António Costa believes he leaves a country "better" than it was before eight years of Socialism

Outgoing PM gives festive ‘exit speech’, lauding 8 years of Socialism

Opposition parties say PM “described a parallel reality”…

Portugal’s outgoing PM António Costa gave a festive ‘exit’ speech over Christmas – almost certainly buoyed by the fact that President Marcelo is now saying he would be ‘perfect’ for a top job in Brussels.

The PM said he is leaving “a better country” after eight years at the helm of the Socialist government: ‘Portugal is prepared to face the challenges of the future, with a better qualified population and less public debt‘.

But within lightning speed opposition parties were reacting in mock shock and surprise, essentially saying Mr Costa was describing another planet.

First to the speech: Mr Costa recalled the ups and downs of recent years: “Together we have overcome the anguish of the pandemic; together we have ensured that the tragedy of the 2017 fires is not repeated; together we have achieved more and better jobs; we have reduced poverty and reduced inequalities; we have restored tranquillity to families’ daily lives; together we have attracted more investment from companies and won more exports; we have restored rights and balanced public accounts; together we have overcome difficulties and together we have built a better country”.

Our level of qualifications is close to the best European standards,” he went on. “We have recovered a deficit that was centuries old. And this recovery is due to the extraordinary efforts of families, young people and, persistently, public policies over the last two decades.

On the environmental front – something he called “the biggest challenge” – Mr Costa said “Portugal is the European Union country best placed to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045.

“Up to October, 63% of the electricity we consumed came from renewable sources. This figure will be 80% by 2026. For Portugal, investment in the energy transition, in addition to its duty to help save humanity, is also an extraordinary economic opportunity to create jobs, valorise natural resources and replace imports with exports.”

On public finances, the prime minister emphasised that Portugal “managed to free itself from decades of chronic budget deficits.

“But we’ve done it on the basis of economic growth, by valuing the incomes of those who work and those who live off their pensions. Having less debt means greater external credibility, but above all it means greater freedom for the Portuguese”.

For these reasons, according to Mr Costa, the Portuguese can “continue to have confidence in the future… The confidence that we will continue to converge with the most developed countries in the European Union, as has happened again in recent years.”

The PM concluded saying: “In these eight years in which I’ve had the opportunity to get to know the Portuguese and Portugal even better, I’ve only strengthened my confidence in our homeland (…) It is with this reinforced confidence in each one of you, in our collective capacity, in Portugal, that I say goodbye, wishing you a merry Christmas, an excellent 2024 and the certainty that the Portuguese will continue to make each new year an even better year.”

Within the speech there was the acknowledgement that “there are problems” that Portugal still has to overcome, and that “there will always have to be strength and determination to face them…

There was also a reference to “there is a lot of work to do, and we cannot stop” (which is in fact what all the opposition parties want to PS Socialist Party to do – stop; and allow another force to run the country, perhaps one that has not got quite so many inconvenient ‘scandals’ in its closet.)

To this end, all of them came bowling out to put the PM’s speech into a context that they felt was lacking.

Iniciativa Liberal suggested Mr Costa “didn’t talk about the essentials, such as the issues linked to the housing crisis, low incomes, a middle class absolutely suffocated by low incomes and high taxes, the degradation of institutions and the degradation of public services, such as health, education, transport and justice, writes Lusa.

CHEGA leader André Ventura said much the same, reflecting on Mr Costa’s profound inability to exercise self-responsibility, a critical judgement of self-accountability”.

In Mr Ventura’s opinion, “António Costa failed across the board by not being able to give the Portuguese the peace of mind that the country needed” and living “in a parallel reality that is completely different from the majority of the Portuguese.”

And all the other parties found themselves agreeing: from the Bloco de Esquerda and PCP communists on the so-called radical left, to the People Animals Nature party which accused Mr Costa of “forgetting the real country”.

He ‘forgot’ that the ‘right accounts’ he referred to (in terms of public debt) have to be first and foremost with families “and in a country  where we have more than 10,000 homeless people and four million people living in poverty if it weren’t for social support, there is clearly a deficit here in a country where António Costa has failed to promote social development”, said PAN’s coordinator Inês Sousa Real.

PS Socliasts however praised António Costa’s “legacy”, and criticised the “slander” of the various oppposition parties. ND

Source material: LUSA