“Quickly and well, there is no one there”, the popular saying goes. But there are contexts where not to do it quickly is not to do or harm. This is the current situation of the application of European funds in Portugal. The approximately 57.9 billion euros will be decisive in recovering Portugal and taking care of the future. This amount represents an annual implementation approximately two to three times higher than any of the previous European Union policy programming periods. The economic stimulus package alone must be 70% approved within the first two years.
Therefore, this quickly and effectively constitutes a huge responsibility. A shared responsibility, involving the government, public institutions and developers. Government because it is responsible for setting priorities, programming architecture, governance model or additionality vis-à-vis the national public counterpart. The management authorities of the operational programs (for example the CCDR, Compete) and the respective intermediary bodies (for example Turismo de Portugal, AICEP, IAPMEI, CIM) because they have to ensure the launch of the competitions, the analysis of the applications, the payments to the beneficiaries, monitoring the physical and financial execution of projects, in addition to the key coordination role of the Agency for Development and Cohesion.
Marcelo calls for a consensus to speed up the application of Community funds
Finally – and not least – the thousands of public and private promoters because they are responsible for the design and presentation of good projects, their execution on time and the achievement of the objectives and results contracted. Being a shared responsibility, there are seven vital virtues to be performed quickly and well:
1. Planning and mobilizing actors – it’s a job that does not exempt anyone. In very few circumstances in our recent history, the future has depended so much on what we are collectively able to think and plan for in the present. A first version of the Economic Recovery Plan for Portugal, prepared by António Costa Silva, was presented for public debate, after having received, however, many proposals and contributions from civil society – which will soon also be the subject of a political debate in the Assembly of the Republic. These (good) initiatives should be followed by others to deepen this debate throughout the national territory, involving the Regions and their territories. Yes, the planning and execution of public policies are continuous processes;
2. Strategic alignment and selectivity – the projects to be financed must fall within the strategic priorities of the various public policy instruments (for example PNPOT, PNEC, PNI 2030 or the PORTUGAL 2030 agendas). Strategic documents on which there is a broad consensus should be taken into account;
3. Scale and complementarity of public investment – projects must have an adequate scale and an effective impact on the quality of life of the populations. In sports pavilions, cultural centers or other community facilities, it is important to consider the cost-benefit ratio, focusing more on the valuation of current equipment – in software – than on the construction of new equipment. It is also important to favor the interurban scale, which supposes complementarity and networking in the face of an often fragmented and fragmented institutional reality;
Portugal has access to 45 billion non-repayable funds over the next seven years
4. Simplex – it is essential to develop a “simplex” for Community funds, ie those which will fall under the operational programs of the cohesion policy for the period 2021-2027. Without prejudice to the necessary rigor in the analysis and monitoring of investments, it is essential to continue to streamline procedures, eliminate bureaucratic barriers and respect the deadlines for launching offers and analyzing applications and requests for funding. respective payment;
5. Predictability – There is a need to plan and publicly publish the timing of tenders and to meet the deadlines for analyzing and deciding applications, whether longer or shorter. Public investments in infrastructure and equipment must be planned and subcontracted in advance with the competent entities, so that they can be carried out according to the respective timetables, without calls for tenders or additional delays. Subcontracting with investment support and with the responsibility of the parties with deadlines allows a fast and efficient execution;
6. Proximity and cooperation – decentralization is crucial to respond quickly and correctly to this crisis. The economy and society have a floor and this floor is not always the same. It is in the interaction with institutions that know their problems and their opportunities that solutions are found for each specific territory and its agents. A closer management of public policies is necessary, the CCDR and the Intermunicipal authorities playing a key role;
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7. Management structures – the work carried out by the current management structures of PORTUGAL 2020 should be recognized. The Portuguese State was congratulated (and well) for the work developed in the management of the different programming periods. However, in the current context, when a sharp increase in the usual execution rates is needed, these structures must be strengthened. Someone needs to do it quickly and well on a daily basis, in the analysis of requests, in the processing of payments, in the monitoring of project execution.
As much as process efficiency improves, people today cannot be asked to double or triple their productivity. In response to such a deep crisis, the European Commission has mobilized the largest package of European funds in memory. We now have to have the humility to recognize that the formulas of the past, of previous programming periods are not enough. You have to think again, think differently. A challenge that brings everyone together.
The author writes according to the new spelling agreement