Mayor wins standoff with opposition over loan

THE PRESIDENT of Lisbon Câmara, António Costa, has won a partial victory over a massive loan needed to pay off disgruntled service suppliers.

The PS tough man had threatened opposition PSD councillors with resignation and snap elections if they voted against his emergency financial package to keep the Câmara above water.

The latest stalemate to hit the debt-ridden municipal authority was finally broken on Tuesday evening at a meeting of the Municipal Assembly in which PSD councillors had been expected to block the 500 million euro Caixa-Geral de Depósitos bank loan to pay outstanding bills.

The Assembly’s councillors voted by an overwhelming majority for a loan of 400 million euros to pay off the Câmara’s most pressing debts.

The loan was approved thanks to votes from PS, PCP, BE and PEV parties on the Câmara and the abstention of several PSD councillors.

However, the vote was a compromise and fell short of the initial loan of 500 million euros worked out. It is to be paid in two instalments of 360 and 40 million euros.

The oppositional PSD party councillors had promised to vote against the proposal, arguing instead for a much cheaper 143 million euro loan and the selling off of Câmara-owned properties and land. It had suggested putting monies gained into a 375 million euro restructuring fund.

Loan urgent

António Costa had warned in a press conference last week that without the bank loan it would not have been possible to pay off debts, and “without paying off our debts the city will grind to a halt.”

Last Wednesday, at an Executive Câmara meeting, the PSD voted against the PS proposal to take out the 500 million euro loan which meant that it had to be put to an overall vote on Tuesday evening’s Assembleia Municipal.

António Costa said the heart of the matter revolved around 6,000 creditors, many of them “in a dreadful financial situation”, who had not been paid for services and goods supplied to the Câmara and its companies for months and, in some cases, years.

“Without the payment of these debts the Câmara won’t have any suppliers and therefore there won’t be any services,” he had warned.

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