Peru has just experienced one of the closest presidential elections in its recent history. The two protagonists were:
- Mrs Keiko Sofia Fujimori Higuchi, born in Lima on the 25 May 1975 (and daughter of the ex-President Alberto Fujimori (whose parents were Japanese), who managed to steer the country out of major economic, social, security and confidence crises (as well as successfully combating terrorism), in the 1990s. (Although, he was also involved in certain practices which resulted in his currently serving a long prison sentence). She was the First Lady in the place of her disavowed mother, and then a member of parliament. She has already been a presidential candidate once before but didn't win it.
- Mr Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, born in Lima on the 3 October 1938, an economist who was Minister for Energy and Mines under President Belaunde Terry, and Minister for Economics and Finance under President Alejandro Toledo. Mr Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is the son of a German doctor, who himself had Polish origins, and also had American and Peruvian dual nationality.
It was Mr Pedro Pablo Kuczynsli who narrowly won the election with 50.12% versus the more than respectable 49.88% achieved by Mrs Keiko Fujimori, who incidentally has a large majority in Congress. In fact she has 73 members of congress out of 130 versus only 18 for the party of the elected President.
There is therefore a troublesome and challenging cohabitation on the cards for the next 5 years. Despite the fact that the economic course of the country already seems to be plotted, given the similarity of the economic programmes proposed by the two political parties.
We know all about cohabitation in Europe.
We know that it can lead to serious difficulties. But, we also know that countries and their leaders are obliged to keep things moving forward and all the more so these days, when the power of communication, lobbies and the countless forms of exchange, including commercial, industrial, services, knowledge, and international agreements, become more prevalent every day.
Is it the right time to think about Peru, both in terms of communication, exchange, investment, supply, even expatriation? I think so.
We can't allow ourselves to ignore emerging countries and/or those who have recently entered into the circle of nations with proven potential, who benefit among other things from a soil rich in various raw materials, who have numerous products with a strong added-value potential, who have significant purchasing power at the same time as enjoying cheap labour, even though this aspect will likely change.
In the more complex European social context, where the crisis never seems to end, positioning oneself alongside and inside other markets beyond European borders is important, especially given the fact that others are active there already.
The South American market on the West Coast is particularly worthy of our attention bearing in mind that it is no longer right in the middle of a danger zone. And Peru is the perfect hub within it! On the East Coast, Venezuela and Brazil are currently going through some difficult political and social times.
Of course, not everything is easy over there,(but then again, where is everything easy, right?) but, the structures are in place, or are being set up, to help you over there, to facilitate exchange, installations, imports and exports, the creation of businesses, corporate image work, various grants, contacts and groupings for more strength and visibility.
Amongst these of course we have always had Embassies and Consulates, and sometimes commercial attachés, the reflections of the Wallonia.be ambassadors, but also and especially
- the Chambers of Commerce, such as
- EuroCámaras, the association of European Chambers in Peru
- and for our country the Belgian and Luxembourgian Chambers of Commerce and Culture in Peru, or Cámara CCBLP/Chambre CCBLP (www.camaraccblp.com),
- for the less weighty matters, there are the ELAN structures (in 7 Latin American countries including ELANBiz and ELAN Network
- the representatives of AWEX/WBI,
- and to assist our compatriots in a more personal or family way, representatives of the UFBE (Union Francophone des Belges à l'Etranger - Francophone Union of Belgians Abroad),
- and the Belgian Associations including the Belgium Club in Peru.
But these are not magic wands. They are not above local laws, and are not ministries or banks. But, they are considered to be essential partners to make a place for oneself, or rather carefully considered and appreciated places, as a country, as a region, as Belgians, Brussels inhabitants, Walloons or Luxembourgians.
There aren't many risk-free expat experiences. Obviously, the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side. Living in one's native country, like in Belgium, Brussels, or Wallonia, can be fantastic, rewarding, passionate and can contain all the ingredients of a fulfilled life without any of the risks associated with the uncertainty of expatriating, or the cultural shock, or the vain (and very expensive) pursuit of pipe dreams. After all it has a superb geo-strategic position, it is a political hub, an economic crucible of substantial and quality know-how, where one can speak one's native language and understand the slightest subtleties of what is being said.
But on the other hand, it is also essential that the rest of the world knows about our country, our regions, their treasures, their values, their quality of life, their attractiveness for investors.
It is therefore crucial to have ambassadors who are in easy contact with and are close to local populations and businesses of all sizes, as well as potential investors, potential visitors, etc.
Because despite the anxiety-provoking ignorance of faraway places, how many people, so as to avoid certain risks, have taken another, which is no less consequential, to force themselves to lead what has sometimes appeared as a more mundane life (even if it is not without its worth), in which they have had to abandon the essence of their dreams of being an ambassador. Leading, for some of them, to a rather bland outcome in which the expression "despite it all" would be a resounding mitigation to avoid hurt feelings. Valuing the security of the "gilded cage" where one locks oneself away voluntarily in acceptance of social and family pressure, and that of one's own weaknesses.
However current events demonstrate that misfortune can knock on your door at any time, even "at home" in Europe or elsewhere. The tragedies of terrorist attacks and mass migrations have also cruelly demonstrated this, as well as the often violent upheavals caused by nature in different parts of the world.
The expat experience may turn out to be a passion or an extraordinary revelation (good or bad), especially for Belgians, Brussels inhabitants, Walloons, Luxembourgians, who are generally highly appreciated for their capacity to adapt and the added value they bring to numerous spheres. And the problems encountered recently have only slightly hindered relations in Latin America in general, and Peru in particular, thanks to this sustained appreciation and by the strength of the general image conveyed. It's important to keep our heads up, to not get depressed, and on the contrary get back on the right track, perhaps highlight our image a bit more, our values, our products, our services, our know-how and qualities, and then multiply this kind of initiative in all areas.
As for me, after more than thirty years of a fabulous expat lifestyle, I thank destiny every day for having given me just the right amount of courage to take that step, and then the determination, the passion of having lived so many amazing lives in one go, and the sensible laziness of having had the time to enjoy it all.
How much longer will it all last? Will I have to suddenly leave it all behind one day because of a natural catastrophe, an epidemic, economic or political strife, war or some other reason? I have no idea. But has it all been worthwhile up to this point? And how! Our country, our regions, our producers and their products and services.. Is it all worth the bother? Absolutely. And can the expat life be an enriching experience? I've just answered that one.
Have there never been any disappointments, failures, sorrows, advances and setbacks? Of course.
Have I dared to do everything? Of course... not.
Refused everything? I wouldn't say that either!
What is my nationality? BELGIAN!
Would I consider changing my nationality? Not in the slightest!
I am a Belgian with pride and determination, I defend it at my humble level, representing it with a touch of chauvinism and Royalism. If I could go back in time, I would probably do the same thing, but would forge ahead with more zeal, but expect less, making the most of every opportunity, having identified opportunities more often. Laws change and sometimes become more restrictive, sometimes open up for a short while. I don't earn a fortune, but I have the good fortune of being able to do very rewarding things from different perspectives, learning every day, constantly discovering new things and meeting countless interlocutors who are fascinated to find out about Belgium and the Belgians.
I share my experience with whoever asks me, as well as my knowledge of the country, its history, its places to discover, the things you can try, taste and experience there: it's my job.
I assist with the understanding of local systems, or for an installation, or the construction of a business, or a life project, that's my role.
I suggest the development of certain projects there which appeal to me, it's my ambition.
Just like the country where I am living (Peru), I have a very contrasting and diverse life.
My experience in Peru is made up of encounters from which I have learned that to better experience them, one just needs to learn to appreciate them better, to protect oneself, maintain one's airs, and put things into perspective.
One only falls from a great height if one has climbed high, but it's up there where we get one of the nicest views.
If you want to rise to the top, don't aim too low.
Seeing what is right in front of us can be sublime.
Climbing high together as well.
What's important is our quality of life and our common currency.