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Malpractice

‘The elected politician nowadays is more a delegate of the party than a representative of the voter’
(Ramalho Eanes, former President of Portugal)

More than 80% of the Portuguese are of the opinion that corruption – is an essential part of business. In the Eurobarometer inquiry, more than three-quarters of the population – who claim to have witnessed a case of corruption – admit not having reported it.

Last year the country dropped on the Corruption Index – published by Transparency International (TI) placing itself in 33rd place (of 180 countries) with 61 points, the lowest score ever. ‘Over the past 10 years, little to nothing has been done to fight corruption and the result is an expression of this drift’, explains the president of TI-Portugal Susana Coroado.
Since 2016, only four crimes of bribery to foreign agents – all involving Angolan companies – have been investigated and none has resulted in sanctions.

In September the Council of Ministers approved the National Strategy for the Combat of Corruption, forcing public entities and private companies to address endemic threats of mismanagement. Those who do not comply with the new obligations, risk being fined but those who confess corruption might be forgiven.

The judiciary on her part stressed the lack of transparency in the funding of political parties. ‘No serious strategy should leave out the administrations of municipality councils nor the financing of the campaigns of political parties’, Manuel Soares – president of the Judge’s Syndicate – stated on radio. ‘People who are financed when exercising public office favor the companies and entities that pay them.’

Up until now, the Constitutional Court has rejected laws against ‘illicit enrichment.’ But in the wake of Operation Marquês, the tide has turned.
The Association of Portuguese Judges is now aiming at ‘reinforcing transparency in the exercise of public functions, with criminal liability in the case of non-compliance and President Marcelo de Sousa wants the Government to move forward and punish those in public office who become ‘unjustifiably rich.’

A recent survey showed the deeply rooted distrust of the population as to how politicians are properly monitored for corruption and the capacity and reliability of Justice to investigate them. Portuguese consider the President the most reliable (65%) in the fight against corruption, followed by the Government (42%) and the courts (23%).

But there are also international concerns, in particular about money laundering. At the beginning of this year, the European Commission has opened legal procedures against Portugal for incorrectly implementing EU anti-money laundering rules into its national law.


The good news, however, is – also for Brussels – that the controversial Golden Visa program for foreign real estate investment in the coastal and metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Porto is coming to an end this year.


Stay healthy                          Fique saudável            (pic público/sapo)






Xenophobia

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)











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)