Budgets marks the end of ‘geringonça’ in Portugal

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This time it was not enough. The proposals of the Socialist Government of António Costa for the 2021 Budgets have not convinced the Left Block (BE), one of its main parliamentary partners, who brought the Socialists to power in 2015 in the alliance known as the ‘geringonça’. The Executive has approved the accounts with the only votes in favor of the Socialists and thanks to the abstention of the Communist Party (PCP), another of its great parliamentary supporters, and that of the environmental and animalistic parties. In total, 108 votes in favor, 105 against and 17 abstentions.

The reproaches have gone from one side of the hemicycle to the other on the second day of budget debate. The blocists have remained firm in their position: the investment in the National Health Service (SNS) is insufficient to cope with the pandemic. In the late afternoon, the BE leader, Catarina Martins, launched a harsh attack on the Government. “During this year we have supported the Government in everything it has asked us to do, but to make a left-wing budget, we need left-wing policies,” said Martins, who has accused the Government of “hiding in manipulation and blackmail.”

The war of numbers between socialists and blocists in the field of health has been evident throughout the day. “There are fewer doctors now than at the beginning of the pandemic,” Martins said. Some data that the Minister of Health, Marta Temido, has contested based on the evolution since 2015. In total, the minister explained, there are 20,884 more than five years ago and in better conditions. “The 140,882 health professionals who work in the SNS are no longer subject to freezes or reduced salaries,” Temido said. The government has promised to hire 4,200 health workers next year.

Unavoidable distancing

But despite calls for unity from the minister, the distancing between the two parties it is inevitable. “A year ago the Government resigned to renew the ‘geringonça’ and opted for the annual negotiation of the budgets, without a common goal of the legislature”, has assured the blocist deputy Pedro Filipe Soares. Some attacks to which the socialist spokesperson, Ana Catarina Mendes, has responded, who has described as “irresponsible” the position of the blocists whom she accuses of “not wanting to share the risk of handling the crisis” and of taking the “side of the right“.

More relaxed has been the discussion between socialists and communists, who announced their abstention after agreeing to a 10 euro increase to the lowest pensions starting next January. Members of the PCP have, however, demanded more concrete commitments from the Government, such as the free childcare or the completion of the Seixal and Alentejo hospitals that the Executive has been promising for years. Their support will depend on these commitments in the debate on the details of the accounts, scheduled for the end of November.

Criticisms from the right

The government has also received attacks from the right. The parliamentarians of the main opposition party, the conservative PSD, have accused the government of “giving up” in the fight against the pandemic of the covid-19, which has marked this Wednesday a new daily record with 3,960 new cases. “We have a SNS with major flaws in its response. There may be unemployment, companies without the ability to pay salaries, but for the Government the important thing is to have the nerve to say that there is no austerity,” said the leader of the opposition, Rui Rio .

In the economic sphere, the parties of the right have been very critical of the Executive’s economic measures to help companies and workers suffocated by the pandemic. The accounts contemplate a reduction of income tax (IRS), VAT deductions in the restaurant and hotel sector, Social helps extraordinary benefits for those who are not entitled to benefits and an increase of 66 euros in the minimum unemployment benefit, which will amount to 505 euros.

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