When João Leão Fernandes takes over as the finance minister of Portugal on Monday, he will be the third Goa-origin politician in the country’s government, making him the latest in the large Indian diaspora across the globe to reach top political positions.
Fernandes, 46, will join two others with Goa links in the government: Prime Minister Antonio Costa and planning minister Nelson de Souza. A PhD in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Fernandes has been part of Costa’s team since 2015.
Fernandes’ family hails from Sarzora in Salcette, and retains links with the extended family in Panaji, where his grand-father, Leão Fernandes, taught in the Portuguese-era school in Altinho: Lyceum (today it houses the Goa bench of the Bombay high court).
The media in Portugal quoted former minister Alvaro Santos Pereira as saying that Fernandes is an “excellent” choice for the key ministry. He held several academic roles before taking on policy-making responsibilities in the government.
Prime Minister Costa, 58, heads the minority Socialist (PS) government since the October 2019 election. He was presented the Overseas Citizen of India card by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to Lisbon in June 2017. Costa visited his ancestral home in Goa in early 2017.
The Goa-Portugal link is one among several strands of the Indian disapora. Portugal was the first western country to colonise parts of India in the early sixteenth century, and the last to leave, on December 19, 1961.