Outrage as government approves new State Budget

Against angry cries of “killers, killers” in Parliament last week, the PSD/ CDS-PP coalition approved the draft state budget for 2014.

Police were called during the debate to forcibly evict protesters, who made no bones of what they thought of the draconian plans that spell yet more cuts to public sector workers and pensioners.

As the hecklers were led away, leader of the house Assunção Esteves made a point of assuring them: “This is your Parliament” – though it is clear very few believed her.

Although general debates concerning the controversial Troika-led budget are now over, opposition parties are more than likely to present proposals to include in the final draft, as not one of them supported the government’s plans.
Such is the coalition majority (PSD/CDS-PP), however, that approval of this hard-hitting budget was never in doubt.

A much harder task will be convincing the Portuguese people that it will indeed benefit the future of the country.

While the government has agreed to implement cuts only on public sector salaries above €700 – as opposed to €600 as previously announced – it has remained silent over how it will come up with the €25 million loss that this decision represents.

During heated parliamentary discussions, leader of the Socialist Party (PS) António José Seguro further accused the government of not specifying where €700 million worth of cuts included in the budget will actually come from.

He claimed the government’s lack of transparency is a sign of “disrespect” both of Parliament and the Portuguese people – saying the resulting uncertainty breeds insecurity and fears of further lay-offs and cuts to public services and social benefits.

Protests were not confined to Parliament. Thousands joined a demonstration called by the CGTP workers union, and while the angry crowd entered parliamentary galleries, those outside stood chanting: “It’s time for the Government to GO!”
The cries of “killers, killers” and “fascists” came during a speech by Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas.

Portas concluded his speech as protesters were marched outside, saying afterwards:
“I reiterate my belief in the right to protest and the confidence with which we represent the Portuguese people, for whom each and every one of us is here.”

His words were applauded by government officials, yet the feeling of social instability is now palpable.

Protesters included numerous associations and unions, and brought together teachers, pensioners, civil servants and many others.

“We scheduled a big demonstration for today and here it is,” said CGTP leader Arménio Costa on an improvised stage at the entrance of the Parliament. “The people do not have their backs turned on what is going on in Parliament.”

A further demonstration has been organised for November 26 to coincide with the day political parties will be getting together to rubber-stamp the final draft of the budget.

It will then be sent to President of the Republic Cavaco Silva – who will have to decide whether to approve it or refer the document for final review to the Constitutional Court.