What is a government for?
Leading, making a community a better place. React confidently and build trust in adverse situations.
Being able to respond to difficulties real leaders are recognized.
And the answer to today’s difficulties leaves much to be desired.
Portugal is an ancient country that has already faced fame and tragedy. Acts of bravery represented our continental frontier and the entrepreneurial capacity that led us to the five games in the world. Earthquakes, wars, dictatorships have diminished us. We arrived on April 25, 1974 with very low evolutionary parameters and very high inequalities. Democracy brought us the welfare state, public services for education, health, culture. With the European Union came stability, trust, a bigger and better gateway to the world. In the meantime, we have seen significant increases in public debt, businesses and families, and outside intervention to demonstrate our inability to self-govern. They occurred between 1975 and 1979 under the leadership of Mário Soares, Nobre da Costa and Mota Pinto. Between 1983 and 1985 with Mário Soares and Mota Pinto. Between 2011-15 with Pedro Passos Coelho and Paulo Portas. Despite significant improvements over the past few decades, we remain an unequal society with low pay levels, productivity, production of tradable goods, unsustainable costs of our welfare state and the future of pensions. An aged society, divided between littoral and interior.
At the end of 2015, a new period began for the country. António Costa broke the barrier erected by Mário Soares and allied with the Communist Party and the Bloco de Esquerda to form a government. It increased the remuneration of the civil service, put the state as a majority in TAP, made an agreement on the sale of Novo Banco. In order to finance the structural increase in public spending and not increase the deficit, it was decided to reduce investment to a level not seen in decades. The ministries’ expenditures were reduced considerably. Part of the national public expenditure was passed on to the local authorities through decentralization measures, which did not provide the municipalities with the financial means to match the responsibilities they assumed, but which eased the national public accounts. The fresh breeze, which corresponded to the significant increase in tourism, created the illusion of a prosperous and cosmopolitan country. The goodwill of the media, which had treated the Passos Coelho government very badly, gave the Portuguese the idea that according to the prevailing narrative, the bad guys had gone and the good guys had arrived. Between 2016 and 2019 we lived a kind of spring.
However, no structural changes have taken place. Young people, especially the best qualified, continued to emigrate. The bet on growth through consumption, not investment, worsened the external balance and gave the illusion of a well-being that the middle class cannot actually sustain. The exponential increase in housing costs, the high cost of essential goods, energy and fuel and the very high taxes made the country a paradox between a prosperous appearance and a harsh reality for most people. And with the legitimation of the extreme left by the Socialist Party of António Costa, the legitimation of the extreme right came with 500,000 votes in the presidential elections. At the same time it looks like there is a power outage in the middle right. It is given to those who know where the PSD is positioned as a credible political alternative.
And suddenly Covid-19 happened to all of us.
Portugal performed well in March and April 2020. The containment was effective. Not because of a sense of discipline by citizens or government organizations. The detention worked because the Portuguese liked to be at home or were afraid to go out. The summer sun invited the Portuguese to bathe with the public encouragement of the highest heads of state. The number of infections began to rise in September. Although the growth was evident in November, public policy makers stimulated the Christmas family reunions with no effective conditions. Meanwhile, Portugal, a country with close ties to Britain, Brazil, and South Africa, received everything that could be expected from viral mutations. Airport control was practically nil during the entire period. A ridiculous (and serious) situation arose with the reasons given for opening schools or closing schools. The folly of arguments and counter-arguments in favor of contradicting decisions within two weeks showed the ruling disorientation of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health. However, if private schools and schools do not leave public institutions with the means to do so, distance learning courses are miserable. After arguing that schools should stay open to save a generation, prevent any part of it from using the available funds just because the government failed to deliver on the promise to provide funding for the entire public school system for distance learning, which became more prevalent Cynicism, nepotism and impunity. In a country that is almost entirely dependent on the state, few protested that contracts, jobs and incomes would not be lost.
And we have come to this glorious achievement: Portugal, a country with the worst contagion and mortality indicators caused by the Covid-19 worldwide.
It is not necessary to be very clever to say that the King is naked, as much as our current (de) government is hiding through excuses and tools.
Could we protect our citizens, our companies, our health system better and better? Yes. And it doesn’t make sense to use arguments like “let’s work” or “these are bank coach words”.
The planning that should have been done in 2020 to avoid the uncontrolled contagion and to articulate hospital resources and the health system in general in a timely manner. To generate incentive and job security programs for economic, cultural and social activities; avoid the collapse of tourism, restaurants and events; to protect the mental state and mood of the Portuguese … it failed.
How is it possible? Because leaders in government and dependent services are not up to the task. The Minister of Health sees the current head of Santa Maria Hospital speak with the ease that leads us (un) out of the line of 40 ambulances at the entrance to the emergency room and accuses the criminal acts of those who criticize mismanagement or the Prime Minister A lack of Patriotism, which denounces unacceptable acts of disinformation at European level, cannot give us any illusions.
Only a great sense of cohesion, the mobilization of civil society and business, led by an enterprising and visionary government, can avoid the discouragement and poverty of large segments of the population and bring about a robust and redistributive recovery. You can’t expect anything from formulas and worn-out people other than what they show. It’s from books
After all, Portugal had a moment during these months to shine on the international stage: the semester of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The moment Europe’s eyes are here, European leaders and officials, dignitaries from around the world, must fear landing in Lisbon. The high level political activities of the Portuguese Presidency are at risk.
Portugal is smaller. Here we crawl knowing that the national leaders have no hand in what is going on. Abroad everyone is noticing the disaster we are experiencing that is keeping tourism, investment, people, goods and services away.
This government diminishes us. The left of the PS is coming to demand the unification of the left, affected by the possibility of a national emergency government (which the state mind should urgently consider).
The land is sinking. The current government is asked to be accountable rather than trying to save wounded pride and clientele. As much as it costs, that pride is less important than our lives. The coming years will be very difficult for many people. Only a great sense of cohesion, the mobilization of civil society and business, led by an enterprising and visionary government, can avoid the discouragement and poverty of large segments of the population and bring about a robust and redistributive recovery. You can’t expect anything from formulas and worn-out people other than what they show. It’s from books.
The author writes according to the new orthographic convention