Minister explained accounts of the increase in tolls, but did not convince

Minister was heard at the Commission on Public Administration, Administrative Modernization, Decentralization and Local Power

Via do Infante in 2019 – Archive Image

Minister Ana Abrunhosa tried well, but her explanations about the most recent reduction in tolls in ex-Scut, which it fell short of what was expected by the users of these highways and by the opposition parties, not convinced.

concerned, is the controversial decision of the Government in applying the discounts to the original 2011 tolls, and not to those in force on 30 June this year, which were much lower, due to the discounts that have been operated since then.

Despite this, the Minister of Territorial Cohesion guaranteed that the Government's intention to continue "with the gradual reduction to extinction" of the collection of fees on these roads, which includes Via do Infante, during a hearing at the Public Administration Commission, Modernization Administrative, Decentralization and Local Power, in the Assembly of the Republic.

How did the newspaper advance yesterday Middle Tagus, the minister, despite affirming "the Government's commitment" to reduce tolls until they are extinguished, did not advance deadlines, referring only that it will be "what we will do, when we can".

However, this does not seem to be the signal given by the reduction that has been in force since 1 July, which could – and, in the view of opposition MPs, should – be higher.

All because of the base value that the Government used as a reference to operate the reduction that was approved in November by the opposition parties, but with the PS's votes against.

On Wednesday, the “hostilities” were opened, at the first opportunity, by Carlos Peixoto, deputy of the PSD, the political force that presented the proposal approved in the State Budget.

«The minister is able to explain why the PSD proposed, the Assembly of the Republic approved, the prime minister gave a referendum and the President of the Republic promulgated a law that dictated the reduction of tolls in the ex-Scut by 50% and the government publishes an ordinance that, bypassing this law, reduces tolls in amounts that approach 30, 40 or 45%, at most, in relation to the price of tolls that were in force?” he asked.

 

Ana Abrunhosa

 

Ana Abrunhosa admitted that “yes, the actual discounts are those” that the Social Democrat deputy mentioned, but explained why.

"On the 4th of November, the Government approved a resolution of the Council of Ministers where it had a system of toll discounts by quantity", he recalled.

However, at the end of November, the State Budget Law was approved, “where a greater reduction in tolls was foreseen” – this done against the wishes of the PS and the Socialist Government.

Thus, what the Government did was to apply “the State Budget Law in replacement of this toll reduction”.

“I must tell you, gentlemen, that the Government having approved a quantity discount on November 4th, the AR approving another discount on November 26th, in our understanding it was in place”, reinforced the minister.

The government official insisted, claiming that “not even the letter of the law says that it is in accumulation. It does not even mention the basis of the toll reduction'.

These justifications did not convince Carlos Peixoto, who believes that “out there nobody understands” Ana Abrunhosa's explanations.

What everyone understands, he said, is that “when the AR decrees a discount, it is on the tolls in force. It's not about the tolls that were in effect a year ago, two or three ago, 10. That doesn't make any sense».

“The idea is that the Government has been tricking here. In good Portuguese, this is called chico-espertismo. And that doesn't look good. It weakens institutions, democracy», he concluded.

 

Carlos Peixoto

 

Let us then compare the two ordinances mentioned by the minister.

analyzing the Ordinance No. 309-B/2020, of December 31st, which regulated «measures to standardize and reduce costs for motorway users» approved by the Council of Ministers on November 4th, the question of the base reference value was very explicit.

«After the date of entry into force of this statute, the reference tariffs, for setting the toll rates applicable on sections and sub-sections of the motorways referred to in paragraph a) of article 1, will reflect the discount amounts of the reduction schemes which were in force in December 2019, incorporating them", was read in article 4 of the document.

In practice, this section of the ordinance made official the toll prices that were already in force as a reference value.

Following this determination, the Government revoked, in the same ordinance, all the previous ones that instituted discounts on ex-Scut- even because they no longer made sense.

This ordinance was the one that regulated the collection of tolls in the first six months of 2021 and was eventually replaced by the Ordinance No. 138-D/2021, of 30 June, which put into effect the «new discount regime to be applied on various sections and subsections of motorways».

The issue is that the Government, in this new ordinance, not only revoked the ordinance of last December 30, but maintained the repeal of the previous ones, but without such a paragraph that made the amounts collected in December 2019 the reference.

It was this interpretation of the PSD proposal approved by the opposition that led opposition deputies elected by the Algarve to weave harsh criticisms of the Government, such as the Sul Informação I had already figured it out.

Cristóvão Norte, of the PSD, even affirmed that the Government reached “the zero degree of ethics”, guaranteeing that he had never witnessed, as a politician, “an act as lurid, from an ethical point of view, as this one”.

João Vasconcelos, deputy of the Algarve from BE, considered, in his turn, that this is "a tricky artifice" and a "little shame on the part of the Government".

The interventions of both PSD deputies, as well as BE and PCP, in yesterday's parliamentary committee, were in the same direction.

José Maria Cardoso, from the Left Block, ironically welcomed "the minister's hard-working explanation, trying to explain what is not explainable."

The BE parliamentarian defended that the law approved by the opposition "is legal and constitutional, and if it is legal and constitutional it has to be applied, pure and simple, and cannot be applied to the flavor of events."

Paula Santos, deputy of the PCP, spoke of "manigation" of the Government "to not comply with what is provided for in the State Budget."

"What is at stake is the application of a 50% discount compared to what was in force, and not, obviously, compared to what was in force at other times - and that is the fundamental issue", he claimed.

Carlos Peixoto directly warned the minister of an intention that had already been advanced to the Sul Informação by Cristóvão Norte: to take the matter to court if necessary.

"Therefore, Madam Minister, please see if it is possible or not for the Government – ​​put the question in the Council of Ministers – to reverse its measure and comply with what the Government has to comply with, which is to reduce rates by 50% which were in force', he concluded.

 

 

 



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