Government takes majority shares in TAP and Efacec in midst of pandemic

The minority government of António Costa saved this month two strategic companies, securing thousands of jobs. It bailed out flagship airline TAP and nationalised Efacec, the technological company – with over 2500 highly qualified employees and activities in more than 60 countries – brought down by its association with the former first daughter of Angola and richest women in Africa, Isabel dos Santos.

Efacec Power Solutions is not nearly as important as TAP. The idea is only for a temporary nationalisation until the end of the year in order to guarantee that salaries and bank loans can be paid, and the confidence of clients and suppliers restored. A dozen potential buyers from Portugal, Spain, the US and China are on the horizon and it’s only a matter of time before the company is reprivatized.

Buying up Isabel dos Santos’ majority (72%) share in Efacec is moreover a decent way to get rid of her involvement – which has done the company no good since her name was reviled across the media around the world for pillaging her homeland of hundreds of millions, and her assets frozen in Portugal and Angola.

Despite the nightmare of what to do with TAP – crippling losses in recent years exacerbated by a further 395 million loss in the first two months of this year – on the long run, the government has taken a clear stand. ‘TAP is fundamental for our territorial continuity, for our connection to the world and our economic development’, declared PM António Costa. The airline – with a workforce of 10.000 and contributing 2.6 billion to the export in 2019 – is just too important for the nation to let it fall.

By spending 55 million to buy out the American private shareholder David Neeleman, and committing to an injection of 1,2 billion – approved by Brussels – into the company, the state now effectively controls TAP with 72% of the capital and took the ‘worst-case scenario of nationalisation’ off the table.

As the company is in technical bankruptcy with a debt of over 775 million euros, the approval of Brussels will, by all means, imply a substantial restructuring, including a reduction in the number of routes and planes and consequences on employment.
Since the beginning of the pandemic crisis, more than 1000 fixed-term workers have been dismissed due to non-renewal of contracts but undoubtedly more layoffs will follow in the next months.

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic Público/Sapo)

From now on, every time we – black women – look at the steps of the Parliament, we will not see each other with buckets and mops to clean – we are inside and have a voice ’  (Romualda Fernandes, MP)

A hundred protesters marched on Saturday the 27th of June through downtown Lisbon shouting ‘Portugal is not racist’. The demonstration was organized by Andre Ventura, the leader of the Far Right-party Chega (Enough).

Last October, Ventura won the first far right’s seat in Parliament, where he will face strong opposition of three newly elected black deputies with a Guinean background, Joacine Katar, Beatriz Gomes Dias and Romualda Fernandes. Never before in history was the composition of the Assembly of the Republic that diverse.

The march was held three weeks after thousands gathered in the capital in protest against racism and police brutality and took place at a time when the authorities are worried about a new wave of coronavirus cases in the outskirts of Greater Lisbon, where new lockdown measures have been installed in 19 parishes of Sintra, Loures, Odivelas, Amadora and Santa Clara.

The European Social Survey (ESS) recently showed that nearly two-thirds of the Portuguese people have prejudices on racism; either biological (‘Are there ethnic or racial groups, by nature, more intelligent?’) or cultural (‘Are there cultures, by nature, more civilized than others?’). One in three Portuguese manifest racist opinions on both biological and cultural racism. Only 11% of the population disagrees with all racist beliefs. 

The older the Portuguese are, the greater the number of people who manifest racism.
Although the majority of young people disagree that there are more intelligent ethnic or racial groups, 70% believes that certain cultures are more civilized than others.
Higher levels of education or income do not completely erase racism even though less racism is noted among these citizens.

The good news in the survey is that in recent years the position of the Portuguese against immigrants from different ethnic backgrounds has improved.
Five years ago Portugal belonged to the three EU countries that were most opposed to receiving immigrants from poor countries but it evolved towards greater openness and has become one where this objection dropped significantly.

 ‘However it remains to be seen how these immigrants are integrated’, underlines Alice Ramos, a sociologist at the Social Science Institute of the University of Lisbon. ‘You would have to know why people think that immigrants should enter, what jobs they should do and what they think about nationality and family reunification?
The results do not contradict the results of racist beliefs. It is one thing to give an opinion, the other is an attitude of discrimination against someone with a different ethnic background.’

Stay healthy                          Fique saudável             (pic Público/Sapo)