Portugal finance minister likely to detail new austerity steps

Portugal's Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar will hold a press conference on Wednesday on the country's bailout plan, when he is expected to detail fresh austerity measures.

The center-right government has been looking for alternative ways to meet budget goals under the 78-billion-euro bailout since it was forced to back down on a plan to hike social security taxes, which sparked a backlash among many Portuguese.

The finance ministry said in a statement that Gaspar will hold the press conference at 1500 GMT.

The previously proposed hike in social security taxes prompted the largest protests in Portugal since the country sought a bailout last year, undermining the political consensus that had existed behind austerity so far.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, who is Portuguese, said on Monday the Commission had already received and approved Lisbon's alternative measures. Barroso gave no details of the measures.

Still, the government has said it is considering alternatives including higher income, capital gains and asset taxes. It is also studying a tax on financial transactions.

Portugal's lenders agreed to ease the country's budget goals last month but many economists still think Lisbon will struggle to meet the new goals as revenues slump due to the deepest recession since the 1970s.

(Reporting By Axel Bugge; editing by Stephen Nisbet)