António Costa promised more investment in Public Services, such as the NHS and public transports, two sectors which have been hugely affected by strikes in 2018.
The National Health Service and the public transports sector are two of the most vulnerable areas in the country at the moment: hospitals have dire conditions, there is a decrease in the availability of trains due to the constant strikes from CP (Comboios de Portugal).
For this reason, the Portuguese Premier addressed the issue on his Christmas message to the Portuguese, guaranteeing that an increase in investment in the public services (namely the NHS and public transports) is a top priority for the last year of his administration. Costa also has noted that there is an “overall improvement in working conditions in the Public Sector”, not forgetting to highlight the importance of “eliminating the deficit and continuing to bet on reducing debt”.
“We have achieved a lot together so far and I can’t overlook that, but I also can’t ignore all that we must still do”, he stated. The head of the Portuguese Government has made a list of the priorities his administration will have to take into account over the next few months — some of them are medium-term goals, which would already go over the duration of this administration.
We must continue investing in the quality of our public services, such as the NHS and the public transports, in the modernization of our infrastructures, in the improvement of the life quality of retired people, and in the working conditions of the Public Administration (…) at the same time as we continue eliminating the deficit and decreasing the debt, which helped us regain credibility in the international markets, a fundamental factor for the reduction of the interest rates which are paid by the State, households and companies” he noted.
The opposition parties have all reacted to the Premier’s notes: CDS accused Costa of making “empty” promises, as what he defends differs greatly from what he has done, while BE criticised the Prime Minister for obsessively focusing on the deficit target instead of other issues; PSD claimed that Costa’s policymaking is centralized in Lisbon and Porto, overlooking the rest of the country, in terms of improvements in the NHS and the public transports sector.
The government has estimated that deficit will stand at 0.2% of GDP in the State Budget for 2019, which means a 0.5% drop from the 0.7% deficit expected this year — however, the finance minister has warned that the deficit might be lower than expected at the end of 2018. The Public Finances Council had also announced that the deficit could hit 0.5% of GDP by the end of the year.
António Costa also took this chance to remind the Portuguese that there were important milestones achieved during his administration, as “for the first time since the beginning of the century, the Portuguese economy has increased at a higher rate than the European economy” which has allowed for “the numbers to finally be positive for the public finances, improving the lives of many families”, the prime minister noted. GDP per capita, however, decreased: it was down by 0.67% in comparison to 2016, at 76.6%.
Costa’s administration depends greatly on the support from parties on the left to centre, such as BE, and also on the support of CDS and the Premier added some measures which should please his opposition, such as the increase in incomes, and the improvement of dignity at work, more investment in education and lifelong education, and more investment as well in cultural and scientific innovation.
The Prime minister also noted that “our country cannot afford to lose our most qualified generation ever”, calling for the Portuguese to make an effort in attracting young people “who feel that in Portugal they can succeed both at the personal and professional levels”.