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Nº 45 – Gifts

Saturday, July the 25th, 2020

Local government is an art. It’s even a university discipline. But this does not guarantee that good political measures will be put in place. Basically, it’s not enough to have talent, you have to be honest and caring and have enough character to make sustainable decisions independently. Decisions that will be useful for the future of a village or a town. The art of politics bears fruit when it succeeds in increasing the wealth of a region. When a mayor cannot stand for re-election after three terms in office and is forced to retire, receiving a lifelong pension and becoming a mere onlooker, the municipality should surely be flourishing after all the measures he has taken, without any victims being left abandoned on the burnt land.

Having a positive attitude and demonstrating clarity of thought brings many advantages for a politician. Self-discipline facilitates success. There are scientists who claim that these characteristics are more important in politicians than intelligence. Anyone who is clever, but arrives late, is wasting his talent. I know a local politician with whom I scheduled 29 meetings over the course of ten years. There was not one single occasion when he arrived on time. After that, I stopped making appointments with him. People with healthy self-discipline also have the ability to maintain stable relationships, organise both their personal finances and those of the municipality in a sound way, and they usually do this by being physically and mentally healthy. On the other hand, a lack of discipline and sensitivity can cause someone to become aggressive in their behaviour or lead to the use of narcotics, which is beneficial neither for their career nor for their personal life.

Foto: EDP Distribuição SA

 

A good politician makes the right decisions at the right time. This politician who is always late has just made a decision that may one day cost him dearly. In any case, he is being disrespectful towards the victims of the fires. He accepted a gift from the energy supplier that is currently being investigated by the Judiciary Police for allegedly causing a fire through negligence. The gift is an industrial shredder worth 50,000 euros. He accepted this gift knowing that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Our readers will certainly know this expression, which involves the expectation of receiving something in return. A politician cannot in any way allow his actions to be influenced in this way.

Of course, waste shredders are needed in this municipality, and many more than just one. For the entire area of 400 km², it would take 12 to 15 machines to transform the forest waste into “mulch”. The municipality should provide machines of this type to prevent the burning or this waste or its simply being left in the forest. It would be a good way of mitigating CO2 emissions, reducing burning, the risk of fire and the loss of moisture from the soil. There is no doubt that it makes sense to use shredders.

But the fundamental question here is whether a politician can accept a gift from a body that is being investigated. The electricity supplier, in this case, could be ordered to pay for the damage that it caused to more than 70 burnt houses. It is a case that is likely to drag on. The municipality itself, represented by its mayor, would also be entitled to compensation in this case. More than 1.8 million euros worth of damage has been caused to the infrastructure and traffic signs. The municipality could – and should – be one of the complainants demanding compensation in this case.

Why then is this mayor compromising his integrity by accepting this poisoned chalice? Politics is an art. Whenever gifts of this type are being made, corruption is not far behind. Key question: Which municipality and mayor am I referring to?

Uwe Heitkamp (60)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, has lived in Monchique Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123.

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