PM António Costa
Was the government doing the banks' bidding? Certainly everyone but the PS seems to think so... Image of prime minister: Tiago Petinga

PSD accuses government of doing away with middle class with change in savings certificates

Friday saw government scratch popular E-series certificates which had seen ‘run on bank deposits’

The government’s decision to devalue savings certificates confirms that it is intent on doing away with Portugal’s middle class – and “in the pockets” of the banks.

This is the accusation levelled by PSD social democrats, following a move on Friday that certainly had all the hallmarks of doing the banks’ bidding.

For weeks, financial advice slots on independent television networks have been singing the praises (meaning advantages) of citizens taking savings out of deposit accounts at banks (earning almost zero interest), and putting them into government-approved savings certificates (‘certificados de aforro’).

The advice was being taken up in droves; banks were seeing more and more customers withdraw money from deposit accounts which show some of the lowest levels of interest in Europe.

Then came the Friday ‘bombshell’: in one fell swoop the most popular E-series savings certificates, paying up to 3.5% interest, were toast. They have been replaced by the F-series, paying a full per cent LESS.

After “crushing the population with record taxes”, the government is “now devaluing  one of the main savings instruments”, PSD vice president António Leitão Amaro has blasted, saying the decision follows “banks’ request to devalue savings certificates” as it was causing them too much financial pain…

One can generally see if an Opposition complaint is valid if it is echoed by the ‘other end of the political spectrum’ – and it has been: both Bloco de Esquerda (the radical left) and PCP communists (as far left as one can go) have requested an urgent hearing in parliament of the Secretary of State for Finance João Nuno Mendes, dubbing the decision “a favour the government did for the banks”.

Mr Mendes has insisted that it wasn’t – but in this post-truth era where everyone seems to have different versions of ‘the truth’, no one is convinced. TV commentator Luís Marques Mendes (generally very much centre right) has said that banks are certainly “rubbing their hands with glee”.

A very apt cartoon in Correio da Manhã – the country’s best selling tabloids – shows a larger than life prime minister with his arms around apprehensive-looking citizens today, saying the equivalent of “what are you guys like, eh? You want to make money quickly! You naughty, greedy middle classes…”

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