Thousands take to the streets of Lisbon to protest against austerity policies in Portugal

LISBON (AFP) - Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Lisbon on Saturday in the latest demonstration against the austerity policies of Portugal's centre-right government.

"Change the policies" and "Out with the government" chanted members of the country's largest union, the CGTP, which had gathered thousands for a protest in the north-western port of Porto a week earlier.

"Living conditions in Portugal are only getting worse as a result of unfair policies. We've had enough of this government," said Mr Jorge Macau, 35, a local government worker who had travelled from the south-eastern region of Evora.

But despite years of bruising austerity measures, the unions have struggled to garner public support for recent protests.

Greater numbers were attracted on Saturday by a "country festival" organised by a supermarket chain.

A three-year bailout European Union and International Monetary Fund bailout programme that ended last month forced stringent reforms on Portugal in exchange for 78 billion euros (S$132.4 billion) to avert bankruptcy.

Lisbon exited the bailout programme in May without any precautionary credit line and had the last tranche of its bailout funds suspended after its Constitutional Court struck down several austerity measures proposed in the government's 2014 budget.

To ensure it receives its final check of 2.6 billion euros, the government was due to present alternative reform measures by the end of June, while confirming its commitment to bring the budget deficit down to 4 per cent of gross domestic product this year, but it has preferred to wait for judicial verdicts on existing spending cuts before making any announcements.

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