Portugal’s Socialists Pledge to Raise Minimum Wage, Boost Competitiveness

LISBON — The new leader of Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party (PS) Pedro Nuno Santos pledged Sunday to increase the minimum wage and boost economic competitiveness through more incentives to select sectors, if he wins an election in March. 

Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, in office since 2015, resigned on Nov. 7 over an investigation into alleged illegalities in his government’s handling of lithium, hydrogen and data center projects. 

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has called a snap election for March 10. 

Most opinion polls put the PS neck and neck with the center-right Social Democratic Party, but many analysts fear a post-election quagmire and a potential strengthening of the role of the far-right, anti-establishment party Chega. 

At a center-left party congress, Santos said that “only a more sophisticated, diversified economy will be able to produce with greater added value, pay better wages and generate revenue to finance an advanced social state.” 

In June, Portugal was placed 39 out of 64 countries in the IMD-Institute for Management Development’s competitiveness world ranking, which put Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland as the three most competitive economies. 

“We don’t want a country in the average of the European Union, but at the top. We will only be able to transform the economy with more selective incentives… with more money for fewer sectors… during a decade,” Santos said. 

The key sectors will be identified by companies and universities, he said. 

The Bank of Portugal last month lowered its 2024 economic growth forecast to 1.2% from 1.5% it had set in October, in a slowdown from last year’s 2.1% expansion. 

Santos also promised to increase the minimum wage to at least 1,000 euros ($1,094.10) a month in 2028, compared to the current 820 euros ($897.57). 

The 46-year-old former infrastructure minister replaced Costa as secretary-general of the PS after winning a party election in mid-December. 

He praised Costa for balancing the public accounts over the past eight years, but acknowledged there was a shortage of doctors and teachers and a problem with access to housing.  

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