Statistics issued earlier this year by the Brazilian Ministry of Labour indicate that about 500,000 Portuguese emigrated to Brazil in 2010 and 2011, as a result of the pressures brought about by the most severe economic crisis Portugal has undergone since joining the European Union, in 1986. It is now estimated that almost 50% of the country’s population, of a total of approximately 11 million people, live abroad.
Portugal’s GDP of about US$ 247 billion fell 2.2% in 2011and will fall another 2% in 2012, according to estimates by the European Commission. In April of 2011, the country signed a bail-out package with the IMF, to the tune of US$ 115 billion, with severe constraints as to public spending and social policies.
Unemployment in Portugal is now about 14% and underemployment, a traditional feature, is more predominant than ever. This, of course, affects mostly young people, who today have a better education than their parents, one of the benefits of accession to the European Communities.
A poorly negotiated accession treaty, in great part for lack of alternatives, left the Portuguese economy without a sustainable economy and structural elements to compete within the block and also externally. The progress verified in Portugal in the first years since accession was due to European grants, rather than by the results of a sustainable economy.
With the end of the European grants, Portugal gradually increased its budget deficit, which reached 9.4% of GDP in 2009, a very high level similar to that of the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK), countries that are military powers with developed financial markets and reserve currencies.
Having joined the European Monetary Union in 1998, Portugal adopted the Euro as a currency and became instantly one of the most vulnerable elements of the Euro zone, together with Greece and Ireland, because of its macroeconomic irrelevance for the financial markets.
Such developments justify the bleak perception Portuguese people make of the country’s future. On the other hand, a dynamic economic and social environment in Brazil, with unemployment at 4.7%, large domestic and foreign investments, the necessity of a qualified work force, together with the same language and a favoured legal status, are all attractions for the Portuguese people and explain the high numbers of emigrants in the past two years.
At this point, one should consider why the Portuguese State does not do the same as its people, leaving the European Union and acceding to the Federative Republic of Brazil, a proper federation, unlike the former. After all, the two countries were one for 322 years, alternating the colonial status at the end of the relationship.
By becoming a federated state of Brazil, Portugal, as a unit of the north-eastern region, would have a disproportionately higher representation at the chamber of deputies and be also entitled to 3 senators. Its politicians would be able to speak their native language in congress. A Brazilian born in Portugal could become head of state and government, such as Brazil’s first emperor.
From a macro-economic perspective, the vibrant state of Brazil’ economy, the countries’ riches, and the effective social and economic policies put in place by the present and past governments would ensure a number of opportunities for Portugal’s industrial, agricultural and services sectors.
By acceding to the Federative Republic of Brazil, Portugal would be not only returning to its historical roots but embracing a better future for its people.
Lawyer admitted in Brazil, England and Wales and Portugal. GATT and WTO panelist. Brazilian government ad-hoc representative for the Uruguay Round of the GATT. Post-graduation professor of the law of international trade.