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Portugal’s bailout plan’s terms to be discussed today

Finance minister to meet officials representing lenders to set conditions of rescue package.

Officials representing the IMF and the EU, Portugal's main lenders, are due to meet the country's finance minister, Fernando Teixeira Dos Santos, in Lisbon today to set the conditions of the country's rescue package.

Discussions are aimed at setting the conditions Portugal's bail out loans, which should cost up to £70bn. Support for the package in rich European nations such as Germany is crucial for the Portuguese, as they struggle with inexorably increasing borrowing costs in a period of dampened growth.

The EU's finance ministers have a series of priorities for the rescue package. These include increasing the country's competitiveness (one of its major flaws and an important cause of its current situation, according to analysts), a fiscal readjustment, and an effort on the financial sector's solvency.

Other propositions include a significant privatisation plan -- which could include the country's EU-funded road system.

The Portuguese people fear the meeting will usher an even harsher set of austerity measures than the ones which have already been applied by José Sócrates, the country's former Prime Minister and head of its caretaker government since his resignation as president on 23 March 2011.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.