In an extraordinary attack on the country’s journalists and less-than-squeaky clean politicians, the president of Bosch in Portugal has told a business conference in Lisbon that Portugal is losing out on “crucial” new investment because of its bad image.
The press, said Carlos Ribas, is not serving the country’s requirements by “insisting” on sending out what he calls a “negative message” about the state of the country’s banks.
“Every day, it talks about things that happened four or five years ago at BES, Novo Banco, Montepio”, he told “Investment in Portugal” – organised by the Gulbenkian Foundation, under the auspices of the Presidency of the Republic.
“In my opinion this is not giving the country a good service”.
Ribas’ criticism extended to the government, and the way it is failing to “transmit a message of confidence to outsiders”.
“Right now we have so many politicians under suspicion, in jail, investigated. People outside (Portugal) know this. They comment about it”.
Ribas was backed by Ricardo Reis, a professor at the LSE (London School of Economics) who told the audience that he had been “approached in London by someone with a lot of money to invest” but who had “serious doubts because of (Portugal’s) very high debt levels”.
The joint attack was reproduced in business daily dinheiro vivo under the headline: “Investors complain about Portugal’s bad image abroad”. But it was more of a direct attack on national institutions – with Ribas even complaining about the decision to restore Bank Holidays, axed during the austerity years.
“I am not against Bank Holidays being restored, but this when it comes to my business plan is a problem because my employers in Germany say: now, compensate. We weren’t the ones deciding to give you days off, you did that in Portugal. Now, compensate”.
The issues are further confused by sky-high debt levels which elsewhere have seen former Bloco de Esquerda leader Francisco Louça re-iterate as “unsustainable”.
Reis explained that outside investors see the debt as an indication that either the government will rein back on spending, or start increasing taxes which, of course, would affect them as much as anyone else.
Fortunately for the audience an upbeat take on the economy was provided by prime minister Costa who said that in 2016 AICEP, the Portuguese agency for investment and external commerce had signed 79 investment contracts to a value of a billion euros, and was “at this moment” in the process of writing contracts for another 53 projects that “correspond to another billion euros of business investment”.