The current problems of the Portuguese economy highlight the desperate need for public debates on concrete policies: the country needs to discuss the positives and negatives of different alternatives, the relative urgency of each policy, their likely effectiveness in terms of addressing the current bottlenecks. This is particularly important now that difficult choices need to be made by the government on a daily basis - opportunity costs are everywhere and this cannot be hidden any more.
How to fix the justice system is probably the most conspicuous example of the urgency of specific proposals for reform. On the other hand, teacher evaluation - a terribly important idea that, in my view, was terribly implemented - is a good example of the problems that can arise when big reforms are introduced without prior debate. In fact, the education ministry is still discussing how to implement that reform already four years after first introducing it.
In an ideal world, political parties would present their manifestos - where they outline the key reforms they plan to introduce in a relatively detailed way - and then stick to them if they get elected. But, apparently, it seems that nobody wins elections in Portugal by announcing unpopular reforms, especially when the other parties can take the populist route and claim that all is well, that we can borrow our way out of the current mess and that, in the end, the State will sort everything out.
But the blame needs to be shared. For instance, a media that does not like to discuss "details" doesn't help. (Is this because they somehow know that "details" don't sell - or because they simply don't have the know-how to do "details" properly, despite the abundant number of graduates available at low salaries?) On the other hand, many academics in Portugal either target their efforts on international journals - which, for understandable reasons, won't care too much about case studies involving Portugal - or simply do not engage with public policy issues, at least not in a way that will generate reasonable prospects for evidence-based policy.
PS [24 Feb] - Things may be changing.