Note on the political scenario in Portugal

Image: Antonio A. Costa
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By CARLOS CESAR*

A letter from the president of the Portuguese Socialist Party to former minister Tarso Genro

Dear friend Tarso Genro

Thanks for your last message.

We have received good news about the perspectives of the presidential elections in Brazil and about the enthusiasm surrounding Lula's candidacy. May it be so!

I think that most people, particularly in Portugal, follow this process with great interest. Bolsonaro quickly went from causing just some perplexity to, simultaneously, arousing a lot of rejection, concern and even indignation.

I have observed the accumulation of cases and blockages that your presidency accentuates. The most affected will always be the Brazilians who live in this immense Brazil. However, a country like Brazil, however frequent and harmful the crises it goes through over time, is always more relevant than it represents within its physical borders. Its importance for the Euro-American relationship and for international relations, in multiple dimensions, is very significant. It is not strange, therefore, that whenever I speak with other friends or politicians, namely Europeans, they often ask me, before seeking to know about Portugal, how I think things will evolve in Brazil. I am transmitting my hope, always updated by the opinions I receive and read in the texts that Tarso Genro has published with his usual discernment.

In truth, we are also in a very sensitive phase of Portuguese political life, after the dissolution of parliament, by the President of the Republic, which forces the holding of legislative elections as early as 30 October.

We are still confused by the situation created around the lack of agreement for the approval of the State Budget for 2022. It is said, and it seems to me that this is right, that everyone did not want elections – if we except the extreme right, which aspires to increase , albeit residually, their voting and parliamentary representation. The PS will, we think, see its vote consolidated or reinforced, but it is assumed that it is likely that there may not be a very salient electoral change or that determines other forms of inter-party cooperation.

One thing is certain: whether or not we are big enthusiasts of the solution that in these last six years has guaranteed governance and stability, with the PS having the necessary support from the parties on its left, the truth is that the results of this cycle, so cruelly affected by the pandemic crisis, are very positive and, in some cases, unprecedented in Portuguese economic and social indicators of this century.

The right-wing parties' prophecies of blockades, regressions and internal and external mistrust were exemplarily contradicted by the realities we have dealt with over these last six years.

I don't want to bore you with very accounting descriptions, but I can't resist mentioning several cases that allow us a more real and undeniable reading of this period that we live in Portugal, since, in 2015, we had, for the first time, a government supported by the parties ecologists and the left.

From the outset, we proved that it is possible to grow the economy and invest in combating social inequalities without compromising budgetary sustainability and the country's image with creditors and European decision-makers and regulators. In fact, in 2019 we even achieved the first budgetary surplus of Portuguese democracy and the costs of issuing public debt remained at historic lows, even during the pandemic and well below 2015.

These budgetary precautions did not prevent, as I said, an economic evolution that was, for the right, an important political defeat, and, for the credibility of Portugal, a gain. The Portuguese economy grew at a higher level than the EU average in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 and we will resume this path in 2022. It is a convergence trajectory that happens, for the first time, in the last 20 years.

Internal and external confidence in Portugal, namely on the part of investors, which the right claimed to be committed to supporting the PS government of the parties on its left, grew and consolidated. For example, in the first half of this year, we recorded a historic maximum of business investment, the financial autonomy of companies is also at historic highs and, once again, foreign investment contracted this year surpassed the records of 2018 and 2019. unemployment rate between 2015 and 2021 dropped to about half and the employed population is much higher than when the PS government took office, as well as jobs with permanent contracts.

Confidence was consolidated in correlated and essential aspects: one more example, compared to 2015, was the 22-year increase in the Social Security sustainability guarantee.

The worst right wing could not do worse, in relation to companies and unemployment, because of the increases in the national minimum wage, which, in 2022, will have risen 40% compared to 2015. Not only was the right wrong, but, with the support of the entire the left, in a measure that was imposed in the name of the dignity of the workers, these increases took place. Even so, the parties to the left of the PS still wanted more, but that would, in our view, go beyond the necessary gradualness. Incidentally, the average net monthly income of the employed population has grown very significantly.

Between 2015 and 2020, it was possible to remove 700 people from a situation of risk of poverty or social exclusion. As a result of the policies adopted, the poverty and social exclusion rate is now below the average for both the European Union and the Euro Zone.

My dear Tarsus

I don't want to tire you out with more indicators, but it's worth talking about them, especially when so many attempts have been made to demonize the Portuguese solution led by Antonio Costa.

Anyway, this positive path is now suspended, in view of the early elections, but it showed virtualities and many results. I don't know if Brazil will follow an equivalent path, but what I can say is that, if it does and as long as it is justified and lasts - and if the parties preserve the essential reasonableness and mutual understanding - it could have similar progressive fruits, all the more so many of the constraints of the European rules to which we are subject in Portugal do not apply in Brazil.

Let's see… how things will go on both sides of the Atlantic. I'm giving news.

A hug for you and yours.

* Carlos Cesar President of the Socialist Party of Portugal.

 

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