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Mariana Mortágua discusses measures of the agreement of PS with the left wing
Can you summarise the measures from the agreement between Left Bloc and the Socialist Party which have already been approved in parliament?
On one hand, the agreement had some measures and, on the other, we also had some measures that were already in the Socialist Party’s programme, as well as in Bloc’s programme, or the Communist Party’s programme. In those cases, we didn’t need an agreement, these measures will come forward easily. But what we have up to this point is that we managed to cancel all the exams in primary school, we didn’t have them since the dictatorship and then the previous government introduced these exams again, we are talking about kids who are 6, 8 or 10 years old, it’s an exam at the end of the primary school, and we just decided not to have them anymore, starting this year. Plus, we had a vote to finally allow gay adoption, this bill was in the parliament several times in the past four years, and finally we managed to pass that. We also had a vote on the end of the previous concessions and privatisations in the transport sector. The previous government gave away the operation of Lisbon and Oporto public transports and we are now trying to somehow get them back to the public ownership, and that bill also passed in the parliament, so it’s a matter of time. So far, that is what we have, but it’s only been two or three weeks of parliament, so far, so good. We have managed to reverse some of the most important right-wing measures.
What are the most important measures that are going to be approved in the near future?
We reached an agreement with the Socialist Party concerning the minimum wage, which is now around 505€. We wanted the minimum wage to be 600€ in 2016. During the negotiations this was not really possible, but what we determined was that the minimum wage has to be 600€ by 2019 and, until then, it must grow at least 5% every year. People must see their wages grow by at least 5% every year. Of course, if we managed to increase it more, that would be perfect, but that is the minimum standard on what concerns wages. This is one of the priorities.
We also want to reverse the privatisation of TAP, the airline company, which is now in process, so we hope to do it soon enough. We said in the agreement with the Socialist Party that no other concessions or privatisations would be allowed, so it’s the end of the privatisations for Portugal, it has been quite a violent process over the past four years.
We also have an agreement on giving back some money to the people. Wages or salaries for public servants were cut over the past years and we want to give the wages 100% back by the end of next year, according to what the Constitutional Court had decided. We want to keep the Constitution.
Secondly, there is an extra tax on everyone’s normal tax on income, and we are now negotiating that, we want to eliminate 100% of that extra tax on everyone’s incomes. We are now negotiating if this is possible, but we want this to happen already in 2016.
There is a law saying how much the pensions should grow according to inflation, and what happened a few years ago was that that law was frozen, so the pensions actually lost value for the past four years. We managed to agree on putting that law back, so we’ll see a raise in the value of the pensions, at least according to the expected inflation.
What is the Committee for Debt Restructuring?
In these negotiations there were some topics in which we didn’t reach an agreement, namely on how to fight precarity in jobs, on public debt, how do we restructure that and if we should do it and how should we do it and also on some energy measures, namely how we lower the energy bill for people in general. The electricity bill is quite expensive. Because we didn’t have an agreement we’ll have these working groups. Public debt is one of them and the idea is to study the external debt, private and public, and to present some reports, so that we have a constant follow up of what’s going on with the public debt to try to find some alternatives and some solutions to solve the problem, because it is really strangling the economy right now.
Can you comment on te fact that France and Belgium have announced that they would not meet the Budgetary Treaty because of the security measures?
They wouldn’t meet the fiscal compact rules anyway. It is not because of security, and even the discussion on security is quite a difficult one, but it is not because of the security expenses they aren’t meeting the criteria, it is because the criteria doesn’t make any sense. And countries in the middle of a crisis, or recovering from a crisis, with the Eurozone in stagnation, it is not easy for any country to meet these criteria. So that is just one more excuse to stop them from looking into and actually doing what they should do. Looking at this fiscal compact and understanding that it is a law that doesn’t make any kind of sense in the economic context of the Eurozone.
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