And you like
football. You like Benfica!
This isn’t about liking,
this is a passion. Passion is excessive amounts of affection. It is different
from passion in the sense of a relationship between a man and a woman, which is
a relationship that develops over time into love, consideration, respect,
friendship. I’ve been married for 45 years, and before that we were seeing each
other for six years, so I’ve been with my wife for 51 years. Today, we no
longer have a passion for each other. We have other ways of liking each other.
With football and with Benfica, it’s not like that. It is always passion. And
so, it’s as much a vitamin-like and analgesic passion, as, when we lose, it is brutal,
violent, but I like it, I find it amusing.
My eldest granddaughter,
Joana, is 14 years old and she is mad about Benfica. I have four
granddaughters, and one of them supports Sporting. In fact, whenever she is
with me as I drive past the Estádio da Luz stadium, she covers her face, and I
usually say, «You can have no respect for Benfica, but you have to respect your
grandfather» (he laughs). As for my granddaughter Joana, there are
days when Benfica isn’t winning and I no longer think of myself; all I think
about is her. I want them to win just for Joana’s sake. Some days ago, she said
to me, «Oh, if we don’t win, we won’t be five-time champions,» and I said, «Oh,
Joana, I’ve waited 69 years to be four-time champions, you’re still 14, take it
easy» (he laughs). I always try to keep things rational for
Who is this man in
the eyes of those who know him or may come to know him?
That’s a good question.
There is one thing that I am proud of - perhaps the only thing, besides being a
father, grandfather and husband –, and that is that people, although they may
agree or disagree with what I’m saying, explaining, or doing, realise that I
don’t say anything just for sake of saying it, and that is the truth. I like
life; I like the aletoscope; I like being at the airport for two or three hours
looking at people and soaking up the world; I like the patience of time... Time
is so good! I hope that, on the last day of my life, I will still be able to
know something more.
Simply because I want
to, because I like it, I don’t have a utilitarian view of life. There we go
back to the old question: «To be free is to depend on what you like». And...I
like so many things that I feel like a happy person.
Does perfect time
There are two times. The
time of chronos, which shackles us today, for example, to our
mobile phone, our iPad, with which I have a cordial but not obsessive
relationship, because they are means, not ends. And then there is what the
Greeks called kairos, which is spiritual time. I
give more priority to kairos. There are
parents who spend two hours with their children, chronological time (chronos) and spend zero minutes with their children in
spiritual time (kairos). John Paul II said that
there are children who are orphans of living parents. Better to have a minute
of kairos than however many chronological days.
tempo and area. In the State Budget proposal for 2018, what do you agree with
and disagree with?
There is one thing that a former finance minister learns definitively –
if he/she is serious, of course –, which is: you should never make an analysis
of the State Budget in black and white. You can’t say everything is right or
everything is wrong. No! There are always things that have been done well and
there are things that should be done better. Any majority has to say good
things about the budget, often even in disagreement; and the opposition parties
necessarily have to disagree. I understand this political game, but I admit it
is of no interest to me.
Now, this is the only time, as I recall, in which the whole world is
experiencing GDP growth, with the exception of Venezuela and one country or
another. If I were a budgetary technician of La Fontaine, I would say that, in
this budgetary time of recent years, we have gone from being too obstinate, too
stubborn, to a cicada that seems too greedy and too hasty. If we do not make
the most of it now, for fundamental reforms that the country needs, when are we
going to make the most of it?! Perhaps this is a critical stance, but it is a
more philosophical criticism. However, there are some aspects that have seemed
hasty to me over the last two years. One of them: why did we return to a
35-hour week in the civil service?! Firstly: everyone talks about equal
treatment, about equality between public and non-public sector; here, the
public sector no longer wanted to know about the non-public. Secondly, we know
that the state has more staff in some places than in others. The state is
completely de-capitalised in terms of qualifications. The good managing
directors, the state officials, with a career all sewn up, step by step, brick
by brick, have disappeared. They disappeared because they all retired; they
died because they left, disenchanted with the civil service. Today, the state
is completely disarmed, and as a result, laws are made in legal firms. It is a
problem that is not just of this government. The country would need two regime
agreements: the qualification of civil service administration and its serious
revitalisation, and a regime agreement on the tax system; and in the tax system
there is no sign of armistice, only war.
recently spoke to Lusa and said: «The Portuguese tax system is full of
inconsistencies and holes». What kind of tax reform do we need?
The tax system is like a pumice stone: it has many holes and low
density. I would say that the tax on individuals is a tax that is brutally
progressive, in the sense in which the state considers ‘tax rich’. If you look
carefully, a person who earns €2000 pays a marginal income tax rate of close to
40%, plus 11% Social Security, meaning, from the outset, they have more than
50% of their wages cut, and this isn’t about people on high salaries. Sometimes
people say to me: «Ah, we have a maximum income tax rate of 40%, there are
countries that also have 48%, 50% and they do not complain...». Of course. But
these countries have rates of 48% for incomes higher than €500,000 and we have
rates of 48% for incomes of €80,000.
The second point is the matter of corporate tax. I think it is one of
the aspects most criticised in the actions of this government. I apologise, I’m
passing judgment here. Like it or not, today we live in aggressive, brutal
competition, and therefore, when we cut a drop ine corporate tax, in addition
to showing less predictability for economic agents – because they need to have
a predictable tax framework for them to invest –, it requires this scenario of
Third point, the issue of saving, which is a kind of variable shirked by
economic models. Now, there is only investment if there are savings. Today we
have the lowest savings rate in the European Union, 4% of disposable income,
when we used to have 30. In the crisis, in 2008, savings rose, because people
were afraid, a precautionary effect. But 4% of savings is not enough for a
country to live. Any economist knows how to read the A-B-Cs of these issues.
And what do we have today?! Where can people save?! Putting money in the bank,
besides taking a risk, has a yield of practically zero. And the opposite of
saving is consuming. People no longer have a savings culture. Having, trading,
possessing comes before being. People today consume useful things, futile
things and useless things.
The last, and fourth, point is VAT, which is the most important tax in
fiscal terms. It amazes me that we have to pay 23% VAT on energy, and, at the
same time pay 23% on a luxury car, or a precious stone. This government did
something that I disagreed with, which was to once again change VAT in the restaurant
sector from 23% to 13%, and to change energy from 6% to 23%. Would it not have
been better to change energy from 23% to 13%?! VAT should distinguish the
consumption of the goods that you can’t go without, such as electricity, from
those, which, despite everything, you can either refrain from or you can
select. And, in actual fact, VAT does not make such distinctions.
more than ten years away from politics, what would you change today?
For starters I would never be Minister for Economic Affairs, because I
think it is expendable. Ministry of Economic Affairs for what?! The Minister
for Economic Affairs does not deal with economics. He/she gives speeches. The
real Ministry for Economic Affairs is the Ministry of Education – this is the
one that prepares people for the Economy of the future. The Ministry of
Education should not be called ministry of «education», but of «teaching»,
because education begins at home. Raise children well if you do not want to
have problems with adults, as Pythagoras said.
recently took part in the Rethinking Europe seminar.
What conclusions did you draw and what needs to be done to rethink Europe?
I was in the Vatican (and today I even received the photographs in which
I am greeting the Pope, I was very happy). Pope Francis gave a truly amazing
speech. It was a meeting between the four axes of Europe: the West and the
East, the North and the South. (I remember two years or so ago, going to school
because I wanted to improve my Italian. When I was enrolling, a very friendly
lady asked me, «Why do you want to learn Italian, are you going to Italy?»,
«No, I’m not,» I replied, «but do you work for an Italian company?» «No,» and
she continued to ask... very much surprised: «So why would you want to learn
Italian then?», «Because I want to, because I like it and I feel like it,» I
replied, and she said: «Ah, so that’s why!» [he laughs])
Back to the question. The Pope said one thing that was one of the main
conclusions I drew: «We are building a Europe based on archetypes and numbers.»
The Pope said: «We don’t talk about the unemployed, we talk about economic
indicators; we don’t speak about poverty, we talk about poverty thresholds; we
don’t speak about emigrants, we speak of quotas; there is no child, there are
children; there is no family, there are families; there is no institution,
there are institutions.» The model of decision-making and construction of the
European economy is based entirely on numbers, on quantities.
«People consume useful
things, futile things and useless things»