With the health, economic and social crisis sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems time to take stock of government failures and the immediate future of Portuguese democracy after the pandemic.
In reality, we have found that policy makers (not only in Portugal) have tried from the start to protect themselves from the opinions of epidemiologists, doctors of various specialties and scientists in order to legitimize the restriction on public and private freedoms that took place has and has taken place. Since, especially in the early days of the pandemic, the medical-scientific knowledge about the new virus was superficial and fallible, a kind of Maginot line was created to defend the rulers, a kind of “hygiene dictatorship” or “scientific caesarean section”, driven by the understandable Fear of contamination and the daily data published by DGS.
Today, the miscalculations and management errors of the pandemic and the health system in general made in Portugal are evident. However, they are attributed to the failure of the experts, which is why the political responsibility is completely ignored, especially by a large part of the media.
Often times, the discussion between maintaining collective health, of course a greater good, and defending the economy, more productive businesses, jobs, and people’s incomes seemed to polarize. This dilemma now arises from very short-term calculations and pandemic-based management without giving enough thought to what to do in the aftermath of the Covid. However, the economic activity and the income it generates largely determine the capacity for development and fulfillment of any person and family, and therefore its weakening by extensive and successively renewed lockdowns is obviously a mistake.
So that this compatibility is guaranteed in coping with the double health and economic-social crisis since February 2020, we should have placed health checks at the borders. we should have immediately imposed the use of masks in public spaces; We should have strengthened the responsiveness of the public health system together with the private sector – and we only realized that this has not happened (yet) when we faced the enormous humanitarian tragedy in January and early February of this year that led to it Emergency services were bursting at the seams and shocking scenes in hospitals, and hundreds of people died every day.
Then came the late start of the vaccination campaign, its unpredictable management, the constant change in criteria. And the inadequacy of vaccine supplies, which will already be irretrievable.
The support measures for businesses and individuals were announced with pomp and circumstance and reinforced on television, increasingly reflecting the left hemisphere of the political spectrum, but they were carried out drop by drop.
If Portugal is compared with countries like South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan or Israel, or even with Germany and the Baltic countries, which at the same time managed to successfully fight the pandemic, maintain the basic requirements of public freedoms and secure economic activity, we understand that Something went wrong in Portugal.
In our country, successive interventions will have enormous consequences for the structure of business and the population, from the permanent closure of many companies, to the increase in inequalities and suffering, to the deterioration in the physical and mental health of a large part of the Portuguese. And so is the personal drama, which in many cases is left unwritten by independent workers, artists, petty traders and artisans, on top of the enormous sacrifice of a limited youth and “fourth age” hit hard by the pandemic in nursing homes.
The effectiveness of the public sector needs to be dramatically improved and the private sector, which is now being hit by a real tsunami, needs serious support. The quality of our democracy will depend to a large extent on the success of efforts to build a more robust, productive economy that is well integrated with the currents of international trade and more forward-looking.
One day there will be an inventory of what has failed, but even then today’s governments will invoke their political irresponsibility, covered by expert opinion and the brackets of the sanitary dictatorship!
The author writes according to the new orthographic convention