‘There is no crisis’

news: ‘There is no crisis’

Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communications speaker at ACL meeting.

ANTÓNIO Mexia, Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communications, was the guest speaker at a lunch meeting of the American Club of Lisbon (ACL), held recently at the Sheraton Hotel in Lisbon. With an audience of more than 130 ACL members, the minister announced the two new proposed bridges to cross the River Tejo – a vehicle crossing from Algés to Trafaria and a rail crossing from Chelas to Barreiro.

Economic crisis

Mexia’s speech, entitled ‘Productivity: Reform of the State and Civil Society’, was hard hitting and to the point. Talking about Portugal’s economic situation, he said that, in his opinion, there is no crisis, as “a crisis is something you cannot control, which isn’t Portugal’s case.” He continued: “Most of the things that need to be done are within our power to control or change.” He said that the key word is ‘reform’. “Portugal has to have the courage to carry out the reforms that have been postponed for far too long.”

Portuguese feel threatened by competition

Productivity was next on his agenda. It is a known fact that Portugal’s productivity is low, at a rate of 64 per cent against, for example, Greece’s 83 per cent and Spain’s 95 per cent. “These numbers should make us get up and think. While talking about productivity, we have to talk about two very important things – competition and networking,” he continued. “Portugal doesn’t like competition – people feel threatened by it. Portugal is not good at networking, we have to get out of our comfort zone and reach out to compete.”

The Public Administration represents 15 per cent of the Gross National Product (GNP), when the European average is, and has been for a long time, around 11 per cent. “People should become aware of prices. For instance, when you buy a Metro ticket, you should know how much you are paying for it and how much it actually costs to have that public transport in operation.”

‘Taxes have to be paid’

“According to Portuguese mentality, the government is ‘someone’ who is there to pay the bills and to give us no responsibility. All rights no obligations,” saidMexia. “Nowadays, people don’t seem to be able to think beyond their immediate future and that explains some of the country’s social behaviours, like not paying taxes. People fail to see that future generations, their children, will suffer from our behaviour today. Until recently, if someone said that they paid their taxes, everybody else would think that they were stupid. We all need to start taking responsibility for our own actions and be conscious that everything has a price and that taxes have to be paid,” he stressed.

Europe: ‘realisation has hit home’

The Minister continued: “Europe has, for a long time, mistakenly thought that their welfare system is much fairer than the one of the US. Luckily, in the last couple of years, the realisation has hit home that maybe the European system doesn’t work that well. But if we take a closer look at the tax systems of both Europe and the US, we realise that indirect taxes are much higher in Europe than in the US. Europe is not as fair, while basing their system so much on indirect taxes, because those who earn less consume more.”

‘We need elite people’

“If Portugal’s major money makers are pleased with the situation in the country, they will reinvest their money here and, therefore, generate more wealth. We need elite people who are motivated and have the ability to help Portugal make the changes.”

Bob Hughes