The fundamentals of the economy will never remain in SMEs, but the existence of large groups that can compete in open global markets is essential for competitiveness and wealth creation.
Pedro Queiroz Pereira (PQP) made the Semapa Group much of what the Portuguese economy would be: open and competitive, with a strong industrial base, exporting and turning to global markets.
PQP maintained and strengthened the industrial character of its activities when the reverse movement was intense, with many groups being divested in the industry to enter the financial, commercial or service areas.
It has never been afraid to participate in sectors of open competition, such as pulp and paper and cement, where competition is global and is done through efficiency and capacity management.
This is the antithesis of protected markets and rentier companies that live alongside the state or public concessions and which have been one of the country's greatest setbacks in recent decades.
In an economy suffering from a lack of capital in companies, the Semapa Group has maintained a policy of strong reinvestment in capital-intensive sectors, with the construction and operation of new plants, both in and outside the country.
With this investment and production capacity, The Navigator Company became the second largest national exporter – after Petrogal and Auto Europe. But if we want to rank as the net contribution to the trade balance, Navigator is certainly a leader because, unlike other units, it imports very little raw material or components.
And all this PQP has done with great independence and distance from the public powers – with whom it has had a number of clashes along the way, but these are bones of trade – and, preferably, away from the limelight in the media. In fact, Pedro Queiroz Pereira had no great sympathy for journalists and never cultivated with these close relationships. Unlike those who announce what they do not know if they are going to do, they prefer to do it first and announce it later.
If the one who was the country's most important industrialist disappears, the episode most remembered by the media is the decisive role that PQP had at the beginning of the end of Ricardo Salgado and Grupo Espírito Santo.
It is in fact the most striking and the biggest public impact, because many Portuguese people will not have noticed the existence of Pedro Queiroz Pereira until he gave his testimony in the highly mediated parliamentary inquiry committee BES / GES.
And this was also a distinctive feature of what is the norm of the country and its elites, always more willing to compete in mutual cover-up and risk-free deployment than of divergences and confrontations, which can be won or lost.
With the sounding end of the GES still far away, only a frontal mind, with great independence from the future powers, with great certainty what it did, would have a solid position, free from "glass roofs", to be the most powerful banker to confront land as it did to ensure the control of its group.
With Belmiro de Azevedo and Américo Amorim, Queiroz Pereira was one of the most striking entrepreneurs of the last decades in Portugal. With very different backgrounds – the first two came from humble families – they also made differentiated journeys in business. But they shared similar profiles in the capacity to reach solid and international groups, and in the challenging distance they maintain with regard to the different cycles of political power.
We miss, not too much, these characteristics. The basis of the Portuguese economy will never cease to exist in small and medium-sized enterprises, but the existence of large groups capable of competing in open global markets is essential for the competitiveness of the country and for the creation of wealth, even by the dragging effect they have on smaller supply units that are sector value chains. The eternal Auto-Europe is the example we always have more at hand, but it is not the only one. One of the problems of the country is not to have two or three cases of dimension that we are very dependent on. We only have these two or three cases.
But I doubt that an important part of the country is aware of our vulnerability and necessity. We continue to have a bad relationship with economic groups, large industrial units, business success and the creation of prosperity. Sometimes it indicates that we have the permanent indignation that causes us the failure and the bankruptcies, whether they are fraudulent or police cases or not.
It is possible that this is a contamination of the bad relationship we have with the generality of those who make money and are or become rich. Whether it is entrepreneurs who have built themselves from scratch, developed and developed groups, have done clean businesses that have performed very well, or are competent and recognized professionals in other areas, such as television presenters. But it is time to free ourselves from the Salazaristic remnants of associating honesty and honesty with poverty.
Pay attention: The author writes under the old spelling agreement.