Government measures as useful as aspirins for seriously …

Government measures as useful as aspirins for seriously sick patients

MARQUES MENDES, leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), said recently in parliament that the current economic measures being taken by the government were positive but insufficient. The party chief likened the present austerity measures and reforms, aimed at cutting bureaucracy and balancing the budget, to “giving aspirin to a seriously sick patient”, writes The Resident’s Chris Graeme.

“The State is still spending too much. We need to implement measures to reduce the State’s presence in the life of the Portuguese, fight clientism and avoid putting up tax,” Mendes said.

While refuting the suggestion that his government was “prescribing aspirins”, Prime Minister José Sócrates said that, instead, it was taking considerable steps towards reducing public spending, the size of the public administration and dealing with tax evasion and fraud.

Recently, the PJ’s financial investigation department published a report stating that tax fraud had quadrupled in the past year alone. According to statistics, in 2005, there were 135 cases of serious fraud compared to 2004, in which there were only 28 reported. Some commentators blame the figures on the country’s economic recession, while the government defends that they offer proof that its clampdown on tax fraudsters is working and more culprits are being caught.

In a TSF radio interview, former Finance Minister Miguel Cadilhe said that at least 200,000 public servants should be cut, adding that many of the older civil servants were incapable of adapting to the modern, high tech reality. Cadilhe defended that reducing public administration should be done amicably by offering attractive early retirement and redundancy packages.

However, in parliament Sócrates refused to be drawn directly into details about his government’s policy on reducing the number of public administration workers, confining his comments to saying that a report would be published in March on the government’s public administration plans and restructuring programme.