Friday, 22 September 2017
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alentejo2Twenty years ago, Finland was as Portugal. Like us, far away in Europe, very dependent on two markets, its large Russian neighbour and small Sweden.

Like us, exporting natural resources, fish, copper and cellulose, and products of limited technology, footwear, textiles, crystals and ship repair.

Like us, much of agriculture was subsistence, dispersed and with few good roads. There were a few large construction companies mainly with major works abroad; and corruption.

The Finish Mark was also supported by Finnish emigrants’ money sent back to their families.

A Finnish miracle in 20 years? As elsewhere in Europe, it had full decentralisation of basic education to the counties, vocational training, alternative energy, entrepreneurship, control of cartels, automation in public administration, proactive taxation. They copied or adapted what others did.

Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric, said, "it is necessary that the state supports (...) technical education in proximity to businesses and quality assurance at all levels of education."

On innovation, Welch wants to value "professionalism, technological development for real results, and true venture capital to enable experience and to make real new ideas and projects.”

Vocational education here, like everything else, is "too theoretical, based on oratory, with few laboratories" so they say.

The success of Finland is that local business is in charge of all of the country's education, it is run by local boards. They do not ask "who is, or who presented Jack”, but "what can he do in the short and long-term?”

There is no profit in far-fetched words, but there is in doing things. Linux, Nokia, Enso, are simple, inexpensive, reliable products; they focus on customers’ real needs, without ads on TV.

Many economists are predicting that Q4, 2016 will be the worst of in 30 years for Portugal. Faked accounting and banks problems will come up. We have more natural resources than Finland: a much richer sea, forests can grow faster, the soil is fertile, there is sun for energy and tourists, there’s wine.

We have the friendliest people in the EU. What do we need to beat Finland? Real job opportunities, practical and good vocational training, respect for the simple but competent people, control of cartels and timely justice to curb abuses by those in power.

We can be among the EU leaders in 2030. Just deploy true educational and economic democracy. Regionalise the state, be next to the customer, keep client-councils in all Institutes. Empower DECO and Quercus to close stores and businesses, speed up the slow justice system and the persistent abuse of foreign controlled corporations.

The Algarve attracts many serious foreigners - use them!


© Jack Soifer, 2015