Tribute to Medina Carreira – the man who said he would “prefer to see a housewife in charge of the finance ministry, as at least she would have commonsense”

Surrounded by problems as he takes a week’s holiday in parts uncertain (possibly the Spanish island of Formentera) prime minister António Costa took time today to pay tribute to Medina Carreira – the man who held the post of finance minister in Mário Soares’ first Constitutional government and who has been delighting television viewers for years with his incisive, uncluttered way of looking at politics and the way things work – or don’t – in Portugal.

85-year-old Carreira died in hospital yesterday, the victim of a long illness.

Until relatively recently he was a regular contributor to current affairs programmes like Olhos nos Olhos (TVI24) where he invariably said what audiences could identify with.

Criticised for being a pessimist, he was hugely scathing of the standard of Portugal’s contemporary politicians, saying they “lacked content” a bit like a crab that is all shell (a huge disappointment for Portuguese diners).

But one of the many pithy observations that he made on air was the one about preferring to see a housewife in charge of the Finance Ministry “as at least she would have commonsense”.

António Costa told Lusa that Carreira’s death sees the country lose an “attentive voice” whose “scepticism was an intelligent challenge”.

“I have lost a friend who I inherited through my father”, he added, as president Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said the country had lost a “courageous free-thinker”.

Carreira himself told Expresso as Portugal lurched towards the worst of its financial crisis in 2009: “While I cannot see people capable of taking control in this country, I am troubled. When I look at the political parties, at these MPs, I cannot be anything else. The facts show that we are the worst economy in Europe and among the most indebted countries. Up till now, I haven’t been able to find one person to argue with me in a television programme…”

[email protected]