The next few days will be decisive to understand how far the fight between BE and the Government can go.
In the PS it has already been noticed that Catarina Martins’ party wants to take off, but no one knows how far it will want to go and it will move forward even with a vote against the State Budget for 2021. The week that now begins will serve for last minute negotiations taking into account view of the specialty debate. For example, the PAN will be received by the Prime Minister this Tuesday and new meetings are expected with the PCP and the ENP (only dates have to be fixed) .Be there is no date yet and, last week, Catarina Martins it even said that nothing was scheduled, nor had any new counterproposals arrived.
The tone of the debate between the two parties has increased in the past few days. Just yesterday, the PS scheduled a press conference to accuse Catarina Martins of “lying” about the injection of money into the Resolution Fund, a vehicle through which Novo Banco can receive money. «The BE coordinator insists on lying about this State Budget (…) It is a lie. OE2021 does not provide for the transfer of public money to the Resolution Fund so that they can inject it into the Novo Banco ”, defended João Paulo Correia, vice president of the PS bench, insisting that there is no cent in the 2021 State Budget for the New Bank. The statement in a harsh tone served as a response to a previous press conference on Thursday, in which Catarina Martins attacked the Budget proposal for providing more money for the Resolution Fund than for some measures in the social area, namely support extraordinary for people who are in poverty and do not have access to social benefits (informal and precarious workers). An “absurd”, the BE coordinator even said. The PS repeated eight times yesterday that it is a lie. But the blockers published hours after this conference an explanatory video by Congresswoman Mariana Mortágua insisting on the same idea of Catarina Martins.
In fact, before this public debate there was some irritation among socialists with the attitude of the Bloc. This despite the fact that the discourse is always that there is room to negotiate, it is possible to overcome the impasse and no one would understand that the country was plunging into a political crisis. Just yesterday, António Costa asked for common sense. “I, a leftist, feel good about this State Budget and I think that, in fact, no one has yet realized the real reasons why, on the left, there is fundamental resistance to this OE”, declared the Prime Minister in a interview to Público, in a response with a target in the sights: BE.
Furthermore, Duarte Cordeiro, Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs, has already prepared the narrative for the next few days as a pressure for BE: «The State Budget can be mathematically approved without BE. The point is that for us it doesn’t make much sense for BE to put itself outside this budget, ”he said.
This statement is the result of a discussion that is already taking place in the PS, since the party cannot be held hostage by BE. But this thesis poses further problems. Mathematics imposes greater concessions to the PCP (or to parties such as the PAN and the ENP), namely, the payment of increases in the lower pensions, already paid in January (and not in August) as foreseen in the State Budget proposal for the next year. In this scenario, the PS would need to abstain from the PCP, PEV, PAN to make the document viable by a minimum difference. And it could also compel António Costa to extend the negotiations with the two non-registered deputies Joacine Katar Moreira and Cristina Rodrigues.
Even so, the Government is passing on the message that it has made approximations: «For each of the measures we have been taking steps towards approximation», as stated by Duarte Cordeiro on Rádio Observador. But the narrative to put pressure on BE and put the burden of some political crisis on Catarina Martins’ party is done: «To be against this budget is to be against the country», warned PS deputy João Paulo Correia, the chosen socialist face this week to respond to BE over five days.
Duarte Cordeiro, in turn, reminded BE that “this Budget, with a strong social dimension, contains less elements of rejection on the left than the last”. It was negotiated up to two before it was generally approved last January.
BE, in turn, decides how it will vote on the next 25th, that is, three days before the vote on the Budget in general, that is, on the 28th. And it wants a (written) commitment on the Government’s side with four measures: no there should be any reference to the resolution fund (read Novo Banco) in the Budget, to allow extraordinary support for those who have no support to be more robust, and broadened, to change the labor legislation to prevent the wave of redundancies and the substantial reinforcement of human resources in the National Health Service.
The PCP, in turn, has adopted a more discreet, albeit critical, register. And he warned the Government that it is prepared for all eventualities, insisting that the Budget proposal “is very limited, very partial” in face of what the communists consider necessary to respond to the crisis in the country. But “the ball is on the Government’s side” as the PCP’s parliamentary leader, João Oliveira, said yesterday. Communists do not forget that the PS and the Executive of António Costa preferred the PSD to make the supplementary budget viable.
The PSD may be the Executive’s egg, admitted João Oliveira, at a time when the Social Democrats are almost certain to vote against it. The announcement will be made on the 21st. And only in a scenario of political crisis could the party, led by Rui Rio, be able to evaluate another sense of vote.
The issue of Novo Banco has been a throwing weapon between BE and the Government, but this dossier also causes problems with the PCP. This week, Jerónimo de Sousa, secretary general of the PCP, also tried to challenge both the 2014 resolution process (in the Passos Coelho government) and the sale of the Novo Banco to Lone Star (PS government): «But if the BES resolution process is a scandal, the sale of Novo Banco to a vulture fund, Lone Star, in 2017, became an even more ruinous business for the Portuguese State, ”said Jerónimo de Sousa.
The ENP, for its part, has everything open and calls for more social measures. Your vote will be decided on the 26th by the party leadership.
On the PAN side, with four deputies, the discussion is also not closed. Speaking to SOL, the parliamentary leader, Inês Sousa Real, affirms that “in general”, the Government “was very unambitious” in the set of proposals that “welcomed from other political forces, and therefore the process in the specialty will have to be different of what was the reception capacity [antes da entrega da proposta de Orçamento]».
In the case of the minimum amount of social support for those who do not have access to other social benefits “it falls far short of what people’s ability to survive”, warns Inês Sousa Real, recalling that the minimum amount is 50 euros (and the maximum 505 euros). In other words, the 50 euros will have to be rethought. In the case of young people, the Budget will also have to provide answers, especially for young people who had precarious jobs or professional internships and were left without support with the covid-19 pandemic. On the environmental issue, the PAN recalls that the budget is also “out of alignment” with the economic recovery plan itself. For Inês Sousa Real, “there is no concrete bet on the conversion of activities, namely those that, from an energy point of view, are unsustainable, that have a carbon footprint that only come, in fact, to compromise the commitments stated either in the 2030 Agenda, either at the level of other international instruments or agreements’. The parliamentarian insists that “we continue to benefit highly polluting entities”, whose funds could serve to provide other answers to the country.
Furthermore, for the PAN there is no “a renegotiation of either road PPPs or Novo Banco”. In the case of road PPPs, EUR 1500 million are foreseen. These are “very significant” values that could be used for social support or to inject money into companies, without counterparts, similar to what happened in Germany. In the case of Novo Banco, the heart of the matter for the PAN (despite the government saying that there will be no budget money for the Novo Banco) is “the renegotiation of the contract even with the Resolution Fund”. Inês Sousa Real defends that it is “perfectly possible, because the contract foresees the possibility of renegotiating the terms of the same”. This is so that Novo Banco is not a bottomless pit, and guarantees, for example, the maintenance of workers’ posts. In addition, there is a need to go further in animal protection. This is the specifications for the Budget specialty debate that the PAN wants to see guaranteed before voting on the document as a whole. Inês Sousa Real asks the Government to commit itself to the agreed measures, not least because the implementation of the PAN’s proposals in the 2020 Budget “amount to 23%”. It is short and not enough to proclaim ads. Everything is open.
On the right, CDS, Liberal Initiative and Chega will vote against the Budget. This week, PSD MEP Paulo Rangel also left a warning to navigation, read, to his party: “PSD does not have to make a Budget made with BE and PCP conditions viable”.