Regionalisation 'opportunity to modernise state'

By TPN/Lusa, in News · 05-12-2019 16:36:00 · 0 Comments

The president of the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities (ANMP) has in an interview with Lusa called for more political and administrative regionalisation, casting it as an "opportunity for the modernisation of the state".

Manuel Machado said that the process of devolving powers has already taken important steps and is one that "has to be continued", and that "more than 20 years after the referendum that failed to validate regionalisation, it is time to overcome the taboo" and to press ahead with reform of the state.

Regionalisation, he argued, must move forward "without any rush, with the quiet strength of those dedicated to the public cause who are interested in creating responses, real conditions to respond to what is essential for communities."

The moves in 1998 to secure approval for reform through a referendum failed "exactly when the issue of sharing, of demarcation of border areas, of the maps” of the proposed regions, said Machado, who is also mayor of Coimbra. He said that these issues “poisoned the process" and undermined the discussion.

"With that time behind us and overcome, respecting the referendum methodology", he said, there are "the conditions to put on the political agenda a deep, fair and open debate without complexes that leads to the resumption of the process of political and administrative regions, in order for them to be created with all the care and with the powers they must have."

It is, he added, "the opportunity for the modernisation of the state" and a move to “consolidate what needs to be undertaken in democracy."

According to Machado, the administrative organisation of Portugal under regionalisation should not junk the existing statistical regions, known by their Portuguese abbreviation as ‘NUTs’ – the North, Centre, Metropolitan Area of Lisbon, Alentejo and Algarve – but moves should be made to introduce "adjustments, which should be [on the basis of] as wide a consensus as possible."

Regionalisation is in the interest of "all those who are concerned about what has, so far, been insufficient as a response from the central state to the needs of the territories, the communities,” he argued. In creating administrative regions, he added, it is "fundamental to be clearly define who is responsible for what, who has the means to do what, who is answerable to citizens for public policies."

The reforms will not, he maintained, "increase public spending", since the staff, experts and other resources are already there in the various state bodies, although this is "public expenditure that is not subject to democratic suffrage."

Portugal, he stressed, is "a centralised state, which exacerbates public spending colossally.” The "entropy" generated by centralisation "are so many and such that they affect", for example, "the efficient use of European [Union] funds" and "the efficient and timely response" to economic activities.

Of the current regionalisation proposals, he said that "this opportunity is unique”: if they are implemented properly, “we take a very important step in bringing the state closer to citizens".


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