António Costa enaltecido no Times of India

High drama as history and made in Lisbon this week as the Socialist Party's Antonio Costa has become Prime Minister of Portugal. The son of ferociously anti-colonial Goan writer Orlando da Costa (whose classic novel 'O Signo da Ira' is set in the Margao neighbourhoods he grew up in) fought his way to the top job in highly unconventional fashion. Earlier this month, his coalition with the Green, Communist and Left Block parties brought down the brand new minority conservative government in a stunning parliamentary vote after it had been in office for just 11 days. Now the shortest-lived administration in Portuguese history will be replaced by the first-ever leftist alliance that has ever come together in the four decades since the country transitioned to democracy. Costa faces considerable challenges. The conservative establishment of Portugal - led by the President Anibal Cavaco Silva - tried mightily to keep him out of power, straining the country's relatively young democratic processes in the bargain. The new Goan-origin Prime Minister himself admits the struggle was akin to "tearing down the last remains of a Berlin wall." Meanwhile, his opponents are adamant about portraying his leadership as illegitimate. The former Finance Minister, Manuela Ferreira Leite went so far as to call it "'A true coup d'etat." Meanwhile, there is even more heartburn in the rich countries of Europe, especially Germany, which is the engine behind the dreaded triumvirate of the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund that has wreaked havoc in the name of austerity debt-repayment programmes in Southern Europe. Portugal is just emerging from four very bad years of punishing tax hikes and painful cuts in social and public spending. While Costa has pledged to honour his country's financial commitments, he also promised to "turn the page on austerity." That has made him public enemy number one to the 'troika'. The bankers (and their political masters) fear that Costa's calm leadership will prove a wrecking-ball for the policy agenda that is being imposed on several countries simultaneously - Greece, Ireland, Spain and Italy are all reeling from some variant of austerity policies, and similar rhetoric was deployed in recent UK elections. But what the record shows is austerity has spectacularly failed, and in fact set back the countries where it was imposed by decades. Nobel Prize winning economists like Paul Krugman have repeatedly pointed out "the cure is much worse than the disease." Costa has been forced to declare that the hysterical accusations about his economic agenda are "fantasies." In fact, the 54-year-old is a classic, pragmatic moderate, as has been proven over decades of a highly constructive political career that has seen him hold successively higher offices. Quite soon after entering politics in the 1990's, he became Portugal's Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, then was promoted to Justice Minister. Later he headed the Socialist Party list for the 2004 European elections, and was elected Vice-President of the European Parliament. In 2007, Costa made a flamboyant gamble by resigning all his high offices and making a bid for the office of Lord Mayor of Lisbon, then the troubled centrepiece of a sprawling urban agglomeration which houses around 30% of the country's population. Immediately after winning, he made bold gestures that earned lasting respect and loyalty. First he moved his offices to the crime, drug and prostitution-infested neighbourhood of Mouraria, which became centrepiece of an urban renewal project that has steadily remade Lisbon into the safest, cleanest and greenest capital city of Europe. Perhaps inevitably, the Mayor who is still known by the Konkani nickname 'Babush' to his family began to be called 'Gandhi' by his constituents. Costa's rise to the top of the Socialist Party, and now to Prime Minister of Portugal, has been a case study of methodical, meticulous strategy implemented step-by-step, and with an extraordinary cool head. That quality of supreme calm - a most renowned characteristic of the Goans - will be most valuable to him if the coming maelstrom of challenges is to be survived and overcome. After all, no politician in recent memory has assumed power in a democracy burdened by so many caveats, as well as barely concealed threats. The new Prime Minister of Portugal had to give the President a set of written guarantees about the economy. He has had to simultaneously assure the European Union that he would keep his country's commitments, and keep on board far-left allies who have been against the European Union from inception. All the while, he has kept insisting that he would govern with "a socialist programme" that allows for "a sustainable reduction in deficts and debt." He wants to raise the minimum wage, lift the current freeze on pensions, and cancel pay cuts for civil servants that are due next year. It is an improbable, almost incredible agenda. But the mere fact that Antonio Costa, a grandson of Margao who was born in the year of the liberation of Goa, is now Prime Minister of Portugal, is pretty incredible by itself. Don't bet against him. As our 'Babush' said earlier this week, "I always deliver more than I promise." Times of India

Nenhum comentário: