WHAT WILL CHANGE IN 2019 IN PORTUGAL
Last October, Parliament passed the State budget plan for 2019. From the civil service to education and migration policy, here are just some of the measures expected this year.
2019, an election year
This will be a pivotal year for Portuguese politics. 2019 will be marked by two important elections. The "Europeans", which will take place in May and determine the horizon for 2023-2024. For the member states of the European Union, then the legislative elections, which will take place in October. For Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, these legislative elections are his first as President of the Republic. But whatever the results, he will remain in office until 2021. For Prime Minister António Costa, on the other hand, as he enters the final year of his mandate, the stakes are quite different.
If he leads his party in the polls the PS. However, the polls do not give it a parliamentary majority. This suggests that the "geringonça", the current alliance with the other left-wing forces, will be maintained. One thing is certain: the budget he and his government have drawn up for the coming year, and the measures that will flow from it, will have an impact on his political future.
Lower public deficit
This is one of the main measures included in the state budget. In the words of Finance Minister Mario Centeno: "It's a budget that pursues the path of rigor and balance in public accounts".. He wants to reduce the public deficit to 0.2 % of GDP in 2019 (compared with 0.7% in 2018).
The lowest rate in 43 years of democracy. This drop will be accompanied by economic growth forecast at 2.2% in 2019. Against 2.3% last year. and an unemployment rate that should continue to fall, from 6.9% in 2018 to 6.3% this year. Public investment, meanwhile, will increase by 16%. 4.1 billion euros will be devoted to financing new medical centers across the country and building new railway lines.
Upgrading the civil service
Civil service salaries are set to rise by around 3% in 2019, the biggest increase in public administration salaries in the last ten years. 50 million will be allocated to increasing civil servants' pay. For many of them, however, this increase is nothing out of the ordinary. "I'm a teacher and my husband works in the justice sector. Over the last ten years our salaries have suffered successive falls, so for us this increase is just a return to normality and decency."explains 58-year-old Gilda. António Costa has also announced the recruitment of 1,000 new civil servants in 2019, particularly in the fields of planning and digitization of public policies. In terms of pensions, the 2019 budget abolishes the obligation for civil servants to retire at 70.
In 2019, the maximum tuition fee for higher education will rise to €856. This is 212€ less than the current amount of 1068€. Many academics feared this measure which may actually reduce the number of students eligible for university scholarships. To compensate, perhaps, the government has introduced free textbooks for students up to Terminale.
Emigration, Costa's hobbyhorse
Issues related to recent emigration were among the first measures announced by the Prime Minister in August 2018. Who had declared that the 2019 budget would attempt to bring back to Portugal people who had emigrated between 2011 and 2015. Notably through tax benefits.
Costa has kept his promise, and emigrants returning to Portugal between 2019 and 2020 will not be will only pay half the IRS. In other words, income tax.
Taxpayers considered resident in Portugal between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020 will be eligible for this tax break. Provided they have not been resident in Portugal for the last three years.
With five months to go before the European elections, António Costa defends his budget "It's a good budget that follows the course we've charted so far. More growth, more jobs and more equality". he tweeted. Some of his measures are already generating debate.[arm_setup id="8″ hide_title="false"]