I’ve been an Economist subscriber for a long time and have grown used to the hard-data, rigor-mentality with which your paper usually approaches most themes. Unfortunately, I was deeply disappointed, very disappointed indeed, with the less rigorous way you depicted my home country Portugal in your latest March 3rd article (“The uncertain society”, pages 27 and 28).
First, the current government design has no Minister for the Sea whatsoever as you (wrongly) stated.
Second, there are no monarchists in the current Parliament either.
Third, our biggest trading partners are not China nor are the east European countries. In fact, China accounts for less than 3% of our overall imports of goods (source: the Bank of Portugal, February 2012). On the contrary, our biggest trading partners are west European nations such as Spain, France, Germany and the UK (source: The Economist, Pocket World in Figures 2012 edition, page 201) towards whom we have indeed lost competitiveness over the (euro) years, and that together account for over than 60% of our imports of goods.
Fourth, our services’ sector is not particularly protected given that there is no evidence of hundreds of protected trades like in other European countries starting with Germany (as your February 18th column on German services, “Protected and inefficient”, so conclusively exposed).
Fifth, our Public sector (at 47% of GDP), although grossly inefficient, and in need of reform and leanness, doesn’t appear to be overly bloated, at least when compared with other developed countries specifically other northern European nations or even the UK. Also, over the past years there has been a significant trimming in the number of Public sector workers, now representing 15% of the overall Portuguese workforce, and, again, not as high as in other nations.
Sixth, productivity, where Portugal, according to Eurostat data, indeed has a problem, specifically the fact that its per-hour productivity is 35 percentage points below the EU average, 40 percentage points below Spain’s and 50 percentage points below Germany’s. However, and herein lies your misjudgement, productivity has grown at a 0,4% annual growth rate over the past ten years, undoubtedly less than what we would need to reduce the gap, but better than the median per-hour productivity growth rate in the euro zone as a whole (0,3% per annum) over the same period of time.
Ricardo Arroja (economist)
Ps: Enviei esta carta para a secção de “Letters” da Economist. Espero que seja publicada, até porque, mesmo no site da Economist, o artigo está a gerar muita discórdia. Podem ler outros comentários aqui: www.economist.com/node/21548977/comments#comments
Pps: Estive a ler melhor os comentários ao artigo no site da internet e, afinal, o que vejo lá é muitos tugas a aceitarem de barato a incorrecta factualidade da Economist e a dizerem mal do País!! Típico…