Brussels gives Portugal spending ‘carte blanche’
By NATASHA DONN
Infrastructure || Brussels has given Portugal the ‘carte blanche’ it needs to keep going through the pandemic – spending where it has to spend but not getting overly concerned with increasing public debt.
Bearing in mind areas most dependent on tourism are the Algarve and autonomous regions of Madeira and Azores, “special attention” should be given to these, said the European Commission in its spring ‘evaluation’ of the economies of member states.
This is, of course, only ‘half the story’. We still haven’t been told how much money Portugal will be receiving from the bloc – and on what terms. Recommending, therefore, how the country should spend it is probably a perfect example of putting the cart before the horse.
Says Dinheiro Vivo, Brussels “has asked the government to accelerate public investments in infrastructure (mentioning, in particular, transportation systems and ports) as a way of coming out of the crisis more quickly”, and is all for the ongoing reinforcement of health budgets.
In fact, health is an area in which the Commission found reason to criticise the government, suggesting Portugal’s “fragile long-term care structures” were responsible for higher contamination and mortality rates than would otherwise have been necessary.
This is a failing that has affected a number of other countries – the UK in particular, thus it is hardly ‘major censure’ – though DV claims the government, as well as finance minister Mário Centeno, refute the criticism, saying expenditure on the health sector has always been one of the executive’s top priorities.
As to future investment in infrastructure, the Commission has particularly cited investments in “innovation and investigation, digitalisation, connectivity and ecological transition”. These, it says, “will contribute to the recovery of the Portuguese economy” and help the path to sustainable growth.
“Greater speed” should be given to securing investment in “transport infrastructure that may respond to the peripheral situation of Portugal”, the Commission continued – citing rail links with Spain and the exploitation of “currently underutilised” ports.
Says DV, the €2 billion airport project for Montijo was “never mentioned”.
All in all, however, the message was very clear: ‘spend what you must to combat the effects of the virus, and we’ll sort out the accounts when it’s all over’.
The only detail that’s missing is where exactly is the money coming from – and how much of it will Portugal have to pay back.