PM António Costa
What next for António Costa? Image: Lusa

Road fund tax hike on old vehicles ‘here to stay’

PM labels hike “political decision of social justice”…

In spite of the almost quarter of a million people who signed the petition AGAINST increases in road fund tax for the country’s oldest cars, the government is standing firm.

In the return of the bi-monthly equivalents of ‘prime minister’s question time’, António Costa told the House that it was a political decision of social justice. Indeed, if old cars were not ‘hammered’ by road fund tax increases, there could not have been the ‘reductions’ planned for the five scales of income tax, he said.

This explanation in itself was ‘odd’ given that the initial explanation for the increased tax was ‘to compensate for reductions in the cost of motorway tolls’.

But no matter. Portugal’s prime minister was in his element yesterday. As columnists observe, the ‘tiredness’ attributed to his 8th year in office was not evident.

“António Costa made the most of every minute”, writes deputy editorial director of Correio da Manhã Eduardo Dâmaso. “He made the most of giving the propaganda of his budget, his government and himself. He showed an indispensable talent to neutralise arguments with irony and sarcasm”.

Thus he sailed through a blistering attack by the right wing – whether from CHEGA, which accused the executive of mounting “the greatest con trick against the Portuguese” with the 2024 State Budget (that actually increases indirect taxation); or from Iniciativa Liberal, whose leader dubbed the road fund tax hikes as “fiscal cruelty” on people who don’t have the means to purchase newer vehicles. “Politics implies making choices”, said the secretary-general of the PS who is, nonetheless, described as facing his ‘most difficult year’ in terms of governance, for the mere fact that so little seems to be going the government’s way.

Bloco de Esquerda’s Mariana Mortágua may have thought she could score a point getting the PM to admit the government had failed it its pledge to have 24,000 homes ready in time for the 50th anniversary of Portugal’s revolution. But his answer was that by 2026, the executive wouldn’t simply have 24,000 homes ready, but 32,000!

“Costa is not tired”, remarks Eduardo Dâmaso. He took charge of the debate yesterday and clearly has energy left for “a lot of (political) curves”.

Perhaps the only really ‘good news’ coming out of yesterday’s debate was that warnings of ‘astronomic road fund tax rises’ next year, appear to have been precipitous. Old cars (pre-2007) will be saddled with an increase, but €25 is the limit. At least for 2024 it is.

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