Portugal's govt says spending plan marks start of a new era

LISBON, Portugal – Portugal’s finance minister says the government’s spending plan for this year marks the beginning of the end of austerity policies adopted after the debt-heavy country needed a bailout during the eurozone’s financial crisis.

Finance Minister Mario Centeno has pledged to abide by the fiscal rules governing countries using the euro currency even while he reverses some pay and pension cuts and tax hikes.

Parliament approved the centre-left Socialist government’s annual budget Tuesday, with the Communist Party and radical Left Bloc providing key support for the document they helped draw up.

Right-of-centre parties voted against the plan, calling it a “poisoned chalice” that risks returning Portugal to financial turmoil. The country needed a 78 billion-euro ($86 billion) rescue in 2011.

Eurozone officials are keeping a close eye on Portugal’s progress.