Portuguese government is dragging its feet

THE GOVERNMENT’S ambitious Central Administration Restructuring Programme (PRACE) is being bogged down by the slow implementation of new laws designed to support it.

One year after the Portuguese Parliament and Council of Ministers agreed to sweeping reforms, only 33 per cent of government ministries have organic laws in place to support them.

Recently, Finance Minister, Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, promised MPs that PRACE, the most ambitious overhaul of central government machinery since 1974, would be concluded within four months. This includes the entire list of temporary measures announced by the government a year ago, which, in the vast majority of cases, have not been introduced.

In his presentation of the State Budget in October, the Finance Minister said that he was convinced that the first practical changes would happen in the first months of the year. Now, the minister believes it is more reasonable to expect that they will be in place by the beginning of July.


The vast majority of unions do believe that, in the next few weeks, the first practical effects of PRACE will begin to be felt, particularly with regard to public sector workers. The reforms concentrate on moving staff from departments where they are not needed to others where they might be more useful, retiring other staff early, paying staff lump sums to leave, merging together different departments, axing other departments, among other measures.

Government advisors say the government ministries must act quickly because it will be difficult to press ahead with the reforms once Portugal takes up the leadership of the European Union in July.

PRACE was introduced by the government in June 2005 and is a programme of reform, modernisation and restructuring of the central government administration in Portugal affecting every ministry, government department, and the laws and regulations affecting them.

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