PM’s message, with no answers to increasing political scandals
It has been a case of ‘carry on regardless’ when it comes to prime minister António Costa, whose ruling PS party has been lurching through all possible stages of internal embarrassment for the last few weeks.
Talking on Friday he was habitually ‘gung-ho’, saying the country “must not stop” in order to be in a position to catch the “wave of recovery” once the crisis is over.
“These are difficult and demanding times, but we must not stop. We must create the conditions and confidence for investment to materialise. When this crisis passes, as when Covid-19’s most critical situation passed, we must be in a position to catch the wave of recovery,” he told his audience in Trofa.
Journalists were far more interested in the case of Mr Costa’s secretary of State, caught out in a row over €300,000 paid in advance rent on a building that doesn’t exist; or in the case of the mayor and deputy mayor still in preventive custody this morning (albeit having renounced their public offices), waiting to hear whether or not they will receive bail on a slew of complicated charges suggesting family and friends have benefited from around €20 million in public works contracts.
In Trofa to visit Bial pharmaceutical company, the PM deftly side-stepped these questions.
Instead, he used Bial as an example of a company that “did not stop” through the “most challenging and atypical years of our lives” (2019 and 2022).
“If we want to make a significant leap in our development (as a country), if we want to meet the target set in our medium-term agreement to increase the productivity of our companies by 2% per year, it is crucial that we invest in science, in technological modernisation and produce for a market that is not our market of 10 million, but rather a global market,” he continued.
The prime minister recalled the target that Portugal has undertaken with the EU to invest 3% of its Gross Domestic Product in research and development by 2030 – a commitment that targets one third of public entities and two thirds of private sector companies.
“To travel this path, we have to work now. We have eight years to achieve this goal in 2030 and if we could achieve it in seven years it would be fantastic for the country,” he said, returning to the theme of the current crisis and the need for the country to know how to resist.
“It is worth resisting the pressure of the crisis, facing the pressure of the crisis and investing. We have to come out of this crisis stronger than we were before”, he said.
“The EU, first with Covid-19 and now with the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine, has understood that value chains have to be shorter. We understand well the risks of having a single company on the Asian continent producing 90% of the active ingredients of vaccines. Europe and Portugal must have the capacity to produce necessary goods without running the risk of becoming dependent on breaks in the supply chains,” he added.
Later in the day, in a joint press conference with French PM Élizabeth Borne over the BarMar Green Energy Corridor he continued to blank questions on the controversy involving his secretary of State.
Elsewhere, columnists are looking beyond the soundbites and wondering how many more ‘scandals’ the PS Socialist party can try and ‘normalise’.
Eduardo Cintra Torres, writing his weekend Panóptico page in tabloid Correio da Manhã, believes Costa and President Marcelo are both guilty of “normalising corruption”.
He itemises the recent cases “of the ministers of infrastructure, territorial cohesion, health, finances, of Susana Amador” stressing “Costa leaves everything as it is; he doesn’t even talk about the cases (…) silence and inaction is his system, because he is the leader of the band”.
Cintra Torres reinforces his understanding on the basis of the latest ‘poll’ carried out by CM which showed the public’s confidence is falling in both the prime minister, the PS party, the government, and even in President Marcelo himself.