In Portugal, Professor Carlos Mota Pinto has been set the task of forming the country's tenth government in four years.
In Portugal, Professor Carlos Mota Pinto has been set the task of forming the country's tenth government in four years. If he succeeds, the 42-year-old Prime Minister designate will be faced with his most immediate challenge -- to improve the country's serious economic difficulties. It is an aim made even more important by Portugal's recent application to join the European Economic Community. EEC Commissioners have already highlighted the need for Portugal to remedy what they call certain shortcomings in its economy if it is to join the group.
SYNOPSIS: The revolution of 1974 ended almost 50 years of right-wing dictatorship. But, for many Portuguese, the freedoms they have gained since those days have not been without cost. The average standard of living is still low, inflation runs at over 20 percent. The country is in an economic crisis, felt at the lowest level in the street markets. Prices have risen sharply. Most have quadrupled since 1974. Last year some food prices increased almost 70 percent.
Though prices may have risen , the country's fishing industry has seen its total catch fall by a quarter in five years. The industry is recognised as being badly organised and weak and the government has plans to renew and enlarge the entire commercial fishing fleet. This plan has been made even more urgent by the recent extension of Portugal's offshore fishing limit to 200 miles.
Over a quarter of the country's working population is employed in the agricultural sector. Here too, production is declining. 1977 was a disastrous year. Bad weather, combined with poor productivity, resulted in the worst crop for 40 years. This years is expected to be better, but still a third lower than the average for the past ten years. Portugal produces barely half the food it needs. The rest is having to be paid for with borrowed money.
Portugal's industry is still the weakest in Western Europe, though steps have already been taken to revive and strengthen it. This huge new complex at Sines is regarded as possibly being the country's most important industrial link with the outside world. Parts are still being built. The complex has a deep-water port nearby, an oil refinery and a ten unit petro-chemical section that needs more investment in any new government programme. Though it is not clear what effect joining the EEC would have on Portuguese agriculture, the verdict on industry is clear. The EEC Commissioners have spelt out that Portugal needs to improve performance in some sectors of industry, saying hat if this is not done, the country's economic position could deteriorate even further, if and when it is faced with direct competition from other members.
This ship repair yard, Lisnave, on the Tagus Estuary, is one firm that has managed to successfully ride the changes in politics and governments since 1974. As such it may be a pointer to the future. It has got the biggest ship-repairing facilities in the world and is one of the largest employers in Portugal.
Whatever government emerges, it is certain it will be forced to draw up an economic programme to pull Portugal out of its present economic crisis.