Burying head in the sand is no answer for Portugal
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Aníbal Cavaco Silva called for political stability, competitiveness, innovation and productivity within both the EU and Portugal, if they were not to be left behind by China and India by 2020.
Addressing a packed American Club luncheon, he warned that burying one’s head in the sand was not the answer for Europe and Portugal’s economic problems, writes The Resident’s Chris Graeme.
Described as a life-long defender of liberal values, free initiative and the sacred principles of freedom and justice, the former Prime Minister, rather than dwelling on the past and “worry about problems”, prefers to look to the future and focus on solutions.
Given the difficult economic times Portugal is confronting, Professor Cavaco Silva said he was driven by a sense of urgency to rebuild both national and individual confidence, and to hasten the development of social and economic order. If elected, he vows to use his influence and experience to do everything within his constitutional power to restore confidence and help lead Portugal back on the fast track of fair and just development.
Cavaco Silva began his speech by reiterating the reasons why he decided to run for President. Namely because Portugal is in a difficult situation, falling behind levels of development enjoyed by other EU countries, and because unemployment has risen significantly among young people. He stressed that as President he could mobilise and motivate different political forces, social and economic organisations and groups at all levels along the path of technological innovation, increased competitiveness and productivity.
Cavaco Silva said he believed that the European Union was the main priority for Portuguese foreign policy and that Portugal’s participation in the EU was a decisive factor for the future good of the country because it was there that the main markets for Portuguese investment were to be found.
“The European Union is a great amplifier for Portugal’s projection in the world at large. The EU is the healthiest bloc or springboard for the economic development of Portugal,” he continued. “But for Portuguese participation in the EU to be successful, internal political stability was fundamental because without it the country has no chance of overcoming its problems.”
Portugal needs to do everything to integrate its own business interests – “without being selfish” – within the EU, and, at the same time, defend its own interests as an EU member state.
Talking about the eastward enlargement of the EU in 2004 and the anticipated entry of Bulgaria and Romania within coming years, Cavaco Silva said it was doubly important for Portugal to show strong political and economic credibility abroad to attract investment. However, he also stressed the importance of raising the standard of living for its citizens.
“We must not forget that 25 per cent of EU citizens live in regions where the income per capita is less than 65 per cent of the average EU income. The great challenge that the EU is facing at present is one of competitiveness and productivity in the face of globalisation. Europe has the capacity to take new initiatives in terms of innovation, research and development in high quality technology,” he said. He called for EU universities to co-operate more with each other towards this aim, to be able to compete with North American educational establishments. “If the European Union doesn’t do this, it will face immense difficulties in caring for its citizens in the future,” he warned.
On the positive side, the presidential candidate said: “Europe has favourable conditions to be a global economic winner, with a tradition of being open to the world, other cultures and peoples. Europe has scientific foundations and human resources at the highest level, comparable to those in the United States, a solid and healthy financial system, low inflation, as well as an internal market of 450 million consumers, which, in terms of purchase power, was almost equal to that of the US.”
But at the base, political will and determination were necessary to transform ambitions into reality. He stressed that 20 years ago, 10 per cent of world manufactured products had come from developing or emerging economies, but, by 2020, China and India would dominate 50 per cent of all manufactured goods worldwide. “This is why it is better that Europe doesn’t put its head in the sand and instead makes the necessary changes to be successful in the world economy,” he concluded.