Tuesday, 10 April 2018

What's up with Portugal?

Matthew Klein, from FT's creative department (FT Alphaville), did a very good analysis about Portugal's economic journey post-Euro adoption in 1999. Here the link to Matthew's article: FT Alphaville looks at Portugal
And a few remarks:
1. The increase in Portugal's household debt in the post-Euro period was to finance consumption. Not real estate acquisitions (mortgages). There was no real estate boom in Portugal over the period. The increase in household debt combined with the increase in government debt (part of it directed to infrastructure spending / construction) led to the massive increase in foreign debt pre-Eurozone crisis.
2. The phenomenal improvement in Portugal's current account balance since 2011 is a combination of three factors
a) luck: tourism picked up to a large extend due to competing destinations' troubles (North Africa, Turkey,...)
b) sheer need: PT's export companies had to expand into new geographies as demand from Spain & Co collapsed
c) FDI: reforms made PT more attractive. Some foreign companies established operations in the country (e.g. Rocket Internet); already present ones expanded their existing operations (e.g. Siemens, Bosch, Peugeot, BNPP...)
3. Reforms (read tax incentives) implemented post-2009 attracted many EU-citizens as permanent residents. Golden Visas attracted non-EU residents (Chinese, Brazilian, Angolan. And more recently Turks). These individuals are the main force behind the boom in the Lisbon / Porto real estate markets. The ECB has little to do with it.
Tourism boom and VIPs as permanent residents (Madonna, Michael Fassbender, Cantona, Monica Belucci, Philippe Starck....) doing high profile marketing of the country - for free - led to an international (re)discovery of Portugal. And have created a positive feedback loop for tourism and investment.
The main gap in the whole story: a much more aggressive FDI attraction strategy (a la Ireland) is needed. FDI is the only way for Portugal to massively broaden its export base, increase productivity and raise living standards sustainably over a reasonably short timeframe (10 years).
An Eurozone private sector transfer union based on a FDI core-periphery bridge is what the EU(rozone) authorities should focus on. It would be a win-win situation for core and periphery. And therefore a no-brainer:

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