Petition to reopen Portugal’s economy

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A petition signed by 159 of Portugal’s top business leaders has been sent to the Government calling for a gradual return to normal economic life.

The document has been signed by the President of the Portuguese Industrial Association (CIP), António Saraiva, Carlos Silva, President of the General Workers Union (UGT), Álvaro Covões (an events promoter), President of Inesc Tec, José Manuel Mendonça, and the President of the Elegant Group (Martinhal hotels and resorts), Chitra Stern, among many others.

All of them call on the Government to reopen Portugal’s economy as the country struggles through its second fortnight in lockdown by presidential decree which will only be lifted by May 1.

They are also calling for fresh measures to limit the risks of a second wave of the pandemic from which Portugal has remained relatively unscathed so far with 535 deaths and 16,934 infected to date. (Monday)
Neighbouring Spain announced on Monday that it would relax its lockdown to specific essential sectors like construction, manufacturing and some services, despite a staggering 170,099 cases and 17,756 deaths, after infection rates fell and the daily number of fatalities dipped slightly with 517 reported on Monday from 619 on Sunday.

Now Portuguese business and industry leaders want a similar plan for Portugal which closed its borders with Spain in March. Portugal has been hailed by the overseas press for its State of Emergency measure and for successfully containing the virus – for now.

The business leaders have also welcomed new Government measures to limit the risks of infection including general use of masks in indoor and enclosed areas such as shops, supermarkets and public transport and generalised Covid-19 testing but want an integrated plan for the return to economic activity.

“We must not forget that the survival of the economy has to be a front in this battle. We have to begin gradually opening up the economy to activities that can operate, providing due care and preventative measures are taken and equipment provided”, says António Saraiva, President of the CIP.

António Saraiva says the economic stoppage could prove disastrous for the Government which has announced it is doubling its support for the economy with a €6.2Bn cash injection borrowed from the banks, state coffers, the European Stability Mechanism and International money markets (sovereign bonds).

“Portugal currently has around 1 million people laid off from work, laid low with the virus or laid up at home looking after their families. This is costing the State around €3Bn a month and is unsustainable for public finances”.

Entrepreneur Bruno Bobone, President of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and Industry said, “After having called on health professionals to be heroes to save us from this pandemic, why aren’t we calling on all other Portuguese to be heroes to save us from this economic crisis we are facing”.

Carlos Silva, General-Secretary of the union UGT backed both business leaders up by stating “without companies working there’ll be no jobs”, adding that the Ministry of Employment is having to process 4,000 claims for unemployment benefit on a daily basis.

“If we don’t get the economy back on track we will get to the point of facing an economic recession so serious that we won’t be in a position to tackle poverty and inequality,” he warned.

“We want to tell the Government that we are available to help the country because we’re all in the same boat, bosses and employees,” said the union boss.