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State of the Nation: personal attacks and asymmetrical readings 30 Julho 2009

The debate on the State of the Nation that took place in the National Assembly Wednesday, July 29, began with personal attacks between various different members of parliament and ended with asymmetrical readings on employment, health care, safety and Cape Verde’s macroeconomic indicators. While opposition party MpD believes that the country is “in freefall,” Prime Minister José Maria Neves affirms that this is a “nation with a high level of self-esteem” because “the country continues to grow” despite the international financial crisis.

The MpD spent yesterday’s entire plenary session defending its opinion that the current government is one “of expediency, without policies and without results.” This was the tone of the discourse of MpD leader Jorge Santos, a tone echoed in statements made by legislators Orlando Dias and Fernando Elísio Freire, both of whom stressed that Cape Verde “is on the wrong path” and needs urgent change because all of its social indicators “are in freefall.”

In his speech, Jorge Santos classified the government as “weak,” as “it long ago gave up governing with policies and began pretending to be a construction company.” “There are no policies or responses to the fundamental areas that make any country progress: justice, safety, public administration, regulation and a business environment conducive to development. There are no policies or responses for the nation’s greatest plight, which is unemployment,” he argued.

For his part, Prime Minister José Maria Neves affirmed at the end of yesterday’s session that he was “disappointed, because the opposition gave no valuable contribution to the debate.” In the opinion of the leader of the government, the MpD is not interested in the development of Cape Verde, and as such talks of freefall in social indicators when “the numbers show that the country continues to grow,” despite the international financial crisis.

“It should be stressed that Cape Verde has been able to resist: the economy continues to grow – 4% to 5% in 2009, although the initial forecasts of 6% to 7% were adjusted downwards. But even so, a recovery in the realm of 5% to 6% is forecast for 2010, and is projected to continue at a strong pace in the following years. Inflation is low and a rate of 3.3% is projected for 2009. Foreign reserves remain at comfortable levels, corresponding to more than 3 months of imports. These numbers show a mitigation of the crisis while the rest of the world is speaking of profound recession,” said the Prime Minister at the opening of the debate.

Over the course of more than five hours of debate, the arguments from either side varied little. The opposition downplayed the government’s infrastructure program, noting that “the infrastructures that the government boasts about do not respect the priorities of national development,” while the governing PAICV defended the “positive impact” that roads, ports and airports have on the islands’ economy.

After a raucous start, the MpD quickly used up its floor time, and the government took advantage of the opportunity to try to deconstruct the opposition’s “negative reading” with statements by cabinet ministers Basílio Ramos, Sara Lopes, Cristina Duarte and Madalena Neves.

Confrontations

The State of the Nation debate was also characterized by personal attacks, as well as various interventions by the president of the National Assembly, Aristides Lima, aimed at restoring order and decorum. At one point, Lima even raised his voice to say he was “fed up” with being given lectures by those who understood “nothing” of the issue at hand, when MpD legislator Mário Fernandes suggested that he was being biased in his parliamentary leadership.

In the morning, Lima also threatened to take the floor away from MpD leader Jorge Santos, who used the arrest of lawyer Manuel Barbosa – Prime Minister José Maria Neves’ half-brother – to suggest that relatives of the Prime Minister were involved with drugs. Indeed, the statement marked the first hours of the debate and relegated the actual political debate on the State of the Nation to the background.

UCID legislator António Moneiro also took offense at the use of the expression “bird of prey,” which the Prime Minister used to characterize his political stance. Monteiro expressed the need to organize a debate on the quality of Cape Verde’s democracy, considering the episodes that took place yesterday in parliament.

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