Back from the brink
But since it elected a socialist government in 2015, the country has accomplished an economic recovery described as “a small miracle”. A coalition among left-wing parties in Portugal has underpinned the government.
Unemployment has fallen from 17.5% in 2013 to 7.9% in 2018. Public finances are “in rude health [paywall]“, with the government expecting to “balance the books next year”. And with a “government-supported entrepreneurship ecosystem”, the country is a “top destination” for businesses and startups.
The policies of prime minister António Costa’s government are remarkably similar to what Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour wants for Britain. Costa’s party campaigned for office on a platform of sustainable growth and an end to austerity. And like Corbyn, Costa and his alliance came under sustained attacks from the Portuguese right, including predictions of economic mismanagement that would derail Portugal’s economy.
Portuguese Socialist Party MP Joao Galamba said:
Portugal has shown Europe that there is another way. By eliminating the austerity policies, we have put the country on the right track. For the people, things are getting better.
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Coimbra University’s Jose Maria Castro Caldas attributes Portugal’s social improvements mostly to the influence of the left-wing members of Costa’s governing alliance. But for now, Portugal is a sign that there are better options for Europe than the neoliberal status quo.
What could be
Portugal’s booming economy is a sign of what could be in Britain under a Corbyn-led Labour government. The country is an example of how modern socialism can thrive. Being ‘anti-business’ is often the smear levelled at the left. But in reality, business can “prosper” under Corbyn’s Labour.
Speaking about austerity, Costa told the Economist:
We showed that there is an alternative to ‘There is no alternative’.
And earlier in 2018, he said in the European Parliament:
In Portugal we devised an alternative to the austerity policy: focusing on higher growth, more and better jobs, and greater equality. The rise in earnings made economic operators more confident… and it has produced a sustained rise in private investment, exports, and growth.
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