CHEGA promotes new trades union of the Right
André Ventura, CHEGA leader, is forever pushing the boundaries. Image: Manuel de Almeida/ Lusa

Covid-19 pandemic management: CHEGA proposes parliamentary commission

“Several episodes worthy of concern”, says CHEGA leader

CHEGA – Portugal’s 3rd political force, and already notorious for ‘pushing the boundaries’ – is proposing the creation of a parliamentary commission to analyse the acquisitions and restrictions brought in in the name of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a press conference yesterday afternoon, party leader André Ventura said: “CHEGA will deliver this afternoon in Parliament a request for a commission of inquiry on the management of Covid-19 – a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate the management that the Portuguese State did during Covid, the restriction of freedoms, the fraudulent purchase of materials, the purchase of materials at the expense of the public purse and the purchase of materials at the expense of taxpayers’ money”.

Speaking at the national headquarters of Chega, in Lisbon, André Ventura stressed there were “several episodes worthy of concern”, namely: “The purchase of ventilators from China that never arrived or arrived in poor condition; the purchase of millions of masks without quality guarantees that we still don’t know who benefited or if any particular economic group benefited, the purchase of vaccines, even the European global procurement agreement that also led to the benefit of some economic groups.”

Ventura acknowledged the investigation ongoing at a European level but said that “parliament should mount its own investigation given that at a European level there are indications of fraud and embezzlement of very significant sums of money”.

The time period CHEGA wants to see ‘analysed’ is from March 2020 to the lifting of restrictions in April this year. 

“We are talking of a period of around two years in which the management of the pandemic had its central core of acquisitions, restrictions and payments”, he said, acknowledging that “in relation to vaccines, this period is slightly shorter because Portugal, from a certain moment onwards, became part of the European group of vaccination acquisition”.

Up till now, every single parliamentary commission or inquiry proposed by CHEGA has been vetoed. But this one may be much harder to ‘veto’ in as much as questions on pandemic management have become more and more commonplace.

According to Ventura, even without the support of the absolute majority PS, as long as CHEGA can persuade 46 MPs to back the proposal, it should go ahead.

He told reporters that he has been “making contacts among other parties”, and believes he already has the support of Iniciativa Liberal, the country’s 4th political force. But that’s won’t be enough. CHEGA and IL combined can only amass 20 MPs (12 from CHEGA, eight from IL), therefore Ventura is doing his best to get PSD social democrats onboard.

And this is where CHEGA’s desire to ‘keep agitating’ has taken another bound. Said Ventura, he wants to reach a “wide parliamentary consensus”, so that parties can present “a national anti-inflation package” to parliament – independent of the government’s current measures.

40% MORTGAGE RELIEF PLAN

With hundreds of thousands of families facing serious increases in their monthly mortgage payments, CHEGA’s plan is a 40% relief package.

“It is important that the parties sit at the table, especially the larger ones, despite the absolute majority of the PS, so that there is a national consensus on this matter and we can carry out a national anti-inflation package quickly and without any political divisions,” he said, adding that “there is no parliamentary group in Parliament that does not understand the tragedy that inflation represents at this moment”.

Clearly well aware his ideas may be smothered, Ventura insists that he will keep bringing them to parliament whatever the response – and this energy, in spite of the fact that the stories are being relatively muffled by national media, is what is appealing to families everywhere struggling with rising cost of living.

CHEGA’s bottom line message is that the government must review its budgetary spending plan for 2023, particularly by updating salaries and pensions. It gels with feelings on the Left and the Centre Right.

Ventura suggests PS leaders have been “excessively optimistic” in their forecasts for next year, if not the next few months: “it is already evident that inflation numbers will be above those predicted by the Government for 2023, at least in the first six months”, he said, suggesting PS Socialists have been trying to “hide these numbers as much as possible”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com