Portuguese president says indebtedness "inevitable": report

LISBON, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said here on Thursday that an increase in his country's indebtedness was "inevitable" as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures to reactivate the economy.

In an interview with public broadcaster Radio Antena 1, Rebelo de Sousa said that "when there is no other remedy", borrowing money is the way it "has to be."

The impact of the pandemic weighs heavily on economies worldwide, and Portugal is no exception. Before COVID-19 struck a year ago, Portugal recorded its 25th quarter of uninterrupted growth and its state budget was in surplus for the first time in almost half a century. The country was also seen as solidly recovering from the tough bailout program prescribed by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to Rebelo de Sousa, "until now," the understanding of the international markets "has been surprising." Portugal has been praised for its efficient response to the 2009 crisis and even to the first wave of the pandemic.

"I mean, creditors believe in Portugal's ability to manage its budget and not to enter an irreversible, or very serious, loss in terms of public debt," he said on Thursday.

However, the economic damage caused by the recurring waves of the coronavirus pandemic may be too much for the country to bear. According to the president, the cost of COVID-19 may well exceed the 12.9 billion euros (15.7 billion U.S. dollars) that Portugal is set to receive from the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility and the additional loans worth 15.7 billion euros, which it could also access on a voluntary basis.

"If the pandemic continues to get worse at the rate it is already getting worse, it would mean further months of deep crisis," Rebelo de Sousa said.

On Friday, Portugal will enter its ninth state of emergency decree since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new restrictions are similar to those imposed during the first wave of coronavirus last spring.

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