Portugal needs a saviour By Jose Manuel Fernandes - Monday 28th March 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/28/portugal-needs-a-saviour.html

THE discussions had barely started on Wednesday night when the then prime minister, Jose Socrates, made an abrupt exit from a crucial meeting at the Portuguese parliament, running down the stairs of the building in order to escape the reporters waiting for him at the bottom.
Like everyone else in the country, the press had wanted to know why he was so disrespectful towards the representatives of the nation. The TV images of this hasty escape have already become iconic: after having his austerity package rejected, Socrates soon after announced his resignation, plunging Portugal — and Europe — deep into political crisis.
On the streets, Socrates’s resignation was greeted with a sigh of relief. For many, the prime minister has come to embody the ills of our country and the sins of our political leaders. On March 12, Portugal saw the largest national demonstrations in decades, when a Facebook appeal led to hundreds of thousands of people marching peacefully in Lisbon and Porto against rising unemployment and the shrinking of wages and pensions.
There’s a distinct feeling of hopelessness in the air: never before has Portugal had so many unemployed. People have been leaving the country in droves, and as usual it is those we need most, the young with the best qualifications, who are at the front of the queue.
The national debt is at its highest in more than a century. The last time the country saw anything resembling economic growth was back in 2000. Everywhere there is a fear that, after a lost decade, there might come yet another. Portugal appears to be undergoing a process of economic decay. Many worry that the country will fail in its ambition to catch up with the most developed nations in Europe.
Deep down, Portugal feels it has been playing catch-up for the last two centuries. After the loss of Brazil in 1820, and the failure to follow up on the promise of the industrial revolution, intellectuals began to speak of an ‘under-developed’ Portugal — to contrast with the developed country of the previous centuries. It was around the same time we saw the rise of ‘Sebastianismo’ in Portuguese culture — that is, the longing for the reawakening of a national saviour figure, as the last ruler of the ‘golden dynasty’, King Sebastian, had been, a sentiment kept alive by writers such as the 20th-century poet Fernando Pessoa.
For a while it looked as if the sleeping king had indeed returned. After entering the European union in 1986, several years of strong economic growth created a vision of a new and developed Portugal. That turned out to be an illusion. Socrates never promised to be anything like a new King Sebastian — the WikiLeaks cables paint a portrait of a leader who doesn’t like sharing power and hates negotiations.
—The Guardian, London

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