Pedro Santana Lopes (centre), leader of the Social Democrats Party (PSD), promised that there won’t be tax increases and that value-added tax (IVA) will remain unaltered, highlighting that IRC (tax on a company’s profits) cannot be reduced. He was speaking at a presentation of his party’s campaign programme, held recently in Lisbon. BRITISH, German, Spanish, French and Dutch Chambers of Commerce gathered recently at the Corinthia Alfa Hotel in Lisbon to hear an address by Eng. José Sócrates, leader of the Socialist Party (PS) and a contender for the position of Prime Minister.
Around 450 people attended the function to hear what Sócrates had to say, faced with an impending election on February 20 and an urgent need to instil confidence into the Portuguese population. But Sócrates certainly did not fulfill this need to the international community. His polished speech outlined a lot of known facts, but lacked the important answers on what his party has to offer.
The PS leader started by saying that the Portuguese economy was one of the most important issues and changes were needed at three different levels – confidence, economic growth and public finances.
For the last three years, the Portuguese have been highly pessimistic, so political change should recover confidence. But this depends on a good strategy and he outlined a few strategic points – credible people to implement this strategy, stability, statesmanship and attitude. He remarked: “You cannot construct a future if all the time is spent criticising the past.”
The PS’s agenda on economic growth includes technology and innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and know-how. “Strategy is about feeling,” he commented, saying that the State will not be a key player, but it has an important role in “defining the way”.
We need to compete aggressively via high-tech innovation. One of the main problems lies with the fact that only 20 per cent (750,000) of the workforce in Portugal continued education above the 12th grade. We need to stimulate investments, implement environmental legislation, develop new alternative forms of energy and create a high speed railway network.
He stressed that stronger competition is needed to achieve benefits for consumers and lead to a better market economy.
With regard to fiscal issues, he laughed as he stated that there won’t be tax increases, but tax reductions were not possible either. One of his party’s aims will be to reduce bureaucracy.
This was an area that could have won him bonus points, but he skirted over the issue, quoting that his party’s vision was to confront problems and improve the economy. However, Sócrates failed to tell the audience the important part – how?
Socialist leader avoids
A question and answer session followed, in which Sócrates was asked about value-added tax (IVA), pension savings plans (PPR) and mortgages (Crédito à Habitação).
He answered saying that he was against the reduction of IRC (tax on a company’s profits) and that lower taxes were not possible, hence avoiding the real question.
The second question came from a journalist, who asked how we could believe in politicians when the general picture was so bad. Sócrates’ answer was that we are not on the edge of a precipice, that Portugal can do better and that the Socialists’ aim is growth and better employment figures.
The two final questions on finances and law and order were again not fully answered. All in all, it was a mediocre political speech. The resounding applause at the end may well have been out of politeness…