Can the EU’s most southwesterly outpost turn football and singing success into an economic comeback?
In Portugal, green is the colour of hope. It carries quite an important meaning, if not for the happiest reasons: it is believed that the green area in the Portuguese flag is smaller than the red area because “there has always been more blood than hope” throughout Portugal’s history.
In its long history, plenty of real blood has been shed; over the last decade, the carnage came in the form of economic recession and mass emigration. Given the full austerity treatment by the EU authorities, and facing a Greece-like vicious circle of economic contraction and debt interest growth, the most educated generation in Portugal’s history fled abroad, leaving Western Europe’s weakest economy to an apparently hopeless future. With bad news after bad news, Portugal’s national pride took a hit and our collective self-esteem hit rock bottom. Try typing “why is Portugal” in Google. You’ll see that it (quite helpfully) autocompletes with “so poor”.
In the early 2010s I was still living in Lisbon and I remember feeling that the hope for a better future had simply disappeared. High unemployment, unsustainably high public debt, high taxes, high everything -well, except progress and economic growth. Many businesses closed, leaving empty buildings in city centres. “Morrer na praia” (to die on the beach) is a popular saying that perfectly encapsulates the national feeling back then. It means to almost achieve something, but then lose at the very end; a certainty of failure. You can find it in “Fado” (translation: fate), a genre of lament music which dates from the time when Portuguese sailors left their womenfolk behind to discover new lands, with the (often correct) assumption they would not return; and, more recently, the failure as host country to win the Euro 2004 final.
All of which makes the events of the past year, by comparison, quite shocking. A new wave of unexpected hope and positive energy has hit Portugal like a tsunami. For the first time in many years, there are things to celebrate. The economy is growing with record numbers reported in key export sectors, including wine. Unemployment rate is at its lowest since the beginning of the crisis. The political situation is unusually stable. Lisbon is now recognized as an important touristic and start up-hub. Porto was elected “European best destination” in 2017, for the 3rd time. For the first time ever, a Portuguese is head of the UN. But (most importantly☻) Portugal won its first major football competition and its first Eurovision music contest.
To add to the garlands, Wine Intelligence is adding Portugal to our global list of markets where we publish comprehensive coverage of the wine market – our Portugal Landscapes 2017 report. This study will explore the Portuguese wine drinkers profile, knowledge, preferences and attitudes towards wine, as well as measure brand health of around 85 still and Port wine brands. Look out for it in the next two weeks.
Please contact me directly if you’d like more information.
Author: Luis Osorio