Portugal minister says his country may have found the secret to containing populism

Key Points
  • Portuguese economic growth has gone from -3.2 percent in 2012 to 2.8 percent in 2017. According to the European Commission, it is set to grow 1.8 percent this year.
  • Even if the population is not totally happy about the current economic situation, most of them recognize an improvement.
  • The latest surveys suggest that only 33 percent of the population believe the Portuguese economy is "good or very good." But that's compared to 3 percent in the spring of 2012.
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Portugal's economy minister believes that spreading the benefits among a population is the best way to quash the anti-establishment or populist sentiment that has been evident in Europe in recent years.

The euro zone nation exited a bailout program in 2014 after three years of intensive austerity measures. But by contrast to what happened in other economically-troubled countries, such as Spain and Italy, there has not been a significant increase for right-wing populist or anti-establishment parties.

"It is true we had a very strong economic recovery over the last three years," Pedro Siza Vieira, minister of the economy for Portugal, told CNBC at the World Economic Forum, in Davos Wednesday.

"The secret there is to make sure that the population understands, whilst we have suffered together during the crisis, the fruits of the recovery are widely spread and fairly distributed," Siza Vieira said.

Portuguese economic growth has gone from -3.2 percent in 2012 to 2.8 percent in 2017. According to the European Commission, it is set to grow 1.8 percent this year.

Even if the population is not totally happy about the current economic situation, most of them recognize an improvement. The latest surveys suggest that only 33 percent of the population believe the Portuguese economy is "good or very good." But that's compared to 3 percent in the spring of 2012.

Furthermore, ahead of a general election due in October, the latest European surveys suggest that sentiment toward Europe is still above 65 percent. "Europe has been a promise of peace, democracy and prosperity and it is when populations feel that this is failing that discontent will arise," Siza Vieira said.

"I think politically we are very concerned that everyone gets their fair share of the recovery," he added.

Since coming to power in 2015, the current socialist-led government in Portugal has reversed some of the previous austerity measures. The incumbent government has increased the minimum wage and restored some of the salaries in the public sector that were frozen during the bailout program.