Policy brief 4 – Reform and qualification program: a case of priorities exchanged

Policy Brief 4 already available: Reform and qualification program: a case of priorities exchanged (in Portuguese), by Alexandre Homem Cristo. This Policy Brief is the second edition of our series of original publications around the European Semester, and more specifically the Stability Program and the National Reform Program.

The European Semester is a process of political dialogue between the European Commission and the member states which consists in an exchange of drafts, programmes and recommendations regarding the implementation of public policies and institutional reforms. For this, two particular documents are relevant in this dialogue: the Stability Program and National Reform Program.

The Stability Program is the main document on fiscal policy and the sustainability of public finances in the medium term. The budgetary targets set each year in this document, in conjunction with macroeconomic forecasts that underlie them, are used by the European Commission staff when assessing the compliance of EU member states with the main medium-term fiscal rules.

On the other hand, the National Reform Program is broader in its scope and should reflect a strategic vision for public policy and institutional reform.

Alexandre Homem Cristo addresses the “Qualification of the Portuguese” pillar of the National Reform Program and argues that although the initial diagnosis is sufficiently consensual, what stands out is a strategic incoherence: the commitment to adult education is elevated to the top priority , overlapping the fight against school failure, which includes, for example, measures of enormous strategic impact, such as the universalization of the provision of pre-school education to 3 years of age. In the light of the results of international experience, the author concludes that this is “a case of priorities that have been changed” due to dependence on European funds.