A week of news and views from the Algarve... and remember, new news postings are added every day on algarvedailynews.com - you don't have to wait until this weekend newsletter.
One of the last details left in the wake of the Miró art collection fracas has been sorted out with the gentlemanly help of those awfully nice people from Christie’s in London.
This firm of auctioneers, est. 1766 and now owned by the French billionaire, François-Henri Pinault, decided last week not to sue the Portuguese State for damages over the botched on-off sale of the Joan Miró collection of 85 works valued at between €35.5 and €54.3 million.
Parvalorem and Parups, companies set up to handle and, where necessary, sell off State assets, failed in the handling of the sale by auction of the collection - an auction that had been ordered by former PM, Pedro Passos Coelho, "to reduce the nation's borrowings."
Well done to the current PM, António Costa, who put his foot down when he took office in 2015 and saved the collection, installing it in the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Oporto where the Miró collection is on public view.
How the bankrupt Banco Português de Negócios ended up with the collection in the first place, is a story in itself...
Ana Mendes Godinho, the Secretary of State for Tourism, said last week at a review of tourism figures for 2016, that the Alojamento Local, short-term tourist rental system has been a roaring success and has contributed greatly to this booming economic sector.
When Godinho took over her brief in 2015, she said there indeed were problems with the AL registration process which had resulted in a low uptake by property owners despite registration being a legal requirement.
Promising to review the multi-agency muddle and make changes, all was hushed expectancy but after 15 months she has just announced that there would be no major changes as there had been “large migration from the informal to the formal economy,” with which she clearly was happy.
Godinho’s definition of ‘large’ in this instance stretches even a politician’s lexicon as since the legislation was amended in 2008, only around 20% of property owners have decided to trade legally, the others figuring that as the sector is inadequately policed, they will carry on illegally until stopped.
The overall tourism figures were excellent for 2016 but Godinho is not doing her job and by failing to fix the vilified AL system, rightly can be accused of laziness.
The current system is unfair with the majority evading tax so it is up to the Secretary of State to devise a scheme that makes property owners keen to go legal, not the opposite.
Dona Ana beach, Lagos, was rated "the most beautiful in the world" in 2015 but this accolade was soon removed by public opinion after the Portuguese Environment Agency’s regional office, under the management of ‘demolition man’ Sebastião Teixeira, decided to alter the area under the misguided apprehension that it needed altering.
The result has been that the beach is not even on Portugal’s Top 10 most attractive beaches.
Dona Ana's Quercus ‘Gold Quality’ award was removed in 2015 with comments that the €1.8 million project had "significantly altered the beach’s natural landscape" and "jeopardised the conservation of highly diversified marine eco-systems."
Not content with demolishing Ria Formosa island homes with venomous zeal, getting himself fired as president of Polis Litoral Ria Formosa in the process, Teixeira has managed to ruin a perfectly wonderful beach which now is another ‘also ran.’
Congratulation to Vila do Bispo council which is banning the use of glyphosate (Roundup) in all the council’s outdoor maintenance activities, whether carried out by council staff or by contracted companies.
In April last year, the European Parliament said the use of glyphosate products should be "banned in all urban areas," fearing it may indeed cause cancer, but in June 2016 the European Commission extended the glyphosate licence for 18 months.
The EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis announced glyphosate’s re-licensing despite failing three times to secure a majority decision from the European Union’s member states.
Such is the lobbying power of Monsanto, Roundup’s producer, the EU may never make the decision to ban the chemical but local action by Portugal’s councils is a good start - simply stop buying the product.
If the World Health Organisation says glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic," that should be enough reason for additional council’s to follow Vila do Bispo’s pragmatic example.
The Bank of Portugal's governor, Carlos Costa, seems able to remain in office as the government is not allowed to fire him, according to the prime minister.
Catarina Martins, the Left Bloc leader, is not convinced by the "immovability" argument that the prime minister is suing, saying that if there is gross misconduct or an inability to perform, both clearly being the case, then the governor can be fired.
Carlos Costa, has at least acknowledged that there is criticism of his performance but says he will stay on to the end of his period of office “to guarantee the independence of the central bank and its mission in stabilising the financial system.”
Well, he may be independent, a claim refuted by Martins, but ‘stabilising the financial system’ is precisely what he has been unable to achieve.
Costa also goes on about his ‘unerring commitment.’ He may be committed but has remained deeply incompetent throughout his tenure.
One such incompetence is the sale of Novo Banco to Lone Star which is about to be announced.
The Bank of Portugal is using a sale negotiation framework that seems designed to exclude late bidders, even those with deep pockets.
The Lone Star bid is €750 million, plus perhaps the same again later.
A late bid came in from Aethel Partners for between €3 billion and €4 billion yet the Bank of Portugal says it cannot entertain such last minute interference from the London-based partnership.
When Lone Star is handed Novo Banco on a plate, at what has been called ‘a price close to zero,’ will Carlos Costa be able to explain why he rejected a bid five times greater?
The reason that last minute bids have been coming in, is that the sale price agreed with Lone Star is seen as a bargain.
If the Novo Banco sale rules do not allow a last minute bid, change the rules or scrap the sale and re-start it.
Two politicians under pressure, the Minister of the Environment, João Matos Fernandes, and the Minister of the Sea, Ana Paula Vitorino, received demands last week that they resign.
One of the Algarve-based anti-oil associations, MALP, rightly concluded that both ministers have been promoting oil exploration in Portugal "against the will of the people."
Vitorino was in the United States last September, to "promote and stimulate the exploration of oil in the Algarve and Alentejo," before the public consultation process had been concluded, a process that produced 42,000 signatories opposing the drilling of a test well in the ocean off Aljezur.
Someone, thankfully, recorded the minister pitching Portugal to the Americans as a potential oil producing economy while describing the anti-oil civic associations and local councils as ignorant.
Fernandes clearly struggles with his environment brief, his background as an engineer is in running Portugal’s ports, but stating publically that it is quite "normal" for Portugal to be moving towards an oil economy was foolish as it revealed the government’s hidden oil and gas agenda and explained why normal licensing procedures have been ignored in the rush to get oil companies drilling and pumping, whatever the ‘ignorant’ public might think.
João Matos Fernandes also is in charge of the Ria Formosa property demolitions and since promising to parliament that he would deal with each island property on a ‘case by case’ basis, has gone very quiet.
Possession notices now have been served on Culatra properties and the islanders now wait for the arrival of the machinery that will be used to knock down their buildings, some of which they agree are abandoned or unoccupied, others are home to real people who have been easy to spot on recent footage - they have been the ones in tears.
The islanders have given up an a political solution as they have been lied to, misled, duped and tricked so many times that their final protest will be to stand in front of the bulldozers.
The islanders’ letter to the President of the Republic has gone unanswered, council support has vanished, local MPs seem impotent, the government says “it’s the law” and the Maritime Police will stand by awkwardly to ensure no one gets hurt.
Unless there is action by the president, or a last minute change of mind by the minister, whose lies have been particularly cynical, the islanders’ last stand is about to be played out to the delight of a duplicitous government and to the international shame of the country.
Over in Faro, the long-running saga of the rail link to the airport continues with the Infrastructure Minister, Pedro Marquês unable to bring himself to say that this link will not be built under the current government.
Why is this so hard to say? Instead of stating government policy, which everyone is capable of understanding, Marquês fiddles and twists with semantics and environmental studies to trick the pro-rail lobby into thinking there is a chance of his commissioning the link. There isn’t, so why can’t he say so and move onto to something else. By trying to be popular, the minister makes himself look foolish.
A carefully worded report from the US State Department concludes that Portugal is awash with Angolan drugs money.
Portugal for decades has ignored the flow of money from Angola and has functioned efficiently as a huge laundry for stolen oil revenues, corrupt contract payments and money from the drugs trade.
As an example, the reverence with which Angola’s Isabel dos Santos is treated in Portugal shows the State and Portugal’s financial regulators to be adept at not asking any embarrassing questions.
The Angolan dictator’s daughter owns huge chunks of many of Portugal best known companies but it seems that only MEP Ana Gomes questions where the money has come from.
The vice-President of Angola, Manuel Vincente, recently has been charged with bribing a Portuguese prosecutor to drop an investigation into his ill-gotten gains. Álvaro Sobrinho, the former head of BES Angola, has been under suspicion for years for using money filched from the bank in Angola to buy Portuguese assets - the latest figure is €500 million missing from BES Angola’s accounts.
There have been a few other cases that have surfaced but the US report shows that billions is being laundered through Portugal, although it stops short of noting any official complicity.
Portugal’s birth rate is the lowest in Europe. Young couples aren’t coupling enough, or have become adept at contraception. Even troubled Greece is managing to get it on, leaving Portugal in the position of not replacing its own population.
The net emigration in recent years does not help the country and incomers from other countries often are retirees and beyond child-bearing age.
Despite Portugal’s desire to take in refugees, which would push the childbirth figures in the right direction, only 1,150 so far have arrived.
In September 2016, Portugal’s prime minister famously offered to take in 10,000 refugees, then doubled it "if the conditions are right," realising that Portugal’s population steadily is shrinking.
The bureaucracy in the refugee camps has held up the flow of incomers to Portugal, but when they do get here, many soon leave Portugal to join family members in northern Europe.
So, the emphasis is on Portugal somehow to engineer a baby boom but with unemployment still at over 10%, job insecurity and those women leaving the country mostly being of childbearing age, this is a situation that shows no sign of improving.
With 12.5 million people in Europe using marijuana regularly and 87 million doing so "from time to time," the supply of the plant could be a big business for Portugal, with the Alqueva area especially apt for growing this medicinal wonder.
Marijuana was grown in Portugal from the late Middle Ages but was banned in the 1960s just as its popularity as a recreational drug was increasing along with the sale of Grateful Dead albums.
The Let Bloc, again ahead of the political curve, wants the Alentejo’s farmers to benefit from the income from this cash crop, with the resulting drug sold into the pharmaceutical market. Lift the ban, man...
Finally, a warm welcome to new advertiser, Cerro Novo Properties in Albufeira, whose Property of the Week is a V4 in Guia at €350,000.
Until next week
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