Rui Rio accused flag-carrier TAP of providing an "absolutely indecent" service, insisting that it should be privatised "as soon as possible".
The PSD president on Thursday accused flag-carrier TAP of providing an “absolutely indecent” service, insisting that it should be privatised “as soon as possible”, while Antonio Costa said that it was the presence of the state that saved the company.
These positions were taken in the face-to-face debate between António Costa and Rui Rio, moderated and broadcast by RTP, SIC and TVI, in the final stretch of the only debate between the two as part of the pre-campaign for the snap parliamentary elections on January 30.
The PS leader, and prime minister, was challenged to guarantee that the state would not put more money into TAP beyond the €3 billion already injected.
“That was the guarantee given by the European Commission, which scrutinised the process and recognised the viability of the restructuring plan. The company will be in a position, as soon as possible, to sell 50% of its capital, and there are, fortunately, other companies already interested in acquiring it,” he said, adding that there was no reason to doubt the success of the plan approved by Brussels.
Costa stressed that if the state had not repurchased 50% of the national airline’s capital, TAP would have “gone into liquidation” when the various companies owned by private shareholder David Neeleman went bankrupt.
The PSD president expressed an opposite position, arguing that “TAP should not have been nationalised” and that, if he becomes prime minister, it will be privatised “as soon as possible”.
“Not tomorrow, because if it doesn’t sell badly, I won’t sell badly, but this is not sustainable, it is not serious or competent,” he criticised, saying that €3.3 billion were invested in the company when the country’s annual revenue from corporate tax is €5.5 billion.
Rio used a concrete example to accuse the company of providing an “absolutely indecent” service even at Lisbon airport and “not connecting anything to the rest of the country”.
According to the PSD president, a Madrid – San Francisco flight, with a stopover in Lisbon, costs “a Spaniard €190”.
“How much does the Portuguese pay if they take the same plane in Lisbon to go to San Francisco? He pays €697. It’s a flag carrier, but it’s a flag carrier from Spain or any other country. This is outrageous. This is inadmissible,” he said.
Costa also challenged Rio to say what he would have done differently if he had closed the company, lost “ten thousand jobs” and the exports that TAP represents.