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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Portugal And Other European Pigs

December 7, 2010 - 1:14 PM | by: Greg Burke

I can’t imagine any country likes being called a pig. But that’s the case with Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. Put together, those countries spell P-I-G-S, and some people claim there are actually two i’s in this particular pig, and that it should include Italy. The Italians, of course, insist they aren’t part of the club.

It’s the somewhat-less-than-exclusive collection of European nations that share a common currency, the Euro, and are in the most trouble economically. Greece and Ireland have already been forced to take bailouts to help pay their debts, and Portugal is under pressure to do so as well.

I just spent the last few days in Portugal with cameraman Mal James, and while the situation does not look dire, it is pretty serious. The government, which is balking at taking a bailout, has implemented austerity measures that will cut the salaries of civil servants, and cut some pensions as well. Then are increases in taxes, which include the Value Added Tax, or VAT, going up to 23 percent.

That’s a lot of tax to pay on something you’re purchasing, and certainly won’t help stimulate the economy. That’s why Portugal is stuck in a pretty tough spot; as it tries to bring government spending under control and increase revenues, it’s going to kill demand. In fact, GDP is expected to fall next year.

While the Euro has been good for Portugal overall, the price to pay has been pretty high – and the Portuguese are still paying it.

We interviewed the Minister of Labor, Maria Helena Andre’, and she told us her suggestion for young people looking for work here was to be “open and flexible.”

She admits that this includes emigrating, as the Portuguese have been doing for decades.

We talked to one woman who says she’s thinking about going to Angola, a former Portuguese colony in Africa. Angola is wealthy by African standards, but that must mean the situation is pretty bad in Portugal if someone with a European Union passport is looking for work in Africa.

Despite all of its problems, Portugal is a beautiful country with friendly people, and I still don’t think it deserves to be called a pig.

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