Speech by Paulo Raimundo, General Secretary of the PCP, Presentation of the book “TAP Dossier: Resisting privatisations”

TAP does not need to be privatised, it needs to be valued and managed to serve the interests of the Country

TAP does not need to be privatised, it needs to be valued and managed to serve the interests of the Country

The book that we present here today is, and as its name implies, PCP’s contribution not only for resisting the privatisation of TAP, but also a clear denunciation of the tragedy of privatisations in Portugal.

A tragedy sustained for years and years by a brutal ideological campaign aimed at public companies, seeking to convince the workers and the Portuguese people that what was theirs, built with their effort and work, should be delivered into the hands of capital.

A campaign based on what we can identify as the four steps of privatisation: first, putting the political forces in power at the service of this option; second, to degrade its management, services and its image among the population, an important step towards the next one; third, endless promises of spectacular results for the population if company A or B were privatised, more competition, always lower prices and better services; and finally the fourth and last step, delivery, sale at the lowest possible price, always implying that whoever buys is still doing us a favour.

Following these steps or even passing over them, one by one, large public companies were being privatised by the hand, there it is, of the PS, PSD and CDS governments.

Strategic and irreplaceable companies, responsible for energy supply and production, for telecommunications and postal services, for the banking and insurance sector, for motorways or airports, among many others, were sold or handed in concession.

In most cases, these companies are now owned and controlled by foreign capital and where their profits are transferred.

The Country loses companies, loses revenue, loses decision-making centres and the ability to respond to its own problems.

It is within this framework that TAP finds itself.

For over 30 years, TAP has been in a privatisation process. This whole period is marked by the media campaign which says that either TAP is privatised, or it will disappear. During all this time, TAP, which makes an impressive contribution to national wealth, was actually about to disappear twice. The two times it was privatised (in 1998 and 2015), what saved TAP was its resistance to privatisations, as mentioned in the book that we are presenting here today.

TAP is one of the biggest national exporters, with almost three billion in sales abroad, it ensures more than twelve thousand direct jobs in the TAP Group and is also responsible for at least another ten thousand indirect jobs. It is a company that puts more than 100 million euros into Social Security annually from TAP SA alone, and almost as much enters the State Budget via Income Tax. TAP guarantees that the country is not dependent on anyone to ensure the connection between the Continent and the autonomous regions, or to connect the Country with Portuguese communities spread around the world. Millions of tourists visit the country transported by TAP. TAP is the main European airline flying to South America and also to several African countries. TAP is a Portuguese company that gives prestige to the country, and which, in addition, is a factor of sovereignty.

One of the most repeated hoaxes that has been propagandised to exhaustion concerns the 3.2 billion euros of TAP's restructuring plan during the pandemic. Basically, 3.2 billion euros from taxpayers that were put there, supposedly for nothing.

We know that demagogy and lies know no limits, especially when used to rob national resources.

But demagogy, like lies, sooner or later is confronted with reality.

As is widely known today, all airlines – public and private – in the world were supported during the pandemic and without this support those airlines would have gone bankrupt.

Many of them were supported without the blackmail that the European Union imposed on TAP. The EU made this support conditional on the company reducing its size and preparing for privatisation.

The EU's blackmail is as serious as the government's submission to that purpose, but not just the government's, the submission of all those who engage in this economic crime.

To a large extent, they are the same people who never said a word when more than 16 billion public euros were turned into cement to plug the holes of corruption and speculation in private banking.

They are the same ones who know that part of the money invested in TAP was used to fill the holes caused by the maintenance business in Brazil and the privatisation of 2015, actions that they supported. And more. We are seriously convinced that part of that amount, of those 3.2 billion euros, is intended to capitalise the company and facilitate its handing back to the private sector.

Big capital wants TAP, there it is, not to do us a favour, big capital wants TAP because it is worth a lot.

It is worth a lot and can be worth even more if it is managed and developed to serve the interests of the Country.

With the discussion that will take place tomorrow in the Assembly of the Republic of the report by the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the political management of TAP, a process that has focused media attention and, much more importantly, allowed revealing information that confirmed many of the warnings and denouncements that the PCP has been doing.

This Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry could – and should – have gone further, as the PCP proposed from the outset. But overall, it was worth it.

Despite everything, it became clearer that TAP needs a different public management, quite different, from the one it has had.

A management that understands that a public company is to satisfy strategic interests such as territorial cohesion, the connection to the diaspora, the development of tourism and other economic activities, the guarantee of fundamental air connections, to create quality jobs, to set an example of transparency.

It became clear that if they intended to transform and insert the PCI into the political management of TAP into an instrument to promote its privatisation, and even that of other public companies, the plan backfired.

With its intervention centred on what it was and is fundamental, the PCP saw its theses, affirmed a thousand times, and always ignored or denied by successive governments, proven given the facts revealed.

It became clear, however much it cost them, that the two processes most scrutinised by the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry have a common origin. The compensation of half a million euros awarded to Alexandra Reis and the compensation of 55 million euros awarded to David Neeleman were both decided between law firms, approved by the Government, and both lack any legal basis.

Policy makers were forced to recognise that there was no legal basis for these compensations.

And this leads us to a broader problem, that of the Arbitration Courts when one of the parties to the dispute is the State, which work exactly like this: the representatives of the two parties meet and agree on the amount that we will all have to pay.

Every year, hundreds of millions of euros are being diverted from the State's coffers, from our pockets to economic groups. And it can't go on like this!

The lack of transparency was clear, the dense smoke that involved and continues to involve the business at TAP.

It was clear, however much it cost them, that TAP was bought by David Neeleman with money from TAP itself.

It was clear that all this was hidden for 7 years from the MPs, the Court of Auditors, and the Portuguese people, but there were and are those who knew and tried to keep it hidden.

Having said that, it is necessary to draw consequences and start managing TAP as the public company that it is and not as the private company that some would like it to be. Contracts and decisions taken at TAP need to be public and transparent, instead of the opacity where deals are made that are paid for by the Portuguese people.

And of course, it is necessary to put an end to the idea of its privatisation once and for all.

The country's general economic situation and the very deterioration of Portugal's position in the context of the European Union countries result from economic and social policies, inserted as they are in the options for EU integration, reconstitution of monopolistic economic groups and destruction of the State's business sector.

As we have already said, if privatisations were a sign of development, Portugal would be at the top of all rankings.

Except that privatisations, in our case, are synonymous, indeed, with the decline and strangulation of the economy, deficits and productive imbalances, loss of public resources and sovereignty in strategic sectors and services.

Privatisations are indeed a factor in promoting corruption. The greater the power of big capital, and its domination over political power, the greater the corruption, and if there were any doubts, reality is there as always to impose itself.

The truth is that if it is possible to scrutinise public companies, it is because they are public. Unlike private economic groups and multinationals, these entities that operate in a world apart, a world of people who consider themselves untouchable and who consider themselves the owners of all of this. We are therefore not surprised by what we are witnessing today at Altice Portugal, formerly PT. Since it is necessary to clarify and investigate all possible crimes that have been committed, here we reaffirm that the greatest crime was the privatisation of PT that the country is still paying for.

This path, which is more than clear, does not serve the Country, does not serve the workers, does not serve the people.

It is necessary, it is urgent, and it is possible to break with the current privatisation process –through direct sales, concessions or “public-private partnerships”. A process that now has new developments besides TAP, namely EFACEC and other sectors, such as healthcare or rail transport.

As is well known, a new privatisation of TAP is already being prepared. But what is urgent is to stop this path. TAP is now a capitalised company, it is recovering from the losses it had during the pandemic and is back to operating profits. TAP does not need to be privatised, it needs to be valued and invested in.

The Portuguese State has to include TAP’s dimension in its investment priorities. The Country needs to move on with the construction of a New Lisbon Airport, where TAP has its stronghold and its hub, with valued Maintenance and Engineering, working together with the more than a thousand Portuguese companies that sell services to it, transporting – like no other company – passengers to Portugal and from Portugal to the world, and from Brazil to Europe and Asia. It is necessary to put an end to the wage cuts that still persist at TAP, to hire lacking workers, to value wages and professions.

The rejection of privatisation implies, at the same time, the demand for public management at the service of the people and the Country, a management with rational objectives, linked to the huge wealth that the company brings to the Country and always has.

Public management guided by April values, where the State does not behave like just another private shareholder.

When we defend a public company like TAP and at the service of the Country's development, we are defending another policy that neither the PS government nor the PSD and their surrogates are in a position to implement. A policy that promotes the diversification of our economy and our economic relations, that bets on national production to replace imports, that values wages, careers and professions, work and workers.

A policy that not only curbs the privatisation process but that launches itself in the recovery of the public control of strategic sectors, returning to the State fundamental instruments and means for the definition of the course of the Country. A policy that confronts the EU's impositions, blackmail and pressure, which are profoundly contrary to the country's interests and needs. We are not throwing in the towel in the privatisation of TAP, just as we did not give up fighting for a true alternative for the country. And we know that we are not alone in this fight.

Despite the brutal ongoing campaign, and contrary to the will of the country's sellers, there are more people committed to defending TAP as a public company. There are forces and sectors, there are democrats and patriots who converge with us in rejecting inevitabilities.

A book is always a way of systematizing ideas and information, of reflecting on the world and contributing, as much as possible, to transforming it. Well, this book about TAP is another tool for anyone who wants to defend not just TAP, but the right to a Portugal with a future.

  • Economia e Aparelho Produtivo
  • Central