Press Room

Press Release / Feb 21, 2001

Speech delivered by Mr. António Guterres, Prime Minister

on the occasion of his visit to Hovione on 21st February 2001


(transcribed and translated at Hovione)

The reason for this visit is very simple:

It was recently decided by both the Government and all social partners, that we would get together to work with well defined objectives, with a view to significatively improving, here in Portugal, both hygiene, safety at work and our fight against accidents, as well as increasing training and qualification of people at work who create prosperity. It is important to say that on signing the agreement relating to hygiene and safety at work, we assumed that, unfortunately, our Country, is lacking in these fields and, in certain sectors, has an accident rate which is intolerable both from a political and moral point of view relative to the people who work and live in Portugal.

It could be thought that these objectives are utopic, but the best way to show that this is not so, is to visit a company that for a long time, and at its own initiative and according to its own strategy, is a centre of excellence. This I take as an example that the Country should know about, not only, but also, in relation to the question of safety. This is the best way to prove to those who do not have this preoccupation sufficiently in mind, what they can and should do and by doing so would not necessarily increase their costs, on the contrary, as has just been mentioned, they could even lower their production costs.

Obviously, safety is not exclusively a worry for firms. The State, as regulator and inspector - must recognize that not having done enough in this field is a worry for the firms – but it is also the responsibility of those who work to behave in a matter that safeguards themselves and others.

We felt that it was very important that the Country should know Hovione because what is done here in this field is absolutely exemplary and can and should, bearing in mind that natural adaptations required according to the different forms of the country’s economic activity, be copied across the Country, showing that the objectives we have set ourselves, on a country wide scale, are perfectly attainable.

Actually, I must refer to another aspect that mentioned here. We have established in our social agreements the right to training. This right, independently from other aspects, assures that all Portuguese workers by 2005 will enjoy 35 hours/year of training. Hovione already offers 70 hours/year training. It is also interesting that training is not something that has been imposed, as a luxury or a political option. In a firm of excellence that assures high standards of technology and is a name in the marketplace, training is an essential component for its own success. At the same time, in this world of constant mutation, it is fundamental to give people the capacity to reply to challenges that are renewed daily as a result of the rapid technological evolution that we live with.

But it would be unjust if I did not take advantage of this occasion to state, in the name of the Government, our great appreciation of what Hovione means to Portugal, and not only in what refers to the questions of safety and training. It is a case of quite exemplary capacity for technological innovation and the proof that when we want to, when we really do everything we can and with enormous determination, the conditions exist in Portugal to do as well as anywhere in the world. However, this is not viable without enormous investment, tremendous dedication, effort and competence.

I know that several decades ago, Eng. Ivan Villax started in a small laboratory in a cellar. From that small laboratory to what we see here today, there are decades of hard work, of competence, of intelligence which, put to work towards an ideal, assured the building of this enterprise. I feel this is an example to be followed as it demonstrates that it is possible, in Portugal, to achieve the best there is in the World and to have things for which we can be proud from every angle. Such as the matters related to technological capacity, innovation, optimization of management, to all those equally important matters of safety and training in social conscience and of belonging to a community. Many firms tend to function isolated from the community without realizing the importance of being part of it.

It is also exemplary that this firm has understood that they can only win by maintaining a constant dialogue with the local community enrichening it at the same time. For all of this, many thanks for this opportunity for the country, more than for myself as I have known of the tradition of excellence that you represent, to grow in self esteem and understand that they too can achieve their own objectives if there is the will and the capacity to do so.

Many thanks.

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