Miguel Silva Gouveia, Source: Funchal Municipality

The most valuable asset of Funchal are the warmth, hospitality and sympathy of its hard-working people

The most valuable asset of Funchal are the warmth, hospitality and sympathy of its hard-working people

Interview with Miguel Silva Gouveia, Mayor of Funchal in Portugal

Miguel Silva Gouveia has been Mayor of Funchal since June 2019. He has a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Instituto Superior Técnico of the Technical University of Lisbon, with a postgraduate degree in Business Management.

In May 2014, Gouveia was appointed Councilor in the Funchal City Council, responsible for Infrastructure and Equipment, Administrative Modernization and Finance. In October 2017, he assumed the role of Vice Mayor of Funchal.

As mayor, he is responsible for Finance, Administrative Modernization and Municipal Civil Protection. He has also served President of the Association of Madeiran university students of Lisbon and currently presides over the Association of Royal Paths of Madeira.

Funchal is the largest city, the municipal seat and the capital of Portugal's Autonomous Region of Madeira

Mayor Gouveia, please describe the beautiful municipality of Funchal in a few sentences.

Funchal is a city well known for its natural beauty, where the green mountains dive into the deep blue Atlantic Ocean and boasts temperate weather all year round. Funchal was also the first city established outside of mainland Europe and embodies a cultural and historical landmark that allowed the ‘Descobrimentos’ to take place as the birth of globalization. Nevertheless, the most valuable asset of Funchal are the warmth, hospitality and sympathy of its hard-working people.

During recent years, the municipality has been investing a lot in technology, administrative modernization and smart communities. How close are you to your goal of making Funchal a Smart city?

Making a city smart is always an unfinished process. However, we are starting several projects that will shape the way Funchal will deal with the challenges to come.

All of these projects, no matter the amount of technology used, have a structural common ground of data gathering, information-oriented processes and knowledge-based decisions. A city is as smart as its communities are.

Do you think this is the future of the cities?

Cities will face great challenges in the future, as by 2050 it is expected for 70% of the world’s population to be living in cities. This means that we need to start planning cities that will be able to cope with that fact right now by undergoing the changes needed to make them sustainable while also prosperous, and that provide quality of life to its inhabitants while maintaining identity and heritage. The best way to accomplish these goals is through technology and by involving the citizens in a participatory role in the design of the future.

At the same time, Funchal is implementing numerous social-oriented initiatives, please tell us more about the most important among them.

Funchal is a city that fights an everyday battle to reduce inequality and provide a social safety net to its citizens. Therefore, the city invests annually more than 4 million euros in several programs in areas as education, health and homes, helping families that socioeconomically disadvantaged.

These programs includes a rental aid to families with low income, delivering schoolbooks to all students in the first 9 years of school, helping the elderly with a chronic medication subvention, approving Birth Support Program, supporting students to pay their college tuition and an unemployed’s occupation program. These initiatives are complemented by establishing partnerships with local and national entities, funding our activities to achieve municipal goals in social, cultural and safety areas.

Funchal is one of Portugal's main tourist sites. How do you think the coronavirus pandemic will affect the summer season this year?

Undoubtedly there will be changes. This year's summer season will be highly affected. Although Funchal is so far presenting a good public health result in the COVID-19 crisis, mainly due to the responsible way its citizens complied with the recommendations, it is not very likely that the same will happen elsewhere in Europe. Consequently, the increased time of recovery, particularly in the origin countries of the island’s tourists, it will not allow for the immediate reestablishment of flight connections as they were.

How do you evaluate the initiative of a unified platform for European municipalities and its goal to keep European citizens informed about what is taking place in their cities? How the portal can be useful to you and to the citizens of Funchal?

It is important in the sense that, even though traveling is on halt right now, globalization is an irreversible process and has shown the benefits of organised common work in the pursuit of quality of life for our citizens and spreading the common good. These initiatives would allow keeping the proximity of local governments inside Europe, strengthening bonds between cities and exchanging experiences amongst communities, hence allowing us to grow together. Win-Win.

What will be the main goals you are planning to develop in the near future to make Funchal a better place to live in? 

In Funchal, we have five strategic goals in which local policies are established:

  1. environmental and economical sustainability;
  2. equality and social justice;
  3. urban rehabilitation and planned territory;
  4. innovation and smart investments;
  5. participatory democracy and citizen engagement.

To find out more about Funchal, visit the profile of the municipality.



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