New government doesn’t have a single minister or secretary of State from region
The Algarve has been cold-shouldered once again in the make-up of the new government. The Socialist executive sworn in yesterday by President Marcelo doesn’t have a single minister or secretary of State from the region.
It’s not ‘new’, in that previous governments have often done much the same but given that decentralisation is on the agenda – and the Algarve in terms of ‘progress’ has often felt like the poor relation of Lisbon -, it is frustrating to say the least.
AHETA, the group representing Algarve hotels and touristic resorts, has issued a statement which rather pulls its punches, but nonetheless considers the new government one for only “half the country”.
AHP on the other hand – the association of Algarve hoteliers – has been much more scathing, saying the government has “ignored” the value and relevance of tourism, and its decision to combine tourism with commerce and services under a ministry in the hands of a former oil company CEO (see below) is “negative”.
Both associations agree on one glimmer of hope, however: the retention of Rita Marques as secretary of state for tourism (albeit she is also now responsible for ‘commerce and services’).
In the words of both, Ms Marques has been “excellent” for tourism, demonstrating “great competence” and has “always worked alongside businesses in the sector”.
Raúl Martins, president of AHP, stresses tourism is “coming out of the most difficult moment in its history”, against an international backdrop that is “unstable and full of unknowns”. Good collaboration between the State and private entities now is “absolutely fundamental”; while Hélder Martins of AHETA goes further, saying Ms Marques’ willingness to help really should see her position within the government ‘reinforced’.
But even so, there are shades of misgiving. The new-look, slimmed-down executive no longer has Pedro Siza Vieira in the post of minister of the economy.
Says AHETA, Siza Vieira was not simply competent, he had a “profound understanding of (the country’s) businesses and tourism”.
He had “developed good work” during his time at the ministry, whereas AHETA (and this is where the association really pulls its punches) “doesn’t see yet, among the ministers presented, anyone with profound sensibility for a sector of the economy that contributes so much to national GDP, creates so many jobs, so much revenue, promotes the country on an international level and is so important for the reinforcement of its image”.
AHETA could have said so much more.
There have been many critics of the prime minister’s choice for the new minister of the economy António Costa e Silva – whose responsibilities also see him in charge of the Sea – not just because he is the former CEO of Partex Oil and Gas, but because he has absolutely no previous experience in government and has actually said in the past that he didn’t seek it.
Now, well past retirement age, Costa e Silva (sometimes referred to just as Costa Silva) – the ‘brains’ behind Portugal’s Plan for Recovery and Resilience – is overseeing tourism, in charge of the economy and in charge of the sea.
Livre is only party prepared to question ‘elephant in room’
This far, Livre – one of the smallest parties in parliament – has been the only faction to question why two previously fundamental, and separate, ministries have been combined.
The inspirational choice of Ricardo Serrão Santos as Minister of the Sea in the last government – Serrão Santos being a biologist and lecturer, with huge affinity with the Azores – delivered a scientist who made no bones about backstage rubbing of hands over the potential wonders of deep-sea mining.
“They would compromise the archipelago’s biodiversity,” he warned – and they were not needed as “the world has sufficient mineral resources it can mine onland…”
Now, with Serrão Santos gone, Portugal has a man at the helm who said only two years ago that the way ahead was to reinforce Portugal’s presence when it comes to the petrochemical cluster, adding that “exploration of the sea can be a source of wealth”.
Livre’s MP and leader Rui Tavares has come right out and said that he believes the choice of Costa e Silva for minister with responsibility for the sea is “a mistake”.
“We do not want the sea to be regarded as a resource for deep-water mining,” he told Lusa – and with the greatest respect for PM Costa’s choice for a new man overseeing the economy, Rui Tavares stressed this man’s “journey (up until now) has been very connected to fossil fuels…”
17 ministers, 10 of which are new
As to the rest, the line-up of 17 ministers has been “very different” to choices President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa says he would have made.
Ten of the new ‘top table’ are completely new to government, quite a few new to politics altogether.
Of the latter group, some of the choices have received enthusiastic praise: Elvira Fortunato, for example – Portugal’s award-winning scientist and university lecturer, whose many achievements have included the WFEO GREE award for Women in Engineering 2020, is the new Minister for Science and Technology.
Helena Carreiras, sociologist and lecturer at ISCTE (university institute of Lisbon), is the country’s first woman as Minister of Defence – and Catarina Sarmento e Castro, lawyer and jurist, has found her election as a Socialist MP only two months ago take her straight into the role of Minister for Justice. The fact that all three are women makes the make-up of this new executive all the more ‘interesting’. Women have suddenly become as ubiquitous in positions of power in Portugal as men.
It is now just a question of whether, together with men, this army of capable women can help steer Portugal towards a path of recovery at a time of global flux.
By NATASHA DONN