The 'PORTUGAL 2020, THREATS/OPPORTUNITIES' conference in Coimbra was attended by SMEs from the Algarve, Lisbon, Porto, Castelo Branco and Trás-os-Montes, among others.
Jack Soifer, the Brazilian-Swedish consultant for the Inter-American Investment Bank and the World Bank in 12 countries and who has supported 298 companies and institutions, presented some data that could lead us to a new Troika.
The Bank of Portugal published that fact that public debt is €246 billion, which is €60,000 per taxpayer. The BoP said also that in ten years, governments took €17 billion from taxpayers and gave it to banks - €4,000 per taxpayer. Until recently, we paid €8 billion in interest to foreign funds, an average of €2,000 per person per year.
Soifer said public debt will increase beyond 2020, when inflation will raise interest rates on debt. He also said that technological investors do not invest due to the lack of structural reforms, which the Troika suggested but did not do such as making justice faster and predictable, similar to Northern European legal practices.
Jack said that it's this investment that creates stable employment, uses local materials and thus even more employment in the country and the region. It is different from the speculation we have now in stocks and real estate, that are here today and gone tomorrow, leaves no profits or jobs.
PEDRO MACHADO, the President of Turismo Centro, said that serious changes are taking place in the way of defining types of tourism in order to carry out marketing directed at foreign niches. TurCentro acts in 99 counties and offers a wide range of options in its territory. Machado cited religious routes, such as that of Jews and that of Fátima, which are growing. The great potential now is in gastronomy, nature and wellness. He ended by saying that Soifer knows well the potential of Portugal and is a great lover of our country.
JORGE SANTOS, head of the Portuguese Rural Tourism Association spoke of this potential. He also is a farmer and spoke of the need to stimulate young people for this niche and for bio-farming.
JOÃO DINIS, from the Confederation of Agriculture, spoke of the strong lobby of the food companies in Portugal, the low prices paid to farmers and the foreign production of unhealthy food. "We cannot allow multinationals that sell patented seeds and chemicals generating diseases over the years," said Dinis.
Railway specialist, LUÍS CABRAL SILVA, who devised the Integrated Transport Plan, detailed the potential of our geo-strategic site in the EU. Sines can receive the large ships from China and Japan with goods destined for the interior of Spain, France and Germany. We can export even more from our own interior to these countries. We have to change our gauge, the distance between rails, to the European, instead of the Iberian model. If not, merchandise is transhipped to enter France, which makes it expensive.
The EU has decided to restrict the lorries using fossil fuels from 2025 onwards. So, we should adopt the Plan for the rail lines with a European gauge from Sines, Leixões and other major ports.
"Portugal has everything to be the fifth most important country in the EU. It has great gastronomy, good wines, excellent weather, a brave and hospitable people. What would globalization be without the brave Portuguese navigators?”
PEDRO COSTA, from the Coimbra Business School, talked about integrating Master's studies with technology needs for immediate use by SMEs. This improves competitiveness, reduces imports and raises exports.
GORETI SILVA, of the Coimbra Higher School of Agriculture, listed how this faculty can support agribusiness in the region; it already does so for 20 SMEs and ESAC has the resources to support more SMEs.
PEDRO SANTOS, a bio-farmer who specialises in the use of drones in agriculture, said that there are abuses in the country; large Spanish wholesalers pay almost nothing to our farmers and they pack and resell to the Portuguese food markets.
Soifer quoted a Troika report: there are 40,000 too many bosses in the public sector. "Governments should not dispense with doctors, nurses or teachers but why keeping bureaucrats who create difficulties, in order to justify their wages?"
He also explained that the two Swedish SMEs that were on their way to the event did not arrive due to the strike that affected France. One delegated to him the choice of wine, cheese and sweets for their distribution in Scandinavia.
Azueira, Tejo, and Casal Faria wines, Melgaço and Camponês-Sicó cheeses were tasted and, according to Jack, those sectors can increase exports by another €1.5 billion if digital marketing is done to the gourmet markets in North Europe and Canada.
Soifer concluded by saying that this event soon will be arranged in the Algarve and "Portugal has everything to be the fifth most important country in the EU. It has great gastronomy, good wines, excellent weather and a brave and hospitable people.”
Jack Soifer speaks for 30 SMEs from the Algarve to the Nothern border with Spain.
His bilingual books ‘Portugal Pos-Troika’ & ‘Algarve/Alentejo – My Love’ were launched.
To the right key-speaker Pedro Machado, President of Centre Tourism Board