PORTUGAL'S population is only 10 million. But Portuguese is the first language of nearly 200 million people throughout the world, in continents as diverse as Europe, South America and Africa. This spread of the Portuguese language is now a part of history, a result of Portuguese navigators and missionaries venturing out into areas unknown and untouched by Western civilisation, and creating an intermingling of cultures and peoples. Today, with decolonisation and a new Europe emerging, Portugal has become inextricably tied up with Europe, returning to its essentially European past. Since 1986, when Portugal became a member of the expanding European Community (EC), the country's economy has shown impressive growth. In fact, during the period 1986-91, Portugal's growth rate was the highest among EC members, an impressive achievement for a country which was largely agrarian and needed to catch up in numerous ways with its community counterparts. This growth was made possible by increased investment and exports which fuelled the Portuguese economy. Also helping growth was the large-scale infrastructure investment programme, particularly in telecommunications and transport, which was undertaken during this time. Growth was also made possible by the stable political and social conditions which prevailed in the country after the earlier years of uncertainty. With political stability established at home, Portugal began opening up its economy. A look at the macro-economic statistics justifies this claim. From 1985 to 1991, Portugal had an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 4.1 per cent - faster than its EC partners. Exports shot up sharply to the end of 1990 at a yearly average of 10.7 per cent. Despite the downturn in exports in 1991, they are now expected to climb again to over six per cent. Increased investment, including foreign direct investment, has been one of the engines of this economic growth, for Portugal is fast becoming an attractive location for international investment. Two other important economic indicators that point to Portugal's economic progress are inflation and unemployment, which have shown positive changes during the current growth period. Inflation, which was 13.4 per cent in 1990, was down to 8.9 per cent last year, enabling Portugal's currency, the escudo, to join the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system in April last year. In 1986, Portugal had one of the highest jobless rates in the EC. Today, with unemployment down to 4.4 per cent, the country has one of the lowest rates in the community. Unemployment is bound to go down further as 100,000 new jobs are being created every year. As a spur to free enterprise, the government has not only invested heavily in modernising the country's infrastructure but has also reformed the tax system, removing whatever impediments there were to promoting a dynamic and open economy. The government launched a major privatisation programme in 1987 in the manufacturing and financial services sectors, selling off public enterprises - and it is planning to sell off more. The Portuguese Government's targets for the period up to 1995 are threefold. It wants to ensure that economic advancement is not hampered or side-tracked by an absence of budgetary controls, and by inflationary wage increases. Third, it is pursuing further industrial restructuring. This year, however, the international environment is expected to be less favourable. Portugal is expecting a three per cent growth in its GDP with inflation anticipated to fall by another two to three percentage points. This year, too, economic activity is expected to be generated by investment and exports, continuing the impressive economic achievements Portugal has recorded in recent years.