THE NEW leader of the parliamentary opposition to the government, former PSD Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes, lost his first face-to-face debate with Prime Minister José Socrates in parliament last week.
In one of the fiercest and most entertaining parliamentary ‘question times’ in recent months, Pedro Santana Lopes’ performance was considered so weak that it led left wing Bloco Esquerda leader Francisco Louçã to demand jokingly “give us back our tickets.”
“The debate didn’t go exactly as I would have wished and I have to concede defeat,” said Pedro Santana Lopes on the heated discussions over the State Budget 2008 which was being debated by parliamentary deputies.
Santana Lopes blamed Assembleia da República President Jaime Gama who had asked him to wrap up his speech at the end of five minutes whereas the Prime Minister launched into an attack lasting half an hour.
“I was hoping to be able to count on his (Gama’s) usual generosity over time and have never seen him do this before (cut a speaker short),” complained the beleaguered Santana Lopes.
“The government ended up being the winner over the budget and yet won without showing any tangible results,” moaned the opposition leader.
The Prime Minister refused to give a head-on “duel” over the budget because, as he said – in a spiked reference to the development corruption scandals at Parque Mayer presided over by Santana Lopes when he was Câmara President – ‘because this is not about Parque Mayer.’”
On the first day of the debate on the budget, José Socrates went on the attack against the PSD by saying that between 2002 and 2004 “many sacrifices had been placed upon the Portuguese” without any results.
He then trumpeted the successes of his Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos by saying that the budget deficit was well on course to reach 2.4 per cent of GDP (below the 3 per cent threshold expected by the EU) which was a 60 per cent reduction on 2005.
Socrates also said that the government had succeeded in making savings of 5000 million Euros over three years.
Blasting Santana Lopes, he said that the economy under his PSD government had grown by 0 per cent in its last quarter, while economic growth had only been 1.5 per cent.
The Prime Minister said that since the PS had taken office, 60,000 jobs had been created while unemployment had risen at its lowest rate since 2004.
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