For a country that can blame the disappearance of €10 billion on an IT fault, it is perhaps surprising that movers and shakers cannot accept that a ‘miracle’ could be behind Portugal escaping the shackles of excessive deficit.
But then, it all depends on who is doing the talking.
MPs seem to have accepted that €10 billion disappeared unchallenged from the country during the austerity years due to a software glitch. ‘Of course, these things can happen’, they appear to have muttered among themselves.
Correio da Manhã even comments today that “everyone from the cleaning lady to the accountant” was behind the fall of the country’s largest private bank in 2014, why not an IT glitch behind the ‘oops, where did all that go?’ €10 billion to offshore tax havens?
But now that Teodora Cardoso of the council of public finances has suggested that a miracle was behind the country side-stepping its excessive deficit stigma, both the prime minister and president have rushed to the fore, feigning horror.
“Miracle? The only miracle that we are going to celebrate this year is the one that took place at Fátima”, affirmed people’s president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, stressing that Portugal is finally on the road to recovery thanks not to Divine Intervention but to the “very considerable efforts” of its people in the grips of the austerity years – when, coincidentally, €10 billion was being snaffled out of the country by various so-far unnamed businesspeople and wealthy families.
António Costa too has said exactly the same to reporters following up on the comments by Cardoso who told Rádio Renascença in a joint interview with Público that she doubts the sustainability of measures that the government used to reduce its deficit last year to 2.1% of GDP.
“At a certain point, there was a miracle”, she said, stressing that uncertainty over the way the country’s deficit was reduced, plus a past in which Portugal left and then returned to excessive deficit, has lead the market “not to value the(se) results”.