Portuguese govt. must step down, protestors say.

Portuguese govt. must step down, protestors say

Portuguese civil servants call for the government to step down during an anti-austerity demonstration in Lisbon on March 15, 2013.

Thousands of Portuguese civil servants have poured onto the streets of Lisbon, demanding the resignation of the government over its unpopular austerity measures.

Friday’s demonstration was called by the unions Common Front, STAL (National Union of the Local and Regional Public Workers), and CGTP (General Confederation of the Portuguese Workers), shortly after Portuguese Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar announced further spending cuts in the cash-strapped European country.

The protestors, who were making their way toward the Finance Ministry, chanted “It's time for the government to step down!” and “IMF! Get out of here!”

The Portuguese government is bracing for a record 18.2 percent jobless rate this year, up from last year’s 16.9 percent.

Portugal is grappling with its worst recession since the 1970s.

Demonstrators say the recession was caused by the government’s imposition of tax hikes and spending cuts required by a 78-billion-euro ($102 billion) bailout.

“While we have had today the seventh review (on the bailout) there are talks about changes and start having measures for economy growth but what is happening is that it seems that everything stays the same,” a demonstrator was quoted as saying.

Portugal’s main opposition party -- the Socialists -- said the “government has failed at every level.”

Other opposition parties demanded that Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho step down due to “shocking” unemployment forecasts.

Portugal’s main international creditors -- the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Union -- are keeping an eye on Portugal's implementation of spending cuts and reforms required in return for the 78-billion-euro rescue package the country received in 2011.

The creditors agreed to relax Portugal's deficit targets for 2012 and 2013 as a reward to the country for pushing through reforms.

Battered by the global financial downturn, the Portuguese economy fell into a recession, which compelled the country to negotiate with the IMF for a bailout loan in 2011.

Spain, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, and Portugal are all in recession, and all five are receiving financial assistance from European bailout funds.