The Wonk Corner EP2 : 人民力量? 'Power to the People?'

Hi there! I’m Adam Freeman and welcome to Episode 2 of DaHungryCouple’s ‘Wonk Corner’, where I continue to get wonky about political and economic issues here in Portugal.

So the elephant in the room now seems to be the global pandemic of COVID-19, and we want to treat this with the seriousness it requires, because this is likely to be a massive shift in how the world operates. It’s important to look at what governments around the world are doing to mitigate the impacts of the virus upon their peoples. So let’s take a look at some of the news out of Portugal, shall we?

Portugal has recently received extremely positive press citing a ‘Portuguese miracle’, mostly because the country moved quickly to heed the warning signs. Compared to the lockdown timelines in Spain, France and Italy, Portugal’s choice to lockdown on March 16, 2020 with only 448 confirmed cases was quite different, and has been cited as one of the reasons the country has been able to avoid massive infection rates.

It also helps that the Portuguese themselves have ‘rallied toward responsibility’. Not only have regular people generally followed the rules of lockdown, but the Portuguese politicians themselves seem to have placed disagreements aside in order to effectively manage the situation. All opposition parties have come together to hopefully do what’s best for the people of Portugal.

The healthcare system here suffered tremendously due to the Great Recession of 2008. However, the silver lining has been that from December 2015 to December 2019, capital investments of roughly 1.6 billion Euros have been invested in their improvement. While it’s not perfect, the system is in a much better place to manage this pandemic, especially if numbers of the infected are flattened through adequate social distancing measures.

Ensuring access to healthcare has been one of the most incredible decisions Portuguese lawmakers have made so far. On March 28, 2020, Reuters released an announcement that all migrants to Portugal with applications in the immigration systems would have the same rights to access healthcare and social welfare programmes as citizens.

This decision inspired us to write a letter to the Prime Minister. I’ll read a small section here.

‘The decision to extend the benefits of residency to all immigrants with applications pending at SEF made us proud of the Portuguese government’s handling of some of the issues surrounding this crisis. We find the decision an incredibly humane approach that considers the dignity of the migrant. We applaud this and encourage Parliament and the various Ministries to continue to make policy decisions that follow a similar ethos.’

Let me be clear. They DID NOT have to do this. Yet they looked at valuing people…ALL PEOPLE…regardless of migration status. This is an incredible statement of the value of the individual during a time when other countries are NOT making those kinds of decisions. Bravo, Portugal!

A few more decisions have been made as well. On April 16, 2020, it was reported that Portugal’s President and Prime Minister agree that implementing ‘contact tracing’ measures (as made famous by Singapore) to digitally trace citizens is considered ‘unconstitutional’.

I had plenty to say about that on our recent post: Portugal’s Rejection of ‘Contact Tracing’. To wit:

‘Is the decision to reject such measures predictive of the responses the Portuguese President, Prime Minister, Ministers and Parliament will make to protect the human freedoms of the Portuguese in the future? I very much hope so, and if you’re considering moving here, these decisions should set your mind at ease. Governments of the world are presently facing a major decision as to the treatment of their peoples. Will they be treated in alignment with accepted human rights? Or will they be asked to choose between ‘privacy and health’? It seems the decisions Portugal is currently making lean toward the validation of citizens as human beings, first and foremost. I’m glad we invested.’

Finally, it seems that there is good news (at least for now) concerning the Golden Visa programme. In Episode 1 of our ‘Wonk Corner’, we discussed how there were elements of an ‘on again, off again’ approach to the exact details of the programme. The municipalities of Lisbon and Porto were to be off limits for further Golden Visa investment. An article released on April 15, 2020 has confirmed that the government will put a pause on examining the limitation of Golden Visa property investment in Porto and Lisbon, with no defined timeline in sight. A representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated: “The changes are not a priority at the moment”. I personally do not expect it to be taken up again any time soon.

So, fingers crossed! As of filming, that’s the majority of information we’ve seen coming off the presses in Portugal. There’s certainly more to come, and we’ll be back in the future to ‘wonk out’ with more ‘on the ground’ reports concerning conditions in Portugal as the pandemic unfolds.

To all those viewing this, we certainly wish you and yours continued safety and security during these unpredictable times. Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments, and check out our blog (and sources). All information is in the video description below.

Until next time!


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