- Spencer Low
From the curry puff to the digital and green transitions
Updated: Mar 5
Yesterday, June 10, was Portugal's national day and our Portuguese friends are enjoying a long weekend. The Portuguese ambassador to Singapore, His Excellency Mário Miranda Duarte, wrote an opinion piece published by the local Business Times: https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/opinion/from-the-curry-puff-to-the-digital-and-green-transitions-portugal-is-reshaping-globalisation
Since the article sits behind a paywall, I've reproduced some key sections here for general readers. His Excellency opens with a reminder of the historic ties that Portugal has with this part of the world:
THE discovery of a new trade route between Europe and Asia around the Cape of Good Hope by the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama, in 1498, was a pivotal moment in history. The encounter of continents and cultures brought about by the Portuguese voyages led to the rise of global trade and showed the need for a common set of norms for commercial interactions, safety of navigation and various exchanges, a process which many consider the first globalisation.
The legacy of the Portuguese presence in Southeast Asia through the 16th and 17th centuries can still be found in many dimensions of our lives: from linguistic influences to clothing, from religious celebrations to, of course, gastronomy. If it is common knowledge that Portugal’s iconic pastel de nata inspired the famous egg tart, fewer appreciate that, for instance, the curry puff initially arrived in the region by the hands of Portuguese spice traders in the form of empadas, a popular Portuguese snack.
For more details on the origins of the curry puff, a common snack in Southeast Asia, check out this article: https://twitter.com/PortugueseAsia/status/1349009622141722625?s=20&t=Yn_qcFKRQ-uoWFsrg7aZ8A
His Excellency continues with commentary on Portugal's economic strategy and advantages that survived the test of the Covid pandemic, and then highlights a meaningful investment link between Portugal and Singapore:
Just like Singapore, Portugal is a maritime nation increasingly affected by climate change. For that reason, Portugal is leading the energy transition process in the EU and was the first country in the world to take on the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Due to a favourable geography and a sound investment in green energy, Portugal’s share of electricity from renewables is among the highest in the world (62 per cent) and representing around 1.6 per cent of the country’s GDP.
One of the most successful stories in this journey has certainly been the one of EDP Energias de Portugal, a global energy transition leader. EDP has recently acquired the majority of Sunseap Group, a Singapore-based company and reference in solar generation, with more than 600 employees and exposure to 8 countries in the region. This movement uniting two leaders in energy strengthens the ties between both countries in the quest towards cleaner, more reliable, more affordable and more secure energy.
The article continues by highlighting the fact that Portugal will co-host the United Nations Ocean Conference along with Kenya later this month, and also that Portugal has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the EU and the 10th largest worldwide. Just before closing, there's an interesting passage that was news to me:
Portugal holds a strategic position in the Atlantic front and in the crossroads of important shipping routes, notably through the deep-water Port of Sines. In fact, Singapore’s investment in the Port of Sines, where PSA’s subsidiary – PSA Sines – operates the Sines Container Terminal since the 2000, contributed tremendously to Portugal’s emergence in global logistics and in the world economy. PSA Sines is currently investing in the terminal’s expansion with a view to double the terminal’s handling capacity from the current 2 million to 4 million containers a year by 2025.
As Ambassador Duarte pointed out in a radio interview, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to make contact with Southeast Asia. Five hundred years later, the ties are being renewed and hopefully strengthened.