Centeno resigns, João Leão will be the new Finance Minister of Portugal

  • ECO News
  • 9 June 2020

Secretary of State for five years, the Lisbon economist now becomes the Finance Minister. He will replace his colleague, Mário Centeno.

After five years of socialist government, João Leão will be promoted next Monday as the next Finance Minister. Until now, he was a figure with little prominence in the Executive: the number three in the cabinet led by Mário Centeno. Now he is preparing to lead one of the most important ministries in the economic recovery plan after the pandemic.

The reshuffle in the Finance Ministry team is underway: the Finance Minister, Mário Centeno has resigned, as have the Deputy Secretary of State and Finance Ricardo Mourinho Félix and the Secretary of State for the Treasury Álvaro Novo. Thus, only one name remains of the current team: the Secretary of State for the Budget, João Leão.

Born in Lisbon in 1974, the socialist has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Economics at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. It was in his doctorate by the North American Massachusetts Institute of Technology that he approached the one that would become his superior, Mário Centeno.

Before his college friend linked him to politics, Leão’s career was – like Centeno’s – academic. He served as chairman of the Scientific Committee of ISCTE’s Department of Economics between 2009 and 2010 and, after that, as director of the PhD in Economics. He is also a researcher at the Business Research Unit of the same institute and a professor of economics.

He was a member of the Economic and Social Council and the Statistical Council between 2010 and 2014. He integrated the Portuguese delegation in the Economic Policy Committee of the OECD in 2010 and 2012. João Leão was also the director of the Studies Office of the Ministry of Economy between 2010 and 2014 and advisor to the Deputy Secretary of State for Industry and Development between 2009 and 2010.

But it was only in 2015 that he gained more power in government affairs. He became Secretary of State for the Budget in the first year of António Costa’s government and has remained there ever since. However, this is a ministry in which Centeno has been the protagonist.

Centeno resigned, but Costa guarantees “continuity”

In a press conference earlier this afternoon with António Costa, Mário Centeno and João Leão, the Prime Minister explained that he understood Centeno’s resignation after almost five years as a Minister. “Life is made of cycles,” Costa justified, saying he understood and respected Mário Centeno’s decision to “open a new cycle in his life.”

Despite the change, the slogan is “continuity”. João Leão, the current Secretary of State for Centeno’s budget, ascends to Minister of Finance with the assurance that the transition will be smooth. “There will be no change in budgetary policy,” assured António Costa, in response to journalists.