Tributes flood in for the “Grand Dame of Public Finances”
Tributes flooded in over the weekend after the death of respected economist Teodora Cardoso who dedicated her life to sustainable and responsible spending in Portugal’s public finances.
The woman who was responsible for translating Adam Smith’s Wealth of the Nations into Portuguese and set up and led the Council for Public Finances was never swayed by the short-termism of party political electioneering spending and doggedly defended rigour and discipline in public spending to an almost Thatcherite extent.
Teodora Cardoso had once thought of becoming a nun but decided she had more of a vocation and talent for figures and economics and enjoyed a stellar career in the economics of public finances for five decades.
She was born in Estremoz in 1942 and graduated from ISEG and worked for the Bank of Portugal as an economist for two decades, working on microeconomics, monetary policy and built relations with international organisations.
She led the Council of Public Finances (CFP) from its creation in 2011 and was its president from 2012 and led it until 2019.
The CFP website states: “The Council of Public Finances is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Teodora Cardoso, its first president between 2012 and 2019. She was part of the steering committee that worked on the statutes of the institution when it was founded in 2011.
Throughout her long professional life, Teodora Cardoso had a pivotal role in the study, supervision and defence of the Portuguese economy in the work she did at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Bank of Portugal and at the Council for Public Finances (CFP), as well as countless public initiatives.
The Bank of Portugal issued a similar note of condolences and sadness at the economist’s death, recalling that she had been the first woman director of the bank and her brilliant career as an economist at the supervisor over the past five decades.
Teodora Cardoso joined the Bank of Portugal in 1973 as a technician in the bank’s Department of Statistics and Economic Studies. In June 2008 she was appointed to its Council of Directors where she remained until 2012.
The economist was decorated by President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa with the Grand Cross of the Order of the Infante D. Henrique. He said of her that she was “recognised and respected with a life dedicated to the country and the public cause”.
The Governor of the Bank of Portugal, Mário Centeno emphasised her “brilliant career as an economist linked to the institution (Bank of Portugal) over five decades.”
The Minister of Finance, Fernando Medina remembered her as “an essential economist who represented and will continue to represent a benchmark for integrity.”
The ex-president of the Republic, Cavaco Silva said that she “made a decisive contribution to the consolidation and credibility of the Council of Public Finances” while SEDES – one of the oldest Portuguese civic associations — called her “the Dame of Public Finances”.
In one of her last interviews she said: “On the whole, we have had good Finance ministers. The problem is that they have been involved in situations that focus on immediate results – all of them. The immediate results are good, and while they are good everyone is happy. When they go wrong, the government falls and the next government blames the previous government. They should look less at the immediate, revise spending, and change the way investments are decided and develop a sense of political responsibility for the decisions they’ve taken.”