By Nicolau Santos*
The title phrase is not mine but an adaptation of the slogan applied to Brazil from propaganda used by the government in the seventies to encourage patriotism. Nevertheless it still holds true. The Portuguese have a tendency for self-inflicted harm that only the Portuguese essayist, philosopher, and writer, Eduardo Lourenço could explain. We are experiencing very difficult times, which interestingly enough nobody has interiorized. Consider for example, what happened during the Easter holidays, with the hotels in the Algarve fully booked, along with enticing ads for bank credit that continue to offer dream holidays by traveling now and paying later. But what good does it do if we are always bad-mouthing the country? Does this lead us to correct mistakes and improve or, conversely, creates a tremendous sense of hopelessness and inaction, which leads us to throw the towel, and let each one solve problems on their own, hence discrediting the virtues of the democratic system?
What is an indisputable fact is that this country has changed enormously over the past 40 years – and, in most cases, has changed for the better. 40 years ago we were Africa’s North. Today we are a European country. Yes, one of the least wealthy European countries, but we are a European country. And underneath us, with much worst economic and social indicators, are at least 160 other countries that exist around the globe. It this a poor consolation? No, it is reality. And we will only appreciate what we have when we lose much of what we take for granted.
And in the coming years we will experience a decrease in salary levels, in pension plans, in unemployment benefits, in social security and in all social assistance. We will lose purchasing power and living standards. Navigating through these rough and murky waters will bring added difficulty. Therefore, the years to come will be for people who roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. It won’t be for people who spend all day fretting and grumbling. It will be for those who love Portugal.
Because in this scenario, there are only two ways of facing it head on: either you move abroad in search of a better life, like so many Portuguese have done in the past, or you stick around and fight to get things to improve as quickly as possible. For those who have rolled their sleeves, the following are ideas that should be considered:
1) Create all possible incentives for exporting, especially for products and services that have a clear added value. And this can be done by means of incentives, fiscal support, tax cuts on profits, etc..
2) Stimulate the development of activities that replace imports. This is possible and particularly important in the agricultural sector, but it is also important at the level of industrial technology of medium level, which we now import when it was previously produced locally.
3) Develop a program similar to the New Opportunities program (Government-funded program to increase the scholarity level in Portugal) but offering a business-oriented education for the thousands of entrepreneurs of small and medium businesses that constitute more than 90% of the Portuguese companies. The lack of knowledge and training of these entrepreneurs is the main cause of lack of competitiveness of the Portuguese economy.
4) Proceed and reinforce the placement of graduates in companies around the country, supported mainly by public funds.
5) Appoint an interdisciplinary team with the mission of proposing the extinction and merger of government bodies and public services whose existence is not vitally necessary.
6) To cut drastically the number of civil parishes and municipalities in the country.
It is not a very extensive program. But if only we could put it into practice, in the end, we would be much better off than we are today.
*Article written by Nicolau Santos (firstname.lastname@example.org ) Deputy Director of the Portuguese newspaper, Expresso , which originally appeared in the April 30, 2011 edition of the Expresso and translated under permission by BestInPortugal