2022 deficit certain not to exceed 1.5%; economic growth “at least 6.7%” - PM
Visão's front page story this week, featuring wide-ranging interview with Portugal's prime minister

2022 deficit certain not to exceed 1.5%; economic growth “at least 6.7%” – PM

António Costa gives a broad interview to Visão

Yesterday, the country heard PM António Costa was presenting a new ‘extra support’ for the country’s poorest citizens (of €240 per family) by the end of the year. Today, the rest of his interview with Visão magazine has been published by Lusa, with the headline: “2022 deficit certain not to exceed 1.5%; economic growth at least 6.7%”.

The State news agency sought the most positive aspects of the interview, that was surprisingly revealing.

For example, the PM showed he couldn’t care less about the various ‘scandals’ affecting his executive.

He told Visão that he doesn’t waste “a second” on them. If he did, he suggested, he wouldn’t be winning elections…

Indeed, he referred to some of the controversies as being “repeated ad nauseam” and having no relevance to anyone. In that there is truth: people struggling to pay rising costs of living are unlikely to be troubled by EU funding being awarded to a duke with a Chinese fraudster for a business partner. It’s all ‘too beyond’ everyday problems.

The PS secretary general sought to impress that, in his opinion, financial results for this government will be better than it forecast.

Economic growth for this year “will be at least 6.7%” (the government’s forecast was 6.5%) and the deficit “will certainly not exceed 1.5%, as opposed to the 1.9% forecast”.

And he impressed on reporters Filipe Luís and Mafalda Anjos that his economic record as prime minister has been to ensure that no ‘amending budgets’ are needed (as have been with previous governments) and that when government forecasts are not met, it has always been because results “were better”.

Says Lusa today, Mr Costa alluded to what he calls a “lack of alternative ideas” among opposition parties, and the failure of the centre right to “make a clear barrier” between its ideology and that of further right party CHEGA.

There were moments of derision over ‘cupcakes’ trying to “squeal” (louder than CHEGA), and a clear barb thrown at Lisbon mayor Carlos Moedas who “wants to convince the Portuguese that in less than a year he can do the Lisbon drainage plan project”…

But in total, the picture emerging appears to have been of a man fully in charge, with no great desires to run for the presidency, or ‘disappear off to Brussels in 2024’ as many have warned that he might.

What the interview doesn’t appear to have tackled is the fact that Mr Costa’s absolute majority has quite literally ridden roughshod over almost every Opposition attempt to summon ministers to parliament to explain ‘less than clear’ issues – the most recent being the defence minister’s involvement in “Perfect Storm”.

Writing today in Correio da Manhã, Luís Campos Ferreira (admittedly a PSD party member) contends there have been no less than 20 “situations” in which the PS has “blocked” its MPs being heard in parliament.

“This is an adulteration of the most basic democratic rules and a poor use of an absolute majority”, he writes.

The hearing of ministers should be to their own advantage, he adds. “If they have nothing to hide, as they always claim, how can anyone understand why they shy away from answering MPs questions; wasting the opportunity to give their versions of the facts in the correct place? Sadly, for the health of our democracy, this government flees scrutiny as the devil flees the cross…”

It is just another indication of the pertinence of a recent survey which highlighted how differently ‘scandals’ and ‘controversies’ are interpreted in Portugal.