Portuguese lack initiative, says political commentator

A leading political commentator has said that political and economic forces in Portugal need to unite and cooperate to face the current economic crisis in Portugal.

Addressing Portuguese members of the Junior Chamber International – Worldwide Federation of Young Leaders and Entrepreneurs in Lisbon on Monday, Professor Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said that the recent Madeira tragedy and the way political parties across the spectrum had reacted in a spirit of cooperation, consensus and solidarity was equally the way to go for Portugal’s ills.

Speaking on the theme of Portugal and the Future: what needs to be done today, the PSD supporter slammed “Portuguese institutional dependence on the State”, which had its roots in the Salazar and monarchical period.

While accepting Portugal had achieved progress in just 25 years, including a relatively peaceful decolonisation, the transition from dictatorship to democracy and entry into the European Union, he said that now the country needed a different strategy with new economic models.

He said that the same “spirit of reconstruction” being seen over Madeira was now needed in Portugal’s “emergency” economic situation whereby governments and business had to “break” with the economic models of the past.

Given outside pressures from the European Union and financial agencies to bring Portugal’s huge public deficit of 9.6 per cent back to within the three per cent limit stipulated by the EU’s Growth & Stability Pact by 2013, “shock tactic” policies would be required, ones that would be “painful and difficult” but could only be achieved through a broad platform of parliamentary support.

Portugal needed more cooperation between its political and economic institutions, which should “give a clear and courageous response” as to how it was to tackle the country’s issues. “Convergence” was necessary to “confront the financial situation both inside and outside Portugal”.

The last thing the country needed now was to show an image of internal strife and instability to the world, particularly over the State Budget, which would be “kamikaze”, he said.   

However, Portugal would need more than good financial housekeeping to escape the crisis. He said business leaders often didn’t understand what modern competitive markets needed and said that Portugal’s issue was a “lack of leadership and initiative”, which was a “cultural problem”.

The country also needed to invest in, and promote, the talents of young entrepreneurs and include more women and immigrants in key governmental, parliamentary and local government institutions.

Chris Graeme