At the end of the summer of 1972, exactly half a century ago, SEDES – Associação para o Desenvolvimento Económico e Social (the most famous reformist think tank during Marseilles) issued a document for the country entitled “Portugal: The country we are, the country we want to be “. The Marseille spring had already turned into autumn: Américo Thomas had just been re-elected, the colonial war had dragged on, repression had intensified, and an economic crisis was already brewing. Seeing the general frustration, and at the same time willing to go against it, the signatories of CEDES began by asking “Where will we be and how will we be in 1980?” to criticize the obstacles that overshadowed Portugal in the early 1970s.
Among the “problems that are getting worse without a solution”, emigration stood out, indicating the country’s inability to offer better living and working conditions to those who left; the growing inflationary process, reflected in the cost of living; the inevitability of economic integration in Europe when the country is not ready for international commercial competition; “disaggregation of regional economies” with “continuous depopulation of municipalities and regions” within the country; or “deterioration of public administration” when the government fails to promote a “prestigious, moralized, revitalized and efficient public sector”. “No one will have any difficulty,” continued the text, “to add to a new list of urgent questions that seriously endanger national life, about which much has been said and which, year after year, continue to wait for a sufficient solution.” Therefore, “the prevailing feeling in the country” in contemplation of the recent past and present could not but be “annoyance at urgent battles, the need for which was endlessly discussed, at decisions that were changed or postponed, and at rejected goals” or which were not clearly formulated ” .
Between “untapped resources” and/or “lack of organizational and decision-making capacity” there was “widespread anxiety” stemming from the inevitable observation that “we are very far from the results that we could achieve thanks to the progress of the Portuguese and Portugal”. This was the macro goal of the reformist, humanist and liberalizing technocrats that SEDES brought together. “Ultimately,” they reminded Marcelo Cayetano, “the real obstacle can only be associated with the low political priority of economic and social development in our country.” So, in short, there was an urgent need to “radically change our economic, social and political way of life”, since “a national balance based on general anemia, repression and weakening of various participants” is unsustainable and pernicious.
SEDES did not know that the Estado Novo would fall in April 1974, that democracy would come in 1976, and Europe from the EEC (after EFTA) in 1986 of repression, finally gained the freedom that was discussed between the lines of the 1972 manifesto ., there would be conditions for solving (almost) all economic and social problems of development and cohesion.
Fifty years have passed since this manifesto, and almost the same number has already been in democracy. However, if we compare the above quotes with the Portuguese present, the feeling of deja vu is indescribable. SEDES wondered what the country would be like in 1980 and is wondering today (in its recent study “Ambition: Doubling GDP in 20 Years”) where we will be in 2040. It may be a replay of a sad fate: knowing (some) where to go, but never getting there!