A week of news and views from the sunny Algarve...
It was not so sunny in November 2015 when a flash flood caused €25 million of damage to Albufeira’s downtown area as waist-high water swept through the streets.
The flood defences pushed through by former mayor Desidério Silva, without the approval of the Algarve Hydrographical Board, proved woefully ineffective and once the mess had been cleared up, an investigation was launched into how to prevent the same happening again.
A year to the day, a report was released that concluded that a tunnel was needed to channel the flood water away from the town. Why this took a year is anyone’s guess as it seems a pretty obvious solution.
Professor José Saldanha Matos and his team are said to have experience of this sort of flood prevention solution and now Albufeira’s shop and barkeepers can expect to wait until 2030 for a full set of measure to be in place.
In the meantime, another rainstorm of equal intensity to the November 1st deluge last year will have the same effect on the downtown area and presumably cost another €25 million.
The Algarve’s mayors have decided that the government’s edict, that each council in the country must provide a municipal kennel and trained veterinary care, may not be the way forward for the region and announced that two ‘super kennels’ will be built.
Aljezur and Alcoutim have been selected as areas where new facilities can be sited away from housing so the inevitable barking and howling will not disturb residents.
The mayors’ group AMAL has ordered a financial assessment of this novel idea but there has been no mention yet of the fate of current facilities, both council and voluntary, should the 'super kennel' plan go ahead.
Presumably, if the new scheme is effective in dealing with the problem of stray and abandoned dogs in the Algarve, the region's army of volunteers will have little left to do.
Portugal’s planned ‘sugar tax’ that will hit soft drinks manufacturers will add a few cents per can of their gloop but Coca-Cola is behaving true to form and threatening to scrap a planned €40 million investment in its Setúbal plant in protest at the tax.
Not content with this, Coca-Cola also has been placing full page ads in national newspapers to say how unfair it is that the company is to be taxed on each 33ml can of Coke that contains an astonishing seven teaspoons of sugar.
If the company insists on producing this sugar-filled drink, it should shut up and pay the tax as the more it bleats, the more people will discover the truth behind the amount of sugar that goes into its products.
The planning mess in Vila Real de Santo António continues. An inquiry was launched last week into how the council came to be facing a potential €100 million compensation bill for past planning decisions that contravened the agreed municipal master plan.
The previous mayor, António Murta, says that allegations that plans were passed without due care and attention by the head of planning, aka his wife, are nonsense and the situation has been blown up only because he is vying to become mayor again and people want to discredit him.
One could point Sr Murta to the judges’ summing up in the Loulé Administrative Court which stated that certain development clearly contravened planning regulations, but one fears this would do little good as he is not really listening.
Contravening the planning laws to favour one applicant over another clearly is not right, as a former mayor of Olhão and four councillors have found to their cost.
The case dating back to 2004, subject to complaint in 2009 and investigated by the police until 2016, has finally been assessed by the public prosecutor as serious enough to warrant the 'Olhão Five' facing trial for corruption in public office - some twelve years after the event.
Franciso Leal (Olhão mayor 1993-2013), Luís Medeiros, Vítor Lopes, Eduardo Cruz and Gil Vicente da Conceição now have formally been indicted by the Évora Criminal Investigation and Action Department - may justice be served.
Eduardo Cruz, one of the above accused, made quite a nuisance of himself at Friday’s public meeting to discuss the council’s plans to modernise Olhão’s Historic Centre.
Lacking a grasp of the pertinent facts was no excuse for someone in Cruz’s position as an opposition councillor but he was a lone voice among the 200 foreign and Portuguese residents whose horror at the council’s proposals for the city was matched by their encouragement that whatever needs doing to stop the plan must be done.
Local media have been covering this case in detail where the will of the people is up against the intransigence of the council.
The leader in last week’s Resident covered the story:
which left the mayor, António Pina, gasping with indignation that he had not been asked his opinion before publication.
But, the mayor’s opinion already is contained within the modernisation plan that he has proposed, including a six storey viewing tower, dubbed locally as Pina's Erection, which is designed to offer intrusive views of the private rooftop terraces of nearby properties.
Olhão’s proud history is one of protest and dissent and the council ignores this at its peril. This was witnessed recently with the railway crossing in the 'Berlin Wall saga.' The pedestrian crossing point now has been reinstated and is functioning perfectly well despite officialdom dictating what can and can’t happen as ‘it is the law.’
The read a report of the meeting and news of Pina's Erection, click here:
A contract to import tens of thousands of tonnes of Neapolitan rubbish and bury it in landfill sites in Portugal strikes many as wrong, with some readers questioning why they should bother paying attention to local recycling instructions when Italy can ship its rubbish here simply to be dumped.
One entity has decided that it would be a good idea to investigate what exactly is contained in this prime Italian waste.
The Integrated Centre for the Treatment of Industrial Waste has put the first ship load in quarantine while it goes through a random sample of bags to see what has been imported. Why this could not be done in Italy before shipment is a moot point but with the mafia controlling much of the city’s waste disposal service contracts, many fear that hazardous waste will be shipped to Portugal to be dumped in the Portuguese countryside.
Why should Portugal import rubbish while exhorting her citizens to recycle so as to reduce landfill tonnage?
It’s not as if Portugal is going to do anything productive with the stuff, unlike Sweden which has 32 generation plants which produce heat for 810,000 households and electricity for 250,000 private houses.
Back to Vila Real de Santo António where the council is serious in addressing its inner city housing problems by introducing a 90% grant scheme for property owners to upgrade their unused or uninhabitable buildings for the buoyant rental market.
This is real urban regeneration and the 'Renovate to Rent - Affordable Housing' scheme will help repopulate the city centre by freeing up otherwise unused space.
The council, led by Luís Gomes, says it is promoting the urban regeneration of the historical centre of Vila Real de Santo António and the riverfront of the city by supporting owners in the licensing of the buildings to qualify as rental properties.
One area of the Portuguese economy is growing steadily and now represents 27% of the GDP - or it would do if the grey, or 'parallel' economy, counted towards the overall national figure.
Last year’s estimate of €49 billion in untaxed turnover is made up of millions of cash-in-hand transactions. So whenever you pay for services ‘without IVA’ you are doing your bit to ensure that other tax rates remain at their current high levels for the foreseeable future.
As one reader commented “One thing is for sure. The more you raise taxes the greater the number of evaders.”
This could easily be turned around: "the greater the number of tax evaders, the more you need to raise taxes."
This is a vicious circle as the grey economy shows impressive year-on-year growth while the tax office devises further ways of trapping those engaged in evasion - and so it continues.
One person who felt his needs were greater than those of the Treasury is to face trial for pocketing motoring fines.
A Faro-based member of the GNR has been found guilty at an internal disciplinary hearing of keeping the on-the-spot penalty money received from motorists. He now faces a criminal trial on six charges and has brought disgrace to the uniform.
Those imagining that the 'copper on the take' is more myth than reality can be assured that the police service does have its fair share of cheats but it is encouraging to read that one has been caught and will face trial.
The government initiative to lease out unwanted and poorly maintained historic buildings has not been universally favoured but if the alternative is that these buildings deteriorate further, then maybe it is one way of preserving them for future generations.
The Revive scheme's list of such properties included one that stood out as a big mistake, the Forte de Peniche which was used as a prison during the Salazar years in which those who disagreed with the regime were locked up - communist party members, mostly.
For many, turning this fort into a boutique hotel or restaurant would be akin to using the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall as a burger stand.
The Forte de Peniche holds memories of the dark years of Salazar’s increasingly restrictive and brutal regime as well as celebrating the Great Escape by Álvaro Cunhal, the general secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party who managed to drug one of the jailers and escape by abseiling down the perimeter wall to a waiting car.
To turn such a place into anything commercial would have been distasteful and insulting to the memory of those who suffered imprisonment there and to those who lost their lives during Salazar’s dark years of political oppression.
The Algarve has gone marina mad with mayors taking the lead from the Minster of the Sea whose idea to develop Portugal's marine economy is to create more marinas.
Rogério Bacalhau, mayor of Faro, recently launched a plan to add a marina to Faro’s harbour, on the other side of the railway line. Now he wants another one.
Faro docks have almost ground to a halt so the mayor wants the area to become another marina but what happens when trade picks up for the docks’ only customer, Cimpor in Loulé which exports cement - or used to until Angola’s building programme was all but halted?
I expect a 'Secretary of State for Marinas' soon to be appointed: that should delay things.
The image is that Portugal’s oceans are pristine, unpolluted and among the best in the world.
A university study has revealed the embarrassing truth that Portugal’s vast and coveted Exclusive Economic Zone contains an unacceptable amount of floating rubbish, with immeasurably more already deposited on the seabed.
The reason is not a case of slovenly housekeeping but rather the volume of shipping passing through territorial waters, and the fishing industry which has a bad habit of losing equipment such as nets.
At least the area remains unpolluted by oil, so far.
Until next week
Remember, news is posted on algarvedailynews every day so you don't have to wait for this newsletter to keep abreast of what is happening in the Algarve and beyond, just go to the www.algarvedailynews.com website during the week.
P:S: The Scottish ceilidh band, The Sounds of Islay, will be entertaining guests at the annual Saint Andrew’s Ball at the Penina Hotel on November 26th, but not until after the skirl of the pipes played by Malcolm MacGillivray and the full Penina buffet treatment.
If you want come along or simply to know more about the St Andrew's Society, click here:
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