Influential business daily, the Financial Times has given António Costa’s first year at the helm in Portugal a resounding thumbs up, saying his performance has “surpassed expectations” and left other European leaders of the centre right simply “dreaming” of the same popularity.
In fact the FT has quoted the words of government official Pedro Nunes, who said recently that Portugal “has become an island of stability in a troubled world” (click here).
Concerns remain, the paper concedes, in its article “Costa confounds critics as Portuguese economy holds course”, but the jibe from ousted centre-right PM Pedro Passos Coelho just over 12 months ago that he hoped not to be “summoned back to a house in flames” has come to be viewed as a combination of sour grapes and wishful thinking.
As the FT explains: “there has been no fire”. Quite the opposite, in fact. Unemployment is down, growth (albeit too little) is up, business investment is positive (Volkswagen, Continental and Bosch have all strengthened their positions in Portugal), two budgets have been approved, and the deficit – again albeit tenuously – is falling.
“Anti-establishment parties such as Podemos in Spain see Mr Costa’s government as a model to emulate, while Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s opposition Labour party leader, has hailed it as the beginning of “an anti-austerity coalition across Europe”, writes Peter Wise in Lisbon.
Economics professor Ricardo Paes Mamede has gone as far as suggesting that Costa’s initial success shows that “even within the strict conditions of European monetary union, there is more than one way to run a country”.