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Portugal: bread and circus

Artigo Joana Silva Card

Let's wait for the next circus, or for us to finally start discussing serious issues seriously... For me, I had enough of "bread and circus"!


The "bread and circus" policy (panem et circenses) was the way in which Roman statesmen dealt with the population, ensuring their loyalty to the established social model and winning their support. The social criticism of this phrase reflected the lack of interest and misinformation about political issues on the part of the Roman population, who were only concerned with entertainment and having their stomachs full.


In recent times, I cannot ignore the parallel that has been constructed in Portugal. The government "entertains us" with the TAP soap opera. The exchange of protagonists, from Alexandra Reis to Christine Ourmières-Widener, guaranteed a continuity of audience, while the real problems of the country go "unnoticed" and are discussed with little depth.


A country with our economic fragility and social inequity is hardly prepared for another economic shock that seems inevitable.

With the announcement of the continuation of the rise in interest rates and a request for restraint in terms of budgetary measures and salary increases by the European Central Bank, it is evident that we will have many Portuguese families in situations of great adversity. In order to achieve an inflation rate of 2%, we have witnessed the largest historical increase in interest rates by the ECB, which was 125 basis points in total.


It is unlikely that we will stop here... The OECD report "Fragile Recovery" advocates for further increases in interest rates, and it is expected that the peak in 2024 will be between 5.25%-5.5% in the US and 4.25% in the Eurozone.


Analysts, who estimate an economic slowdown in the Eurozone due to a set of factors, including inflation, uncertainty, restrictive monetary policy, war, energy prices, and consumer confidence, seem to point to a perfect storm of weakening purchasing power and economic instability.


The speculation of essential goods prices (food and energy) and the consequent drop in consumption, which in many cases is the only instrument that the Portuguese have to manage their meager household budgets, is another issue that deserves an urgent solution.

On the other hand, the social unrest that has been permeating Portuguese society is a symptom of concern and concern for the future. In the land of gentle customs, this moment of various protests from all parts of society is almost unique.


Lastly, there is still the uncertainty of a potential crisis in banking institutions. The statements regarding the fall of Silicon Valley Bank and the purchase of Credit Suisse echo speeches from the 2008 subprime crisis in which Portuguese banks passed all acidity tests. We have been comforted countless times with statements about not being exposed to risk. Let's hope that this time it is.


It seems that we are in a vicious vortex that will bring difficulties in the near future and that at this moment, not even football, which is typically used as the "opium of the people" and the Portuguese version of the circus, will be enough to distract the Portuguese. Let's wait for the next circus, or for us to finally start discussing serious issues seriously... For me, "bread and circus" is enough!


Article published in Jornal Económico.

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