Portugal passes 'troika's' bailout review of its economy

image captionPortugal's austerity cuts have sent protesters onto the streets of Lisbon

Portugal has moved a step closer to exiting its bailout programme after the international lenders that saved the country from bankruptcy approved a review of the economy six months early.

The European Union and International Monetary Fund have been monitoring the country's economic reforms, a condition of the 2011 78bn-euro (£66bn) bailout.

Portugal hopes to leave the bailout agreement in the middle of next year.

At the weekend Ireland became the first eurozone country to exit its bailout.

The troika - the EU, IMF and European Central Bank - have carried out ten reviews of the economy to ensure that budget cuts and economic restructuring are implemented.

"The lenders agreed that our targets were met and our objectives are within reach," said the country's finance minister Maria Luis Albuquerque. "It was a very smooth evaluation... that envisages the end of the bailout programme on the agreed date" in mid-2014, she said.

Growth expected

An exit from the bailout would give Portugal back its financial independence, allowing the country to borrow on the financial markets.

During Portugal's recession, borrowing on the capital markets was effectively closed as the interest rate being demanded was seen as unsustainable.

Portugal has so far received 71.4bn euros of the 78bn euros which the troika agreed to lend the country in May 2011.

The country's economy is forecast to return to growth of 0.8% next year after falling 1.8% this year.

The troika said in a statement: "Further signs of recovery have emerged since the last review. Growth is broadly in line with projections, while unemployment has fallen by more than expected."

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