A snapshot of Portugal
By Alberto Mingardi
In the Wall Street Journal Joseph Sternberg has a thorough op-ed on Portugal, which is heading to a national election tomorrow.
No party comparable to the Spanish “Podemos” or the Greek “Syriza” has emerged in Portugal that may have a chance of achieving power, even though the country has been implementing tough austerity measures. And yet, as Sternberg writes, “Both of Portugal’s major parties, the ruling center-right Social Democratic Party and the center-left Socialist Party, are committed to staying the course”.
Interestingly, Portugal’s transition to democracy after the Salazar regime dates back to 1974: the same year as Greece’s after the military regime, and one year before Franco’s death in Spain. So, the somewhat popular thesis that populism tends to stick in Spain or Greece because they are “new” democracies seems to be falsified by the Portoguese case.
If Portugal appears “the perfect example of a eurozone bailout plan gone right–enough reform to stimulate growth but not enough to trigger anti-Europe political movements,” Sternberg points out that more reforms are needed. “The public debt still is 130% of GDP, the government still is running a deficit, and the current growth rate won’t be sufficient to improve the debt ratio on its own. And this is before accounting for the fiscal drag of a largely unreformed public pension system in a country with a rapidly aging population and with millions of its young people fleeing to Britain, Germany and elsewhere in search of job opportunities.”
Let’s see if the next government will deliver.