Minister for the Presidency Mariana Vieira da Silva

Government faces ‘marking time’ till April; budget unlikely to be passed before July

Due to the “monumental fiasco” requiring repeat-voting among emigrés in Europe (click here), Portugal’s PS government faces ‘marking time’ until April – the closest date for a new executive to finally be sworn in.

Talking to journalists following the Council of Ministers this morning, minister for the presidency Mariana Vieira da Silva confirmed that the government will largely have its hands tied – unable to move forwards with any concrete measures (although these can at least be prepared).

Urgent situations however, will be able to be tackled, she said, outlining them as “combat of the drought, and the pandemic” (which today’s meeting deftly sidestepped relegating to ‘endemic’).

In other words, a credit line to help farmers and producers survive the consequences of this winter’s lack of rainfall can be put in place, while the executive “will continue to decide on measures of containment of the pandemic”, as the situation there changes/ improves.

But as to ‘all the rest’, the next few weeks will be a time of ‘management’, without any “innovative measures”.

With the new round of emigré voting only going forwards mid-March (initially the end of February was mooted), the government cannot hope to be sworn in before the middle of April, which lobs the likelihood of approval of the State Budget into July.

It is a horror show in terms of what anyone in power was hoping for.

Ms Vieira da Silva managed stoicism: “This was not our expectation”, she said, “but the government continues in place and can take measures that are necessary, guaranteeing the full use of European funds and answering situations that need to be resolved”.

The PRR (plan for resilience and recovery); the closure of PT2020 (funding) and preparation for PT 2030, can all go ahead. “All the objectives that Portugal has in terms of the European Union will continue to be developed”.

The delay in approving a State Budget for the year we are already well into “was not desired, just as its veto (last October) wasn’t” but “the government is here to comply” with the new calendar forced upon it.

To this end, every decision taken pre- swearing in in April, will relate to the current government, “the rest will be for the next” one, she said.

Preparations meantime will be going on with a view to a deal with employers over salaries and competitivity (understood to include a ‘tax bonus’ for companies who increase workers’ pay).

As to any questions of blame, or even reaction to the Constitutional Court’s ruling over the emigré vote in Europe, Ms Vieira da Silva, said it is “not up to the government to appoint responsibilities, simply to comply with what was determined” by the court and national elections commission (CNE).

Any law changes that should be coming into place (to ensure nothing like this can ever happen again), are also a matter for parliament, not the executive, she said.

PM António Costa was not in evidence this morning as he is in Brussels for a European Summit.

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