LISBON, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Portuguese public servants took to the streets on Friday in protest against government's harsh austerity measures which were blamed for high unemployment rate in the debt-ridden country.
Raising high placards, the angry protesters chanted anti-government slogans, demanding that government raise salary and allowances for public servants.
The protesters walked about 3 km from Marques de Pombal Square in downtown Lisbon to the Finance Ministry building, where Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar told a news conference earlier in the day that Portuguese unemployment rate is expected to reach 18.2 percent this year and a record high of 18.5 percent in the next year.
Gaspar said that the Portuguese economy contracted 3.2 percent last year and is expected to shrink 2.3 percent in 2013.
Secretary-general of Portugal's main workers' union CGTP Armenio Carlos said that he was concerned about the high unemployment rate estimation this year announced by the government.
"The current situation in Portugal is really bad," said a woman procurator in her early 40s. "I am taking part in the protest as I want to get back what has been taken away, like social benefits, everything."
Another woman in her late 40s said that they are demonstrating against government for increasing taxes from public servants.
Under a 78-billion-euro (101-billion-U.S. dollar) bailout agreement with the troika - the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank - in May 2011, Portugal has been implementing a harsh austerity policy which has sparked widespread protests across the country in recent months.
On March 2, Portugal saw massive rallies organized by the "screw the troika" movement in over 40 cities across Portugal and abroad to seek an end to austerity policies.
The troika concluded their seventh review of Portugal's implementation of the bailout program earlier this week and agreed to ease the deficit-reduction terms for Portugal amid deepening economic crisis in the country.
Portugal will have to meet its public deficit target of 5.5 percent of its GDP this year, 4 percent next year and 2.5 percent in 2015 to receive further aid from the international lenders besides the latest batch of 2 billion euros which will be disbursed by the troika.