Prime minister António Costa’s New Year message to Portugal was that “the priority of all the priorities” is to vaccinate enough people to reach “long-awaited group immunity” – although he admits this will be a process that stretches “to the end of the first trimester of 2022”.
The second priority is the equally long-awaited “reanimation of the economy”.
As the country takes over the rotative presidency of the European Union (see text to come), Mr Costa outlined that one of the objectives is to secure the start of the Programme of Recovery and Resilience and the respective national plans, including that of Portugal.
“Our plan responds to the urgency to reanimate the economy”, he said – but “huge strategic challenges” lie ahead, not least because the pandemic “has created dramatic situations of poverty and inequality”.
In spite of the support to employment and the economy since last March – involving State funding of over €21 billion – and in spite of all the plans to “cover the fixed costs of businesses most affected by the pandemic”, the government is facing “a Herculean task”, and for this the continued “extraordinary mobilisation of the Portuguese people” is essential.
The country is ‘at a decisive turning point’ but it will be uphill all the way, intimated the PM who released a clip of the images of the year “we will never forget” over social media (click here), telling Jornal de Notícias that we now all have “the opportunity to make 2021 a year that we will all remember”.
It is worth mentioning here that a poll taken last week on how Portuguese feel about the way in which the government has handled the pandemic shows that almost half are satisfied with decisions taken.
Considering this was a year in which pundits suggested the minority government would start coming unstuck, it was a ‘good result’.
Meantime, President Marcelo’s New Year’s message also alluded to the inequalities caused by the pandemic – stressing the country needs to “rapidly move on” from what he admitted was “a terrible year”.
Now well into his presidential campaign for re-election (with voting later this month), Marcelo said: “We all believe in a better 2021. Let’s create it together”.