President speaks to Portugal at New Year .jpg

President speaks to Portugal at New Year

PRESIDENT CAVACO Silva, giving his New Year message to the nation on Monday, said that 2007 was a “crucial” year for Portugal’s economic redevelopment.

He said he wanted to see the country come out at the other end of the recession and to catch up with other European countries. With a desire for “clear progress” in the economy, education and justice, Cavaco Silva pledged to maintain “a healthy relationship” and “strategic co-operation” with Prime Minister José Sócrates’ socialist government to ensure reforms are carried out.

Admitting that he shared the people’s frustrations and desire for a better country, the centre-right wing president said that sacrifices had to be made in order to achieve this brighter future. Cavaco Silva’s speech coincided with the widely criticised price increases in resources including electricity and fuel, as well as road tolls, public transportation, and tobacco.

His speech was welcomed by the government and the points that Cavaco Silva discussed were in harmony with its priorities and objectives for 2007.

His worries with regard to the justice system in Portugal was also welcomed by the national Order of Lawyers, which believes that citizens need a system they can rely on to protect them and one which is fair.

The Justice Minister, Alberto Costa, later praised the president for his honesty and dedication to the development of not only the economy but the legal system as an institution in society.

For around 5.3 million customers, electricity prices will go up an average of six per cent and public transport prices have risen by 2.1 per cent. Road tolls have risen by an average of 2.6 per cent. Until 2009, tax on tobacco will continue to rise by an average of 15 per cent per year.

Healthcare costs have also changed, which has been met with widespread criticism. National health service users will be obliged to pay between one and five per cent more for medication from February 1.

These increases among many others have placed the government under fierce attack from the public, but in his speech, Cavaco Silva referred to the sacrifices that the public had to make to improve the present economic state of the country and many believe he is attempting to quell the criticism of the new price hikes.

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