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Europa United contributor Elina Morhunova discusses the recent history of Portugal post 2008 recession and asks if a new generation of Portuguese citizens have emerged determined to push ahead with a positive recovery.

Leaving “Saudade” Behind

Like Luís Vaz de Camões said in his great epic poem “Os Lusíadas – The Lusiads”, Portuguese are hardworking people that are ready to cross the ocean for an adventure of epic proportions.

Portugal went from a dictatorship to entering the European Union and developing itself with a more open mind towards the integration with other cultures, a trait that is embedded in its culture.

The last few years, with the sovereign debt crisis that hit Europe, between 2010-2014, several problems that were included in Portuguese culture and the governing society of high level management showed a country where its leadership and development had been lost in time. Meaning that, when the crisis hit, it completely destroyed the country because from the political, business and employment levels, Portugal that had so proudly entered European Union, was not prepared enough to stay without problems due to the lack of preparation and maintenance of its structures.

This, at the same time, was both a problem and a solution for Portuguese society, meaning that if the political “Caso José Sócrates” (Former Portuguese prime minister Jose Socrates was indicted on graft and money laundering charges ), the economical “Caso BES” (Ricardo Salgado was accused of 21 crimes in total. The banker is also facing nine lawsuits, from which four have been filed by the Public Prosecution Service) and “Caso Portugal Telecom” (Zeinal Bava sank Portugal Telecom for the benefit of Banco Espírito Santo) and social scandals “Caso José Berardo” (Madeira mining entrepreneur Joe Berardo, who borrowed up to €1Bn from State-owned bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos says he has no means of paying the money back apart from “a garage in Funchal”), proved that there was an enormous problem with mismanagement in Portuguese society, it also created room for a new generation, more prepared & knowledgeable and, actually, loved their own country to take over.

Jose Socrates

Like Ula Chrobak said in her scientific paper: “If trees get too crowded, they compete for light and water—and stressed trees are more susceptible to drought and insect attacks. Removing some trees can ease the competition, letting the remaining trees grow big and healthy.” This also applies itself to the fall of a generation, one that was old, unprepared and full of vices that hold back the progress of the country.

“New Discoveries”

The companies that generation left behind, real estate property and assets are now coveted by international investors that realise what that generation could not grasp that the real gold of Portugal was the country itself.

Hence, the new generation of Portugal along with the visionaries of the past that could not express themselves is now living, working and loving the dream that is Portugal. Portugal’s economic recovery is now well established, with GDP back to its pre-crisis level. Although youth unemployment remains high, Portugal’s unemployment rate has declined 10 percentage points since 2013 to below 7% – this is one of the largest reductions in any OECD country over the past decade. This is still above the OECD average (of around 5%), but the reduction has been impressive. In line with this progress, GDP is projected to rise by around 2% a year in 2019 and 2020. Investment and consumption are now driving the economy forward, complementing Portugal’s stellar export performance over the past decade. Since 2010, exports share in GDP has risen by over 13 percentage points, and the volume of Portugal’s annual exports has doubled since 2000. The tourism sector is also booming, as visitors continue to be attracted to Portugal’s beautiful landscapes, cities and vibrant culture.

Returning to the aforementioned Luís Vaz de Camões and his epic poem “Os Lusíadas – The Lusiads”, there were many “velhos do restelo” that said Portugal was dead, being a popular national figure that is associated with “saudade” and pessimism, it is widely used as representative of old generation thinking, a generation that said it would take approximately 30-40 years just to recover from the sovereign debt crisis and how it had helped to destroy Portugal, but they were wrong. The new generation of Portuguese turned it around in less than 10 years and now are showing the world what Portugal really is – “a verdadeira Ilha dos amores”, a place, again, very important in national mythology that represents a true triumph filled with pleasure and love.

So, after “o adamastor” of the sovereign debt crisis, being said figure in national mythology, meaning impossible , currently the India, portrayed in said poem, is closer than ever.

Therefore, after so many challenges, what seemed the complete destruction of the country was in fact liked the trees and voyages portrayed in “Os Lusíadas – The Lusiads”. Just the beginning of a beautiful story in which its participants are no longer trapped in the past, but boldly forging ahead a new path of discoveries, in this case, the beauty of Portugal, the strength of its nation.

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Elina Morhunova
Ukrainian-born and global-minded, Elina Morhunova is a European & International Business Lawyer and Business Developer who dedicates a great part of her work to report on the world’s business and legal, political and economic affairs for the global business community.

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