There has been a great deal of speculation recently, some of it very forthright, about whether Portugal will meet its commitment to return to the international capital markets before September 2013. Many commentators believe we will not, and will need further financial assistance – a “second bailout” – or, in the worst case, debt restructuring.

I believe they are wrong. I am confident about the reform plan we have in place and our ability to return to the markets on time if we deliver it. However, it is important to say something that will sound controversial, but is in fact not controversial at all – in an age of uncertainty there are no guarantees. There are so many factors outside our control that no one can make predictions with any certainty.

We are utterly committed to fulfilling our obligations. But while we are optimistic, we must also be realistic and pragmatic.

This is why we accept that we may need to rely on the commitment of our international partners to extend further support if circumstances beyond our control obstruct our return to market financing. All we can know for certain is that our commitment to deliver on the terms and conditions of our adjustment programme is unwavering.

This is not a matter of choice.

For too many years Portugal pursued an irresponsible path, of policies and structures that failed to promote growth, which led us to the situation we find ourselves in today.

Our agreement with the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund addresses this situation. We do not view these reforms as an imposed obligation. If we were not operating under the bailout programme, Portugal would still be in dire need of reform for the sake of its own future. By implementing these reforms trade and investment will follow, growth will come and debt and interest rates will fall.

I hope that people will take confidence from the speed and dedication with which we have started the task, and the political and social unity of the Portuguese people to seeing it through.

We have already completed the privatisation of holdings in Energias de Portugal and Redes Energeticas Nacionais. We have removed state participation – “golden shares” – in Portugal Telecom and EDP.

We have begun to enact reforms of the labour market and welfare systems. We have instigated a programme of boosting trade and attracting foreign direct investment in agriculture, forestry, industry, commerce and finance.

These actions will help rebalance Portugal’s budget deficit and raise funds to reduce our debts.

They will also make our economy more efficient and flexible. This is where future growth must come from. We are already seeing the impact in trade growth, with exports performing strongly. Portugal is gaining market share in the EU and around the world.

Of course, we are well aware of the argument that austerity programmes and actions to balance the current account can be detrimental to growth in the long term. That is why we are focused on delivering a balanced package of measures. However, fiscal and external balances are preconditions for sustainable growth, competitiveness and employment creation. They provide the ground for structural change.

In the final analysis, we believe we will be able to return to the financial markets in 2013. There are no guarantees and we cannot legislate for events out of our country’s control. But I am convinced that we will only succeed if we deliver on the greater goal of fundamental reform, which will restore the prosperity of Portugal. That is the end we seek.

The writer is Portugal’s prime minister

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