Financial Times

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Portugal debates future of welfare state
Financial Times

How much the Portuguese are prepared to pay for public health, education and welfare services has become the focus of national debate after warnings from Pedro Passos Coelho, the prime minister, that the country’s economic future depends on root-and-branch reform of what the state provides.

But redefining the state’s responsibilities is highly contentious for many Portuguese, who see universal health care and education, free or subsidised at the point of delivery, as fundamental achievements of the 1974 revolution that overthrew 48 years of dictatorship. The government’s opponents fear it wants to destroy the welfare state.

The country has to choose between higher taxes or fewer state services, Vítor Gaspar, finance minister, said. “There appears to be an enormous divergence between what the Portuguese believe the state should deliver and the amount of taxes they are prepared to pay,” he told parliament recently.

Taxes have already risen substantially. The 2013 budget, the toughest in living memory, includes income tax increases of about 30 per cent. In this environment, means-testing charges for state health care and university tuition has moved to the top of the political agenda as the centre-right government struggles to discipline public finances.

Dans un futur pas si lointain, on écrira ce genre d’article à propos du Québec…