Friday, October 19, 2012

Positive news about Portugal needed


Reuters marked the latest phase in the nation’s economic crisis with the headline, “Portugal faces suffocating 2013 budget.”  
The lead paragraph in an Associated Press report on the same day said that “Portugal's government is taking the bailed-out country deeper into austerity, announcing Monday sharp tax increases next year that risk worsening a recession and stoking public discontent.”
The South China Morning Post ran the story below an AP photograph of riot police guarding the parliament building in Lisbon near a fire set by protesters against the austerity measures.
A couple of days later the Economist commented: “Seldom have protesters, economists and politicians been so united in describing the plans: ‘brutal’, ‘a crime against the middle class’, a ‘fiscal atomic bomb’. Few agree with (Finance Minister) Mr Gaspar’s claim that ‘this is the only possible budget’ and that to question it is to risk being subjected to a ‘dictatorship of debt’ with Portugal condemned to depend on its official creditors indefinitely.”
As the story moved on, the Washington Post declared in a headline that “Bailed-out Portugal raises $2.4 bln in debt auction despite economic crisis.” Bloomberg Businessweek’s take on the same subject gave no hint of achievement: “Portugal raises less that maximum amount set at bill sale.”
A dispatch run by Canadian Press among others was about as good as it got this week: “The junior party in bailed-out Portugal’s coalition government has ended days of political tension by endorsing a plan for severe tax increases next year, ensuring the new austerity measures are approved in Parliament.”
An important side issue in this grim economic saga is that not only has it created great despondency in this country, but also made Portugal internationally synonymous with despair.
Time magazine recently ran an article by Bill Clinton entitled ‘The Case for Optimism.’ The former American president opened with the following observation. “Our world is more interdependent than ever. Borders have become more like nets than walls, and while this means that wealth, ideas, information and talent can move freely around the globe, so can the negative forces shaping our shared fates. The financial crisis that started in the U.S. and swept the globe was further proof that - for better and for worse - we can't escape one another.”
Optimism about Portugal has become hard to find, but there was a welcome respite amidst the reportage of economic gloom. “Portugal: small but mighty in the world of wine,” declared a headline in the Huffington Post, which claims more than a billion page views monthly on its worldwide news network.
We could do with more of that.

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