PM tweets following debate: "To the criticism of chaos, @govpt replies with action. We have taken measures to face up to the costs of war and inflation and in September will adopt new support measures for families and businesses. Free creches for children in the first year will come on track at this time.

State of Nation debate: new measures against cost of living crisis “only in September”

Government ‘attacked from all sides’

Yesterday’s State of the Nation debate, led by prime minister António Costa, was everything it was expected to be: PS Socialists saying how much they had done in the first 100 days of absolute majority – and every other party howling that none of it was enough.

First to the facts: the PM – who is being constantly accused of ‘being tired’ with his ‘eyes on a top job in Europe’ – opened the debate admitting that inflation “will be longer than initially forecast”.

By this he means longer than his government initially forecast (President Marcelo warned inflation was unlikely to be cyclical back in April).

“As a result” of this new realisation the government “will be adopting a new package of measures for support the income of families and the activity of businesses”, said the PM – without specifying what measures these were.

The only certainty was that the executive has ‘sealed a deal with the Misericórdias’ that will allow free crèche places for children in the first year (the youngest babies, in other words, in the few crèches that have places and are run by the Misericórdias…)

“Blaming the war and inflation for all the nation’s ills, the prime minister went straight to the uncomfortable issues”, writes tabloid Correio da Manhã this morning, also carrying leader columns and opinion pieces to show fairly dismal non-Socialist party perspectives on the parliamentary debate.

These uncomfortable issues were given as the “operating disturbances at airports, the closure of some hospital A&E departments and most recently the emergency of the worst conjugation of meteorological factors this century”.

Regarding ‘chaos in the airports’, the PM maintained that 40 minutes waiting time had been lopped off passengers’ agony in the last week; he said the new health service statute would (when it is adopted… in September) lead to a stabilisation of teams in A&E departments – and he highlighted of the hideous recent weeks of wildfires that more than 90% were snuffed out ‘at first intervention’, while ‘more than 85% burnt less than a hectare’.

Considering just with regard to fires that even so more than 50,000 hectares of forestry have been devastated so far this summer, this was the perspective of a man who sees the glass half full – while his opponents most certainly see a glass running on empty.

Centre-right PSD – the main opposition party – is at a further disadvantage in debates like these by dint of the fact that its new leader is not even an MP. As a result, Luís Montenegro had to get his arguments across through ‘leader of the Bench’ Miranda Sarmento, who spent a lot of the time glued to his mobile phone (presumably receiving instructions).

One of the main points coming from the PSD was that the government was ‘getting fat’ on all the extra income, by way of IVA, caused by galloping inflation (the country is close to a 9% inflation rate).

When is the government going to return this money to its beleaguered citizens, the PSD demanded…

It didn’t really work, as the PM retorted that with the various measures already undertaken/ about to come on track, the government “already had”…

Perhaps the best ‘overview’ of the acrimonious afternoon came from ‘non-politicians’ – media outlets with far less axes to grind, who agreed that in spite of the fact that the government really does appear to be ‘rudderless’ following nearly six months of absolute majority, its PM managed to pretty much wipe the floor with his critics – “not because he had any innovative arguments”, explains Observador. “Not because he presented any grand solutions to the many problems ahead; not because he concerned himself with answering the problems put to him (he didn’t), but because his adversaries had a particularly poor performance (yesterday) afternoon”.

Mr Costa and his administration may well be tired, but the opposition, showing scant unity against the absolute Socialist machine, appears every bit as worn down and lacklustre…

CNN Portugal has carried a little clip of the 17 questions and 0 responses from António Costa yesterday that – even if viewers doesn’t understand the spoken language – shows a lot in terms of body language.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com