1. I am grateful for the invitation and I commend the work done at NERGA and in the Guarda region by Pedro Tavares over the 17 years he was as vice-president and later as president of NERGA.
He manifested an unbeatable dedication to the association and business associations, expending energy and time, which perhaps he lacked for the management of his companies. Energy and time that could have been used to launch new businesses were dedicated to the cause of associativism. For that, associativism is grateful and recognized.
2. Pedro Tavares belongs to a generation of leaders who introduced innovation and strategic changes in business associations:
• Reinforced the centrality of companies in the economy and society.
• Integrated regional development into the mission, program and activities of the associations.
• They assumed themselves as actors in regional development, promoting partnerships with local authorities.
• They started to bring companies closer to universities, until then two structures that were not known.
• Streamlined structural projects for the regions.
• Overcame the absence of technical staff with the creation of professional schools.
• They created mutual guarantee societies, so important that it was in the two crises that we went through.
• They placed internationalization and strengthening export capacity as an imperative of their activity.
It was the golden age of associations, namely regional associations.
Today's challenges are different:
• The associative market is fragmented. There are 1,064 Business Associations (AEs), resulting in an average of one association for every 375 companies, which compete for associative representation.
• The alienation of companies and the lack of representativeness of most AEs oblige us to reflect on their social utility, and on the value they create in companies.
• Our “core” today is invaded by an overlap of activities and actions by confederations, clusters, CIMs, Foundations, Universities and public bodies.
Support for companies in the training of entrepreneurs and technicians, in entrepreneurship, management of regional incentives, in internationalization and innovation, is being occupied by all these entities, with a resignation and inertia of the AEs that surprises me.
• All of these intermediation structures between incentive systems and companies, have access to technical assistance and investment support. That is, the CAPEX and OPEX of these institutions are 100% financed.
• AEs have been without direct access to grants for 25 years to qualify their technical staff or renew themselves technologically. And unfortunately, the message is that the AEs subsist on the operating subsidies account.
For all these reasons, we need AEs with determination and determination to combat this state of affairs.
3. We have entered a new phase.
The current movement is to direct our action and activity towards:
• Projects that have application on the “shop floor” with a direct effect on productivity.
• Use the supports for the digitization of the productive fabric up to the last cent.
• Train entrepreneurs and technicians in new digital skills.
• Reinforce the connection to universities and research laboratories, but with requirements to change the current situation, in which 80% is fundamental research and 20% is applied research. It is required that the use of structural funds in these areas is subject to applications in co-promotion of companies and universities.
• Projects that reinforce business cooperation and its resizing. Believe, that there will be no significant changes in productivity, innovation, export intensity, and in wages with the current size of the companies.
• Design and streamline the creation of financing instruments. The Câmara do Fundão created with Portugal Ventures a regional venture capital fund for companies. AIP is working on issuing bundled bonds for SMEs.
• Given the brutal selection shock that will occur, funds will appear for the restructuring of companies. We have to be there and boost demand.
• Increase the SME's negotiating capacity in the acquisition of energy and other utilities, adding consumption and auctioning them.
• Intermediate and boost demand in the processes of acquisition and merger of companies in partnership with specialized structures in these fields.
• Streamline the creation of mediation and arbitration structures.
• Intervene moderately, but actively, in regional pilot projects in hydrogen production.
This is the new phase in the life of AEs. This is the challenge that the Orlando Faísca team will face.
4. I would finish with some comments on the current situation.
On the economic situation compared between December 2020 and December 2019:
- Economic dimension
. Historical contraction of GDP (-7.6%), returning in volume to 2008.
. Fall in exports (-18%) and investment (-5%)
- Business dynamics
. Unemployment rate only increases