By: Chris Graeme
CHINESE INVESTORS and businessmen heard last week that Portugal was the perfect place to invest – as wages were low and unions were weak.
The comments, made by Manuel Pinho, Portugal’s Minister of the Economy, during the Prime Minister’s official tour of China, were immediately picked up by the Portuguese press and caused widespread outrage and condemnation from union leaders and political leaders from opposition parties.
Pinho, an economist and former Banco Espírito Santo director, made the statement on the first day of the official five day visit to the world’s fastest growing economy.
Prime Minister José Sócrates initially refused to be drawn into the storm, but at the insistence of journalists made an official comment on the third day of the visit.
He defended Pinho by saying that he “retained total confidence in him as I share his opinions about the importance of (low) salary costs in keeping the country competitive” and considered the fuss over his declarations in China “absurd and unjustified”.
Leader of the opposition PSD party, Marques Mendes said: “Once again, Pinho is bad news for all the worst reasons but, above all, and this is the worst of it, he gave a bad image of Portugal as a third world country when in fact he should have given an image of the country as an ambitious and modern economy.”
In defending his minister, Sócrates said: “The minister said that research and investigative costs, as well as development and engineering costs are lower in Portugal than in Spain, France or Germany, which was good news for Chinese investors.”
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