Portugal’s Socialist Party (PS) leader promised the social support and tax reliefs that were part of his government’s failed budget will be introduced retroactively from 1 January, should his party win the forthcoming general election.
António Costa spoke at the close of the National Association of PS Mayors’ conference at Parque das Nações, Lisbon, as he addressed the consequences of parliament rejecting his government’s state budget for 2022.
In his speech, Costa said that given the global challenge of dealing with a pandemic and “accelerating the economic recovery”, now was not the time for this “absolutely irrational political crisis”.
“The PS did not want this political crisis and was the only one that, by voting for the budget, tried to help prevent it. This crisis came about not because there was an alternative to the PS government, but because of a negative majority formed by the Left Bloc and the PCP voting with the parties of the right”, he said.
According to António Costa, this “negative majority” did not seek to build something better; it simply wanted to defeat the PS government’s state budget.
“Let’s be clear, the rejection of the budget was much more than a defeat for the PS, and it was above all a loss for the Portuguese, who are seeing the additional €700 million investment in the health service postponed at a time we all know the National Health Service urgently needs continuing investment and to hire more staff. By rejecting the budget, all these parties have done is delay this €700m investment into the health service”, he said.
According to Costa, the defeat of his government’s budget has delayed the increase in the family allowance, the creation of the child guarantee, the increase in the second-child tax allowance from €600 to €900 and the establishment of two new income tax brackets “that would mean working people pay less tax”.
“What they have achieved is to delay, delay and delay without creating anything new. With the victory of the PS at the next elections, all these measures will come into force retroactively from 1 January,” he promised.
Costa also sought to present his party as a force for moderation in the political system.
“In government, the PS has proved it can govern with due balance, rejecting austerity without compromising the country’s participation in the euro. Year after year, over six years, it has proved it has the ambition to go farther, while at the same time keeping its feet firmly on the ground so that we never bite off more than we can chew,” said the Prime Minister.
Among other examples, Costa said that in the last six years, the national minimum wage has increased by about 40% “without this affecting the competitiveness of national companies”.
“Today, we have 28,000 more health professionals in the national health service than there were in 2015, and in 2019 we presented the first budget surplus in the democratic era. Only the PS can maintain this balance that the Portuguese do not want to lose,” he said.
He argued that the PS now “needs a majority that will allow it to form a stable government for the next four years”.
He then contrasted the PS with the opposition Social Democrats (PSD), saying his party is “united and capable of uniting the Portuguese”.
“The PS is a party of dialogue, not a party of conflict. In government, the PS has managed to negotiate with all the local authorities, the autonomous regions and the President of the Republic. It respects the independence of the judiciary and the media. This is so different from the PSD, which is divided and promotes conflict with everything and everyone, especially among themselves and with those closest to them”, he added.