A special evening designed to celebrate the results of PRODER – the programme for rural development – is understood to have cost as much as €20,000 of the European Commission’s money.
Celebrations went ahead at Santarém’s agricultural fair last week hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas, backed by Agriculture Minister Assunção Cristas.
Portas was photographed enjoying post-prandial shots with delighted revellers, but when the questions started flying about how much it all cost, no-one was saying a word.
The Ministry of Agriculture referred queries to the event’s organiser – PRODER’s management entity, and this talked expansively on what it had all been about, but clammed up totally when asked about the cost.
National tabloid Correio da Manhã said it asked twice, but failed to get a response.
Zip-lipped too was the office of Paulo Portas.
The paper then ‘got creative’, calculating the cost of a sumptuous sit-down banquet for 300 people numbering various politicians, the Mayor of Santarém, and regional agricultural entities.
Besides Portas and Cristas, there was the Secretary of State for Agriculture José Diogo Albuquerque, Territorial Planning Secretary Miguel Castro e Neto and Secretary of State for Fiscal Affairs Paulo Núncio.
Amid “candelabras with candles” and a table “replete with luxurious details”, guests enjoyed fish, duck and Alentejo wines, as well as fruit and ice cream for dessert.
As gourmet banquets go, this one sounds low-key, but CM insisted it could not have cost less than €20,000, and then gave its definition of a free dinner: “There is no menu, but everyone has the dish of the day: mix a pinch of public interest with a healthy dollop of private advantage, squirt the State and citizen with lemon juice and serve with the vapors of election.”
CM added that this was a traditional Portuguese recipe, “that came from the oven of the best ‘chefs’ without an ounce of shame, from Sócrates to Portas”.
By NATASHA DONN