I've written about this before but a big front page article in the New York Times business section is a good excuse to right about it again. Portugal, my ancestral homeland, besides begin a great place in general, has taken the lead in showing the left how to properly deal with the European crisis. And the results have been excellent. Here's the story:
"[W]hen Europe’s debt crisis struck, [t]he economy crumbled, wages were cut, and unemployment doubled. The government in Lisbon had to accept a humiliating international bailout.
But as the misery deepened, Portugal took a daring stand: In 2015, it cast aside the harshest austerity measures its European creditors had imposed, igniting a virtuous cycle that put its economy back on a path to growth. The country reversed cuts to wages, pensions and social security, and offered incentives to businesses.
The government’s U-turn, and willingness to spend, had a powerful effect. Creditors railed against the move, but the gloom that had gripped the nation through years of belt-tightening began to lift. Business confidence rebounded. Production and exports began to take off....
At a time of mounting uncertainty in Europe, Portugal has defied critics who have insisted on austerity as the answer to the Continent’s economic and financial crisis. While countries from Greece to Ireland — and for a stretch, Portugal itself — toed the line, Lisbon resisted, helping to stoke a revival that drove economic growth last year to its highest level in a decade.
The renewal is visible just about everywhere. Hotels, restaurants and shops have opened in droves, fueled by a tourism surge that has helped cut unemployment in half. In the Beato district of Lisbon, a mega-campus for start-ups rises from the rubble of a derelict military factory. Bosch, Google and Mercedes-Benz recently opened offices and digital research centers here, collectively employing thousands....
“What happened in Portugal shows that too much austerity deepens a recession, and creates a vicious circle,” Prime Minister António Costa said in an interview. “We devised an alternative to austerity, focusing on higher growth, and more and better jobs.”
Voters ushered Mr. Costa, a center-left leader, into power in late 2015 after he promised to reverse cuts to their income, which the previous government had approved to reduce Portugal’s high deficit under the terms of an international bailout of 78 billion euros, or $90 billion. Mr. Costa formed an unusual alliance with Communist and radical-left parties, which had been shut out of power since the end of Portugal’s dictatorship in 1974. They united with the goal of beating back some of the toughest aspects of austerity, while balancing the books to meet eurozone rules.
The government raised public sector salaries, the minimum wage and pensions and even restored the amount of vacation days to prebailout levels over objections from creditors like Germany and the International Monetary Fund. Incentives to stimulate business included development subsidies, tax credits and funding for small and midsize companies."
Got it? Left unity + anti-austerity + growth = success. Yes, I know things are not perfect there and yes, yes [insert special circumstance that, in your view, would make this approach work in Portugal but nowhere else]. But it is a bit of a mystery why the Portuguese Way hasn't been embraced by more on the European left. I guess they're not tired of losing yet!
Read the whole article. Great pix, especially the first one of Porto--beautiful city!