The Last Century
With the advent of the second decade of the 21st century Portugal is in its worse financial condition ever after decades of miss-management that begun with the government of then Prime Minister and now President Anibal Cavaco Silva and ended with a demonstrably corrupt Socialist government led by Prime Minister Jose Socrates. Socrates led a government that broke records in government spending, over-budgeted useless public work projects, while conducting promiscuously incestuous and corrupted relations between the government and the so called public-private companies. The banking industry, the most powerful lobby group in the country, along with conflict of interests riddled politicians, had direct influence in writing legislation and implement actions that sank the economy. The Socrates government left the country in shambles and, true to the Justice Department’s putrid state of affairs, immune of responsibilities. Unlike Iceland, no one is in jail.
The Social Democrat Party under the leadership of current Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho inherited a country with a deficit of nearly 15 billion Euros (10 million people) and had no choice but to play into the hands of the International monetary fund and the European Central Bank’s requirements of severe austerity and financial cut backs. However mainly due to the usual government incompetence, led by a Parliament that, true to historical form does absolutely nothing, serving only as a huge money siphon of public funds (Assembly persons get a full pension of over 5000 Euros per month after just 2 Parliament terms), the country is unable to cut back on expenses and has yet to meet a single imposed deficit target.
The Portuguese Parliament, an assembly of party-picked appointed politicians, has no role or visible duty in governing. It is dominated by one party or a coalition of two parties who rule by majority vote. Assembly men and women are in its majority riddled by conflicts of interest. Many are lawyers who in the morning work for their law firms representing public-private firms in charge of government projects, and in the afternoon sit in the Assembly to vote on issues related to the same issues and bills that their firms represent. With 230 assembly members for a country of 10 million people, Portugal’s Parliament has the highest ratio of assembly members to the number of citizens in the democratic world. The United States, for example, has 435 members in the House of Representatives for 350 million citizens. Should the United States use the same ratio as Portugal it would need nearly 8,000 members.
Currently Portugal is a country with serious challenges ahead in its socio-economic front. Unless Justice and Legislation are reformed, those who placed the country in the current situation and continue to govern under the flag of self-interest and partidarism are called to face their consequences, and measures are taken to weed out corruption, excesses and conflicts of interest, there is no end in sight for its situation. Pedro Passos Coelho solution, in a national speech to the country, suggested emigration as a solution and encouraged Portuguese citizens to begin looking for jobs in other countries.
With the arrest of high profile personalities such as former PM Jose Socrates, the head of the Espirito Santo Group, Ricardo Salgado, and several high profile private and public individuals involved in banking and money laundering, Portugal is making some waves to clean up its intensely corrupt governance. Time will tell if it can get rid of its career politicians, its excessive spending and its almost total disregard for the well being of its people.