDP rather than the agreed 4 per cent.

"I think it's important to stick to what we've now agreed within the programme, also including the deficit targets," Mr Dijsselbloem told reporters ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers.

“I don’t think it’s a good signal to keep the discussion alive whether the targets should be more or less,” he said.

“The outside world should understand that Portugal and the Portuguese government is committed to what has to be done, what has been agreed. That will help towards an exit from the programme as soon as possible,” he said.

The next review of the country's bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund begins on Monday. The lenders have already eased Portugal's deficit targets for this year and next year in March, because of a deeper than expected recession.

The target for this year is 5.5 per cent, down from 6.4 per cent last year.