Corruption

Portugal has no right-wing, left-wing parties, nothing, there’s a bunch of villains who come together to steal together  –  José Saramago

Perceived corruption in Portugal has for many years been just below the European average, according to the 2018 Corruption Index from Transparency International (www.transparancy.org).
This index ranks 180 countries on how corrupt their public sector is. The higher the number (0-100 scale) the less corruption. Portugal ranks 30 worldwide with a score of 64. Denmark and New Zealand rank first (score 88),  Somalia last  (score 10).

The reason for this standstill is the lack of political will and the ability to establish ethical conduct standards. This is reflected in the failure of the Parliamentary Commission on Transparency – established three years ago – to control members of parliament,  judges and attorneys. But also the government is to blame through its lack of vigilance in preventing abuse and unwillingness to punish corruption when it occurs.

The low number of convictions and the fact that 94% of the corruption cases are archived without trial, doesn’t help either to restore confidence in the authorities. ‘A national strategy to combat corruption – independent of the political colour of the government – is needed, believes João Batalha, president of Transparency and Integrity Civil Association (TIAC).

Former president Ramalho Eanes stated last month that corruption in the public service is a ‘complex problem that proliferates through society. Our civil society isn’t strong and autonomous enough against the state. The elected politician is more a delegate of the party than a representative of the voter and it is very difficult to change this culture.

Corruption costs the country at least 18 billion euros per year. That is about 8% of the GDP and more than the annual Health budget.
A recent inquiry by Eurostat under Portuguese civilians showed that more than 80% of the respondents were of the opinion that corruption is an essential part of the business culture.

It is therefore not surprising that Portugal is the least compliant of 49 European countries in the fight against corruption. A report from the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption group (GRECO ) by the end of 2018 revealed that nearly three-quarters of its recommendations – in particular on political parties and the judiciary – were not fulfilled.
(red bars in figure)

Not only the Council of Europe is dissatisfied. The Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD ) concluded at the beginning of this year, that the judiciary system in Portugal isn’t functioning properly and calls for special courts to judge corruption and white-collar crime. It also recommends an electronic declaration of interest register for all members of the government and public administration employees.


Bom fim de semana          Enjoy the weekend
     (pic Público/EsqNet/Expresso)

Frogs

The Spanish company DIA, owner of the supermarket chain Minipreço recently announced the removal of any ceramic frogs at the entrance of its 530 stores in Portugal. The reason for his was the complaint of a customer, who sent photos to the newspapers of a frog at the entrance of a Minipreço branch in Várzeas, in the Leiria district.

The racist practice of Portuguese shopkeepers to use bright green ceramic frogs at the entrance of shops and restaurants is to scare away Roma, who consider frogs symbols of evil and bad luck. ‘I know that the Portuguese law forbids discrimination, but I’ am not forced to put up with people who steal and cause trouble’, admits an anonymous vendor from Porto.

Roma communities arrived in Portugal in the 15th century but were only accepted as citizens in 1822. Persecuted for centuries and subjected to repressive laws, they are discriminated in employment, education and housing.

‘Most Roma live below the poverty line and are not properly informed about their rights. There is a lot of resignation: many Roma don’t complain because they don’t think complaining will change anything’, says Marta Pereira, activist and SOS racism member (www.sosracismo.pt)

According to a report published last year by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, xenophobia and racism are prevalent in Portugal, in particular, aimed at gypsies and blacks. ‘Portugal’s ‘racial colour-blindness makes it impossible to prove institutional racism’, Pereira states.

Although the country adopted in 2013 a National Strategy for the Integration of Roma Communities, successful measures against exclusion and discrimination have not been implemented. ‘The Roma continue to lack access to housing and jobs. The Government’s plan is simply not good enough to address the structural problems Roma’s face’, Pereira explains. ‘On top of that minorities are often blamed for their own marginalization.’

‘It’s so common in Portugal to insult Roma, that it is seen as something normal. What scares me most, is how normalized the prejudice is.’   ( Maria Gil, Roma actress )

Bom fim de semana               Enjoy your weekend            (pic Público/JEcon)