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Pandemic Will Leave Everlasting Scars


Economist Susana Peralta has argued that the pandemic crisis will leave “deep and open scars” that will particularly affect young people, and says that the Recovery and Resilience Plan is an insufficient response that does not solve immediate problems. Talking to journalists, she said:

“One of the worst things about this crisis concerns its affect on young people and children, especially those trying to enter the job market. The pandemic is knocking at everyones door including young people, many of whom are suffering from isolation, no prospect of emigration, mental health issues, lack of schooling, and entry into the job market-.  This is something that will leave medium to long terms scars, effecting us both socially and economically.”

Susana Peralta spoke to Lusa about the report “Portugal, Social Balance 2020 – A portrait of the country and the effects of the pandemic,” published by the Faculty of Economics at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, NOVA SBE and co-written by economist and university professors Bruno P. Carvalho and Mariana Esteves. 

In this report, an “exploratory analysis” is carried out, according to the economist, on the consequences of the pandemic in Portugal, from the beginning until September 2020, noting that there are still no statistical data that allow a more consolidated analysis. The study also states that this crisis is even more asymmetrical in its effects, focusing particularly on “more fragile fringes” of the population, such as precarious and low-wage workers who immediately lost their jobs, especially those employed in the tourist industry. 

For many young people, particularly those recently in the labour market, with low wages and sometimes few qualifications, their ability to find alternative employment or travel abroad to find work is severely limited. The report points out that, in the context of the pandemic, those on low incomes were the most affected by the pandemic and the most vulnerable due to their lack on income and  education opportunities or the fact their previous work was precarious by nature. In short, the report shows that those with higher qualifications were paid more, while those who had left school with a basic education were the poorer ones and more likely to have lost most of their disposable income.”

In a recent interview with the Inevitable newspaper, Susana Peralta argued that the “teleworking bourgeoisie” should help pay for the crisis, with an extraordinary tax on those who have not lost income, and that includes herself, while vehemently defending that those who are working who should show solidarity with those who are not in work for the ‘common good. It is the only decent thing to do, and the only way we can do this is ‘collectively work towards compensating those who have nothing!’ 

Finding money for this compensation involves three possibilities: increasing the public debt, and the economist argues that this should have happened; reallocating money allocated to other public expenses, such as the injection into TAP to save the company, which she criticises; or tax those who have not lost money, arguing that “there is no other way.” The decision is the Government’s and they will be held politically responsible for their actions. Now, one thing is for sure. We have to decide whether or not we want to compensate those out of work due to the crisis.  These people are being made to pay for the state of the world and must feel that life is terribly unfair. Many of them are without money to pay their bills and have to queue to receive free food, which is the most tragic of situations and the biggest failure of a welfare state.”

In response to the crisis, the Recovery and Resilience Plan (PRR) is enough”, saying that it represents about 6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to be spent in the next five years, but that allied to other funds, such as those in the multiannual financial framework for community funds, may generate a far greater sum.  The biggest problem with the PRR, from the economist’s point of view, is that it is a pandemic response programme that does not solve people’s immediate problems, such as having enough money for housing, food and utility bills. 

Added to this is the fact, the PRR does not include a ‘learning recovery plan’ for children who have lost almost two school years, who are not only going to be disadvantaged educationally but who will become the forgotten generation.  

Although her Robin Hood approach makes sense on paper, taxing those who have managed to stay in work or find work is detrimental, as it fuels resentment and discourages people from wanting to work. Working people already pay tax which funds child benefit, unemployment benefit and supplementary benefit, as well as social security which goes towards the Portuguese National Health system and pensions.  What is needed are sound, government schemes that encourage economic re-growth, help those in need, and provide education for both children and adults so that they will be better qualified when searching for work.

Samantha Gannon

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