Government announces 333 measures

SCORES OF measures aimed at cutting state bureaucracy and simplifying the lives of both citizens and companies have been announced by Prime Minister José Sócrates.

“30 of the 300 announced measures are to come into force this year and will have a particularly relevant impact,” said a government source.

Among the examples given of how this simplification process could speed things up, is that one document, filled in online and sent via e-mail for applications to universities and immigration, will replace the need to fill in nine paper documents, endless queues and the going back and forth from one public service department to another.

The government is calling the package of measures the Legislative and Administrative Simplification Plan and promises that it will be applied and evaluated by the end of the year.

The government has also earmarked a whole package of measures to be introduced in 2007.

The vast majority of these 300 measures will use new technology, advanced software programmes and the internet.

The government believes that now is the time to advance with such measures because, by the end of 2005, the total number of clients (companies and individuals) with an internet link had already exceeded a million according to Anacom (National Communications Authority).

Between the beginning of 2004 and the end of 2005 the number of internet users had doubled in Portugal from 574,000 to 1,132,000.

The 333 measures are grouped into three main areas of intervention:

1) the elimination of paper documents and forms

2) simplification, debureaucratization, deregulation of public services and ease of access to them

3) harmonising of judicial processes and institutions.

For example the government is to provide free public internet access to its information service Díario da Republica (DR) which should eliminate paper and reduce costs.

Companies too will be able to deal with their tax affairs entirely on-line, cutting out paperwork, while citizens will no longer have to declare receipts from family members (inheritance, gifts, bequeaths and bequests etc) on separate forms but can tag them onto  self assessment income tax forms.

Another measure that should cut back on corporate expenditure is the abolition of maintaining detailed daily hand written/typed inventory and balance books. Balance inventories can now be done on a quarterly basis software programmes with the help of accountants.

And, to cut back of lengthy hospital and health centre waiting lists, patients will now be able to book an appointment with their family GP online, while hospitals will be able to refer patients to consultants in the same way.