Portugal eyes Chinese Fund for Portuguese-Speaking Countries

The government of Portugal wants to access a US$1-billion Chinese fund for co-operation projects in Portuguese-speaking countries based in Macao since 2017. It is also preparing to nominate a new permanent representative to the Forum Macao.

On a recent visit to Macao, Augusto Santos Silva, Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, met officials from the Forum Macao , and raised the issue of how to access the US$1-billion Development Co-operation Fund between China and Portuguese-speaking countries (PSCs). Its role is to fund projects that promote co-operation between China and the PSCs.

Portugal lacks financial resources to support the activities of Portuguese companies and is facing difficulties in running Sofid, the Society for Financing for Development. So it is seeking ways to increase access to funding from multilateral agencies.

Silva’s meeting with Xu Yingzhen, Secretary-General of the Forum Macao was attended by by the three Deputy Secretaries-General of the institution. They wanted clarification from Silva on whom Portugal is going to name as its next permanent representative to the Forum.

The Forum has no direct link to the Fund. The only thing they have in common is that they are based in Macao and promote co-operation between China and the PSCs.

Portugal’s Foreign Ministry has been delaying the appointment of a permanent delegate to the Forum, even after Angola and Brazil recently did so. In the absence of a permanent delegate, Portugal is represented by Maria João Bonifácio. She also holds the posts of delegate of Aicep Portugal Global in Macao and of Economic and Commercial Counselor at the country’s consulate-general in Macao.

Cabo Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe recently nominated new delegates to the Forum. Angola, Brazil, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe also recently appointed new ambassadors to China. All this makes conditions ripe for the Forum Macao to enter a new phase of greater dynamism.

Its secretariat was reinforced last year with the arrival of a new representative for Portuguese-speaking countries, Rodrigo Brum. He is a Portuguese national who was born in Mozambique. He previously served the Portuguese administration of Macao, as well as government bodies in Lisbon. He replaced Mozambican diplomat Vicente Jesus Manuel.

The fact that Brum is the first Portuguese to hold the post is considered an opportunity for Portugal to strengthen its position within the Forum. Brum´s mandate will end within two years. This leaves only a short overlap with the new Portuguese representative to the Forum, given the time needed for nomination, approval and installation of a new delegate.

The need of more active intervention by the eight delegates of the Forum Macao comes at a sensitive time – its Deputy Secretary-General, Gloria Ung, has been removed from office. An expert in relations between China and the PSCs, she took up the post in May this year.

She is under criminal investigation and has been suspended from office after the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) considered her a suspect in alleged crimes related to the vetting and approval of applications for the granting of investment residency rights, such as property investments.

Ung was an executive board member of Macau Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM). Ung was suspected of crimes as a senior member of IPIM, not as Deputy Secretary-General of the Forum. The Macao government ordered an investigation in the case that also saw the head of IPIM, Jackson Cheong, accused of the same crimes; he was suspended as its president. Both Ung and Cheong are not allowed to leave Macao.

The Secretary for Economic and Finance appointed Casimiro de Jesus Pinto as the new Deputy Secretary-General. Pinto, 48, is a graduate of translation and interpreting from the Polytechnic Institute of Macao; he was responsible for the Forum Macao portfolio in the office of Secretary For Economic and Finance, Leong Vai Tac. Pinto is the fifth Deputy Secretary-General of the Forum Macao appointed by the government of Macao since 2015.

The Forum holds ministerial summits every three years; they attract high-level officials from China and the PSCs. Its other activities include the participation of PSCs in fairs and events in provinces in mainland China.

A higher level of Lusophone representatives is essential for countries to take advantage of the contacts provided to them at such events.

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