“Shameful manipulation of State figures” row overshadows PSD’s latest bid for alliance with PS

As the minority Portugal à Frente coalition makes last-ditch attempts to woo the PS Socialists in a bid to forming a new government, the nation’s media has been covering the “shameful manipulation of State figures” by the outgoing PSD/CDS coalition.

The row began on Friday when it became clear that the government’s “promise” that taxpayers would see their IRS ‘surcharge’ drastically reduced in 2016 was as empty as most people’s bank accounts.

National tabloid Correio da Manhã ran with the headline: “IRS coup blocks surcharge devolution”, adding in small print: “Whoever expected €121 euros will end up getting just €33.36”

CM explained: “The promise was made by the government in September. Portuguese people could look forward to a 35.5% drop in the IRS surcharge next year. But now, after the elections, this promise shows people will in fact be getting a great deal less by way of relief: only 9.7% of the surcharge”.

It could be argued that CM was over-exaggerating, but elsewhere SIC TV has carried an interview with economics editor José Gomes Ferreira who claims the issue boils down to “shameful manipulation of State figures” by the outgoing government.

“In truth, the State is retaining money that doesn’t belong to it”, he explained.

“This is political manipulation”, he affirmed, adding: “There is no other way to describe it”.

Officially, the government’s reasoning was that IRS receipts “dropped” by €85 million due to public sector workers receiving reduced salaries.

But as Ferreira pointed out, the salary reductions should not have been made. Thus the government “kept money in its coffers that did not belong to it”.

“This was shameful political manipulation”, he repeated. “Because people did not know.

“Before the elections they (the government) said surcharge reimbursement could run to a third, now they are saying it is just a few tenths.

“This is the kind of manipulation that is simply inadmissible in these times when everything is so scrutinised. Simply inadmissible”

Meantime, news today is that Passos Coelho is trying everything to keep dialogue open with the PS Socialists before the latter sign on the dotted line with other more left wing parties in a bid to change the shape of Portugal’s political future.

Coalition spokesman Marco António Costa said in Porto yesterday: “We believe that the PS has the opportunity to correct the mistaken trajectory it is pursuing”.

A left-wing alliance would effectively “block Portugal”, he affirmed, creating “grave consequences of instability” in Portugal’s “external and internal image”.

The Portugal à Frente coalition considers there are “many points” on which it agrees with the PS Socialists, and that a three-party coalition would be a great deal more viable for the country.

For now, it is all just a game of words. The next few days will be pivotal in determining the shape of Portugal’s next government.

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