Passos Coelho denies an understanding between António Costa and mayors for decentralization

The PSD has not awakened to decentralization now and “only someone deeply inattentive or excessively centered on their navel” can […]

The PSD has not awakened to decentralization now and "only someone deeply inattentive or excessively focused on their navel" can appeal to the Social Democrats to do decentralization, said, this Saturday, Pedro Passos Coelho. The president of the PSD was speaking at a conference on the decentralization of competences promoted by the PSD in Silves.

Passos Coelho took the opportunity to leave conditions for debate and consensus that would allow for a serious decentralization reform to be carried out, which is not, however, “the cornerstone of the reform of the State”. For the president of the PSD, it is clear: “it is only the cornerstone of the reform of the State for those who do not know how to carry out the reform of the State”, but it remains an important part of that process.

Criticizing the delays that the Government will be promoting, the social-democratic leader took advantage of the event with Rogério Pinto, PSD candidate for the Municipality of Silves, to establish conditions for the reform of the central administration's decentralization of competences to be carried out. local government entities.

"Decentralization should not cost the State more for the future than it costs today not to have it." Pedro Passos Coelho insisted that, due to the proximity factor and knowledge of the populations, local authorities are more capable of doing “better done at the local level”, with efficiency gains and, at the outset, with the same resources, not burdening the State at more expense. “It is a pre-condition for moving forward with decentralization,” he reiterated.

"The heterogeneity of city councils and parish councils always requires solutions that have some flexibility." The social-democratic leader stressed that, in some cases, a universal transfer of competences is not beneficial for local authorities and populations and because of the desired results.

Thus, what is needed, he argued, is to expand the experience of inter-administrative contracts that his government signed with various municipalities, as a test of the decentralization of competences in the areas of health, education and culture.

The transfer of competences, explained the president of the PSD, does not have to be “a straitjacket” but “a big goal” that can be extended or not depending on the conditions that the municipalities reveal to have to receive certain competences.

“The new Local Finance Law must bring mutual trust.” Pedro Passos Coelho described the difficulty in building a relationship of mutual trust between central administration and local authorities due to the financial fact. The issue is to negotiate the resources of the central state for missions such as the conservation of local heritage.

If the State does not have these resources, which could compromise local authorities not receiving these funds, Pedro Passos Coelho asked, not without first remembering that a “very significant part” of local revenue does not stay in the municipalities.

“Of course, for the current government, there is always money. There is just no money to increase the number of magistrates, for that the economic-financial situation does not allow it”, he joked. “It is not simple to find a financing solution that generates trust”, so “it was necessary to have started debating this issue a long time ago because it will not be easy”, he warned. There are, for example, municipalities that see their equipment and infrastructures more overloaded by the growing seasonal demand (due to tourism) and where, at other times of the year, this demand is reduced. "We have to find a solution in the Local Finance Law that will allow us to resolve this type of problem."

For Pedro Passos Coelho, the discussion for decentralization must be conducted with conviction and balance and without demagoguery.

And it is not only the history that gives the PSD an advance on this issue, but also the DNA of the party: “We are reformists, gradualists and realists”, reiterated the speaker. But “for those who are always concerned about the outcome of the next elections, the impact on the next poll and evaluation panel”, these questions “are a kind of annoyance”, he accused. For the current government, considers Pedro Passos Coelho, "what is needed is talk" and try to create the idea that the other parties do not want to participate in this reform.

“If they need us for something, they don't have to give anything in return: only seriousness in addressing the issues”, concluded Pedro Passos Coelho, leaving a note so that the Government does not disqualify those who are now asking to give it a hand. consensus for reforms such as decentralization and public works planning. For the rest, the PSD's thinking on these issues is well known, highlighted the PSD leader.

It is very desirable that decentralization can move forward after the local elections, also recommended the president of the Social Democrats, given that half of the legislature has already been lost “because the government has not done its homework”. It is necessary to “make up for lost time and manage to generate” a broad understanding between mayors and the parliamentary majority.


António Costa's government lost two years

The leader of the social democrats also defended, in Silves, that the government of António Costa lost two years to carry out decentralization. When he finally did, what the Executive presented was nothing more than a set of vague intentions about the decentralization of competences, he condemned Pedro Passos Coelho.

“The extraordinary thing”, he continued, is that after a first generic intention by the Government in which the powers to be decentralized were not specified, it took “almost two months” for the Executive to say exactly what it wanted to transfer.

And "the supposed understanding" that the "prime minister said he had achieved with the mayors does not exist", said Pedro Passos Coelho, recalling that the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities (ANMP) responded to the Government with a favorable opinion for this process of decentralization, asking for more information on skills to be delivered locally.

"The Government took two months to put on paper what it called draft decree-laws, which would put into practice those delegations of powers", reported Pedro Passos Coelho, adding that the Executive did not send the document to the parties but only to the representative of the municipalities.

“It remained to discuss how, from a financial point of view, municipalities can carry out those competences”. And even the ANMP opinion was not the result of a unanimous opinion, as some of the association's mayors criticized the fact that the intention was to decentralize only in terms of infrastructure; others highlighted as positive the measures to decentralize at the level of parishes as if it were the first time they had been contemplated, although this possibility of delegating to parish councils already exists in law, as long as the municipal assemblies approve it; still others pointed to the universality of the transfer of competences, asking for a study on it.

In view of these issues, it is important to conclude that “it is a conversation that must be conducted with great seriousness and caution”, said Pedro Passos Coelho. “It seemed to us that the Government had conducted the whole process very poorly”, and, as for the Local Finance Law, it is not even known yet.

“When we called the Government's attention because too much time had been wasted” and for what the PSD had already presented, reported Pedro Passos Coelho, the Social Democrats put on the table the creation of a commission with experts, which could accelerate the debate in time for the new municipal electoral cycle that will begin with the next elections. “The majority also failed” that commission.

Basically, the Government did not prepare in time and failed everything that the PSD proposed. Despite saying that he wants to make decentralization such a cornerstone of state reform, "half of the legislature has been consumed and nothing has happened." “We have to conclude that there is a lot of talk but little work”, he concluded.

“And when there is a lot of conversation and little work, which is what the Government has been getting us used to”, challenged Pedro Passos Coelho, to respond immediately: “Instead of correcting the hand and amending, in the end, try to overcome the deficiencies that were putting it on the path that it forces us to do, the Government pretends that none of this has happened and communicates with the Country as if, suddenly, poor Government, it couldn't do anything because the parties don't want to”.

The Government “washes its hands”. The prime minister “says that his government partners are against it”, the “gimmick does not fit what he considers to be the cornerstone of state reform” and then “the PSD has to serve for state reform and therefore, let him wake up” to it.

Pedro Passos Coelho left the appeal: “I hope that the next two years are not thrown out the window like these were. There is no reason why we cannot take decentralization forward.”


PSD says it started preparing for decentralization in the previous legislature

"In the previous legislature, we took several measures with some relevance to prepare a decentralization process, mainly based on local authorities and municipal organizations that have existed for some years, in particular the CIM [Intermunicipal Councils]" without excluding the Areas Metropolitans.

Pedro Passos Coelho described the PSD's long history in preparing a reform that would strengthen the country's cohesion at various levels, as part of the urgently needed State reform. That work “allowed that, even in 2015, the State had contracted with several autarchies a set of delegation of powers subject to the transfer of adequate financial means for the evaluation from part to part”. This work was done mainly in the areas of health, education and culture.

Now, the current government “has not made any assessment of this experience, which is a bad principle”, particularly for those who defend wanting to carry out decentralization. “Leaves a lot to be desired”, he considered.

Pedro Passos Coelho recalled that that process involved the transfer of competences to the local government, such as the management of non-specialized personnel, technical and operational assistants, the definition of the hours of operation of primary health care units.

“There is no reason for the Ministry of Education to be defining the level of workload” for a student, with the central level being responsible for defining the general policy lines and relying on local responsibility for proximity issues.

“We have not lost this ambition” and “I must say that the Government does not have it”, assured the president of the PSD.
“Still in the previous legislature, while we were in government, we advanced with inter-administrative contracts so that the delegation of these powers could be done with the municipalities that so understand”.

In the current legislature, in the debate on the National Reform Program, “we presented a set of recommendations to the Government in this area”, many of which were rejected and, emphasized Pedro Passos Coelho, those that were approved became “dead letter”.

“When the time came to discuss the State Budget”, the PSD also presented a set of proposals that, in addition to recovering the experience already launched while the PSD was in Government, went further in the decentralization of competences. "These were all outright rejected under the pretext that the budget discussion" was not the right time to deal with the matter.

And “back in March of this year, the Government presented in Parliament a vague intention to be able to advance in decentralization”, recalled the leader of the PSD. After the successive delays he promoted, the prime minister is now appealing for the PSD's consensus, ignoring his parliamentary majority, without even having presented any line for the Local Finance Law.


PSD candidates fight for opportunities, not content with the day-to-day

In Aljezur, during the presentation of the candidacy of Hélder Cabrita, the president of the PSD highlighted the way of being of the Social Democratic candidates and mayors.

Pedro Passos Coelho stated that it is very important “to be able to have a team in front of the camera that does not close its doors to important opportunities. This is decisive for several territories that struggle against desertification, against many restrictions on investment", adding that "our way of being shows that we are in the elections thinking about the future and correcting something that may not be right."

For the PSD, it is essential to go looking for opportunities “and not wait for them to knock on our door. On PSD, we are always available to look for what we need, and fight for it. Living from day to day is not enough, we all have the ambition to be able to improve something, to strive for more.”

Pedro Passos Coelho also defended that local authorities have a growing importance in building the future, despite decentralization being “delayed” because the Government is “distracted”. Even so, today, “with what is already at the disposal of the Local Government, we can do more than has been done, and we managed to convey this ambition to people”.

The social-democrat leader also recalled that as time goes by, “we feel in people a different mobilization. It is good to remember that elections are not decided before they take place”. Today, “as time passes, greater expectations are created. If we have communists and blocists in charge of government decisions, why shouldn't we have social democrats to have an important and decisive say in municipalities like Aljezur?”