Visa scandal: Political “pro” Portas stands his ground

In a performance that left many wondering how he had managed to come so far, political ‘pro’ Paulo Portas stood his ground yesterday when all around him demanded to know why he was not resigning over the Golden Visa scandal.
Giving reasons that would not convince many three-year-olds – and certainly cut little ice with his political opponents – Portas frequently rattled off the other European countries, including Hungary and Latvia – where similar incentive schemes are operating.
His mantra was “if Portugal did not offer Golden Visas and capture the resulting investment, other countries would” – and he, as deputy prime minister of Portugal, had always set out to do the best for his country. “That is my duty,” he told the hastily-convened inquiry.
The fact that over a billion euros worth of investment has created only 30 jobs, while affording countless foreigners VIP properties at vastly inflated prices, was not considered valid by the CDS leader.
In a three-hour grilling by opponents, he repeatedly stressed the importance of Golden Visas in resuscitating the ailing property sector, and pointed out that invariably house sales prompted service industry-related jobs and other economic spin-offs.
“I don’t know why no one appears to value the importance of the property sector, with regard to tourism,” he asked – again demonstrating the kind of political finesse of the barnyard.
Opposition MPs were not taken in, though for now Portas seems to have wriggled through to the next hurdle.
Left Bloc deputy Cecília Honório suggested he lacked “humility” in refusing to acknowledge the political costs of Golden Visas, and she wondered at the solidarity of the coalition.
Why, for instance, was the Ministry for Internal Administration being left to carry the can, she asked.
Communist deputy António Filipe continued on the same tack, asking why a minister had already resigned over the scandal but a deputy prime minister was now saying all was well?
In the end, Portas agreed things hadn’t all gone that particularly well. Thirty people have after all been rounded up by the authorities in yet another embarrassing corruption scandal involving charges of influence-peddling, money laundering and embezzlement.
It is a story that is being widely followed by the international press, all aware that long-promised hearings into the collapse of Banco Espírito Santo have only this week begun to go ahead.
As the FT pointed out in a recent story on the visa scandal, the BES collapse is “one of the biggest European financial failures in recent years”.
In other words, all is not well, and Portas conceded that he would be asking opposition parties for their suggestions as to how the Golden Visa scheme could be improved upon.
But as for any hint of repentance; any sign of weakness? No, there was none.
Pressed frequently for an answer over whether he would be resigning, the deputy PM finally answered: “No, I am not thinking about resigning”.