IMF tells Portugal to sack yet more teachers and “reduce the number of schools”

A damning new IMF report tells Portugal to sack yet more teachers and further reduce the number of schools.

Explaining that cuts so far have simply added to that State’s social security spending, the Fund has waded in with both feet, declaring that there is “no correspondence between what is spent on education in Portugal, and the results obtained”.

Despite the fact that more students go in for further education these days, many of them do not complete their courses, claims the report, while those that do are still scoring less than exemplary results “particularly in mathematics and sciences”.

As Público points out, the country has cut back on 28,310 teachers since 2011 and closed more than 5,000 schools.

The paper claims the extra cuts are being justified by the IMF on the basis of falling birthrates and the fact that teachers are traditionally paid more than other public sector workers, ergo if they are let go, the State will not have to pay so many high salaries.

Not surprisingly the report has been lambasted by the leader of Portugal’s Socialist Party António Costa – in vote-catching mode in the run-up to this autumn’s legislative elections.

Denouncing the IMF’s recommendations for going “the opposite way that we’re proposing”, he said the Fund’s “obsession” with austerity “has only brought bad results”.

Education, however, is not the only sector targeted by the IMF. The fund also calls for a “freeze” on public sector promotions and an increase in money taken from salaries to go towards State pensions.

Curiously, it is not only the Socialists who don’t like what the IMF is saying.

Economy minister Pires de Lima has also remarked that it is “not one of (his) priorities” to read this latest report.

Leading the team that came up with the new ‘plan’ is Subir Lall, the Indian-born IMF director who seems never to have cracked a smile in all the months he has been coming backwards and forwards to Portugal.

A year ago, he was held up in Lisbon airport because he did not have the necessary entry visa.

As national media remarked at the time, “it was a nice try”, but the IMF’s representative cut through bureaucracy by purchasing a “short-term” visa and going on to tell Portugal that “it still had a very long way to go” and needed “profound structural changes”.

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