November 7, 2023

Interview with Paulo Silva: “It is important to comply with payment deadlines”

Portuguese people who stand out abroad are helping to find out where business opportunities are and what kind of companies and activities the country can attract. An initiative that brings together Negócios and the Portuguese Diaspora Council.

1- What led you to leave Portugal?

The decision to leave Portugal came at a very young stage, at the age of 23, driven by the curiosity I always had in getting to know and learning from other cultures and mentalities, combined with the ambition to acquire the most comprehensive professional training possible. I considered that it was the right time to pursue this goal, even without family responsibilities. It was an easy and instinctive decision for me, although, at the time, my friends expressed some scepticism, suggesting that I was risking my education in a supposedly underdeveloped and deprived country… The unconditional support of my family was crucial in making this step come true.

2- What advantages or disadvantages did being Portuguese bring you?

With the exception of the language barrier, which was overcome with classes, I didn’t experience any disadvantages for being Portuguese, on the contrary. Going back to 1997, Poland was in the pre-accession phase to the EU, and Portugal was perceived as a success story of integration and economic development. From the beginning, I felt a great interest from Poles in understanding our mentality, our culture, and the reasons for Portuguese success. After 26 years, I consider it very sensible that we, Portuguese, have the humility to seek to understand the factors and policies that have contributed to the different development trajectories that both countries have followed, and draw lessons from them. In this context, Diaspora Counselors, spread around the world, can make a relevant contribution.

3- What obstacles did you have to overcome and how did you do it?

The obstacles I faced were numerous, resulting from the period of transformation that Poland was going through, carrying remnants of the past, such as high bureaucracy and inefficiency of public services, with emerging problems, such as the conflict between Polish and EU legislation. I overcame these challenges by combining the boldness and pragmatism of a young Portuguese man who believed, and continues to believe, that the impossible does not exist, combined with the strong spirit of cooperation and solidarity expressed by the Polish interlocutors, who were up to the responsibility. Aware that there was no time or margin to fail, the problems that arose were effectively seen as collective challenges.

4- What do you admire most about the country you’re in?

Without a doubt, the unquestionable success of the country’s economic and social transformation process, from a closed and planned economy to an open and dynamic market economy that threatens to become a prominent power within the EU. I particularly admire the transition to high-value activities, the diversification of the export base, the ability to attract foreign capital and create favorable contexts for business development, the de-bureaucratization of services and the development of human capital. Regarding the Polish people, the ambition, the ability to execute and, above all, the desire to take charge of their own destiny. The October elections with a turnout of 74% demonstrate the level of civic intervention and involvement of Polish society in the country’s destinies.

5- What do you admire most about your company/organization?

In 2018, I realized my dream of developing my own project in the hotel sector, covering the design, financing, construction, and operation of a 5-star mountain resort in Southern Poland, consisting of 490 rooms. The values that I integrated into this organization reflect, to a large extent, my 20 years of professional experience in the Mota-Engil group, in which I “drank” daily from the principles of ambition, rigor, sustainability, team spirit, continuous innovation and provision of excellent services. I feel enormous pride in being part of an organization that exemplarily embodies these principles, allowing the young Crystal Mountain Resort to occupy a prominent position among mountain resorts in Poland.

6- What recommendations would you give to Portugal and its entrepreneurs and managers?

Countries must be able to grow and generate wealth in a sustainable way. Without growth, there is no income to reinvest (create virtuous circles of growth), distribute among citizens and provide quality public services. In the current context, I recommend, above all, greater efficiency in the implementation of reforms that eliminate barriers to the development of business activity and promote the capitalization and competitiveness of companies. To entrepreneurs, I recommend exporting ambition with increased investment in the brand, in innovation, in investing in quality products and services with high added value. Given the small size of the Portuguese domestic market, the continued commitment to internationalization, not just to geographically or linguistically close markets, is crucial. I know from my own experience that in growing markets there is space and availability to accommodate the strong skills that Portugal has to offer. The economic-social development and increase in the country’s competitiveness is a national goal in which all of us Portuguese, without exception, have a responsibility to assume.

7- In which sectors of the country where you live can Portuguese companies find clients?

The growth in private investment and consumption, driven by increased purchasing power, together with the public investment plan linked to the PRR, creates opportunities in several sectors. However, it is crucial to consider the evolution of the consumption and investment profile of Poles, who are today more demanding in relation to the quality and brand of the products they purchase. I highlight the dynamism in the renewable energy, energy transition, mobility, and IT sectors. In services, infrastructure (example of the new central airport), “outsourcing”, health and financial services. I also highlight the notable growth in tourism and hospitality, an area in which Portugal can export skills. Portuguese businesspeople count on the support of Polish-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, AICEP and Diaspora Network to assist them in this effort.

8- In which sectors in Portugal might companies from the country where you reside want to invest?

Poland has increasingly turned outward, expanding trade relations with EU and non-EU countries (Polish exports now exceed 60% of GDP). Some Polish companies have already invested in Portugal in IT services, outsourcing, stem cell banking, renewable energy, and tourism. I think that the future may involve increasing investments in the IT area and preventive health, in addition to industrial investments. I believe that Portugal has untapped potential as a destination for investments seeking expansion to other Portuguese-speaking countries. I also highlight the 270 thousand Polish tourists who visited Portugal in 2022, which places Poland among its 10 largest tourist sources.

9- What is the competitive advantage of the country you are in that could be replicated in Portugal?

I highlight the business-friendly environment, in particular tax competitiveness, licensing deadlines and digitalization of public services. A concrete example: Portugal is among the countries in Europe with the fewest companies meeting payment deadlines, with only 21.1% of companies complying. The country seems to accept this phenomenon almost as cultural, despite it being an obstacle to economic growth, heavily penalizing companies (especially SMEs) and having an obvious social impact. The Polish State addressed this problem in 2010, introducing regulations on sharing economic information and creating so-called national debtor registers. These registers, created by banks and the private sector, provide the possibility for any creditor, who has an invoice overdue for more than 30 days and with prior notice to the debtor, to place the debt on the register. As the records are monitored by the debtor’s current or potential “stakeholders” (banks, credit insurers, suppliers, and customers), it works as an extremely effective deterrent instrument. Poland leads the “ranking” of countries with the most compliant companies, with 85.5% payable within the contracted deadlines, a performance only surpassed by Denmark.

10- Do you consider going back to Portugal? Why?

I have already spent more than half my life in Poland, so I am aware that I will always keep one foot in each country and my heart divided. In 2018 I studied the possibility of investing in Portugal, and with great regret, the content of this interview lists the reasons why I chose to develop the project in Poland. I haven’t lost hope, given that in the current context of my professional life, my perspective is to return to Portugal to enjoy my retirement. The reason is very simple: my roots remain in Portugal.

Read the original article here.