Article of Itay Mor – Público
Embrace History and look towards the future: Portugal and the Jewish opportunity
Over the past few years, the connection between Portugal and Jewish culture has been increasingly strengthened. It is a relationship with a long-standing history and has gained even more importance in the last decade. Now is the time to look towards the future and take advantage of the potential opportunities this connection can bring - for both people.
Upon the approval of the Portuguese Citizenship Law, in 2013, Sephardic Jews, descendants of Jews expelled from Portugal and Spain, were finally able to become Portuguese citizens and return to their homeland. Since then, many Jews have been reunited with their Portuguese ancestry and, in the last five years, 100,000 applications for citizenship have been submitted by Jews. About 20,000 are already Portuguese citizens, according to the authorities' reports. With the influx of these new citizens, investments of billions of euros were injected in Portugal’s economy.
Coming from various parts of the world, Sephardic Jews view Portugal as a country with growth potential and a relevant array of economic and cultural opportunities. With stunning landscapes and a unique historical heritage, Portugal is increasingly attractive - and not just as far as tourism is concerned.
Up to this day, most of these new investments were geared towards tourism, real estate, infrastructure, medical industries, among other sectors. Yet, the main opportunity to be created between the two cultures lies in technology, namely, growing investment and contribution in the technological sector - culture of start-ups - which has shown steady progress in Portugal in recent years.
Lately we have seen incredible efforts by the Portuguese government to increase technological and high-tech stimulus across the country, and we can attest to concrete results, which are already happening, especially in large cities.
Nevertheless, if we look at Portugal's investment in R&D – in terms of percentage of national GDP for 2019 - we will notice the relatively low figure of 1.4% (65.5% in services, 19% in industry, 2% in agriculture (undefined).
This is exactly where we can find the opportunity. Many new citizens bring relevant experience and the right mind-set to contribute to the nation's growth.
For example, to learn about the culture of these new Portuguese citizens, we can look at the Israeli GDP (a considerable amount of Israelis are relocating to Portugal) and see that Israel spent about 5% of the country's GDP on R&D for 2019 (ranked 6th worldwide by Bloomberg).
In future, growth will derive from entrepreneurship & cooperation between the old and the new, heritage and vision, past and future! This cooperation can occur through an international platform for start-ups, joint investment funds for Israel and Portugal, academic cooperation and/or joint R&D programs that will contribute to the development of all these arenas.
Despite its long history, Portugal has been able to modernize and always keep innovation in its DNA. A factor that has also greatly contributed to this development is the fact that it is a welcoming country for peoples from all over the world, which lately has attracted more than many to choose Portugal as a place for live and work.
The positive impact of the Jewish community in Portugal is also being felt, as it is a community that has been thriving from day to day. And, with this community, Portugal as a whole.