Algarve Newsletter: paint, skip, tarmac and Balsa

Dear reader

News and views from the Algarve...

The proposed creation of a major hotel and golf development on an area of unspoilt countryside between Galé and Armação de Pêra led to the June 2012 ‘Save Salgados’ campaign, fronted by the charismatic Frank McClintock at Paradise in Portugal.

The 'Friends of Salgados' group was created to save this unique green space used by thousands of migrating birds, treasured by the birding community and enjoyed by residents and holidaymakers alike.

Silves council, under Isabel Soares, was keen to approve the construction of hotels, a golf course, villas and tourist apartments on the land. Soares, thankfully, is long gone and the current mayor, Rosa Palma, is against the project but says she is powerless to act and all the paperwork at council level already has been signed off.

The original Environmental Impact Assessment submitted by the developer covered only a part of the total area to be built on but anyway was approved by the CCDR and passed to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Paulo Lemos, for his decision - which was positive.

The public consultation phase saw over 700 emails lodged against the Salgados - Praia Grande development and a 22,000 signature petition which is still running.

The Salgados - Praia Grande developer was Finalgarve, a misshapen creature that somehow remained breathing after the 2008 Banco Português de Negócios bailout that cost taxpayers €2.7 billion, never claimed to have the funds to develop the site, so aimed to get the necessary licences and sell the project.

It seems that Finalgarve is out of the picture as MillenniumBCP has appointed CBRE, a property consultancy, to offer the development for sale.

Hopefully, Finalgarve has collapsed and its directors banished to a distant planet. This was the company whose principal made a limp presentation to the public in Silves library, refused to answer any questions, fled the room and was found hiding in the first-floor café.  

A surprise announcement was emailed to the media on Friday, a public holiday, extolling the virtues of the Salgados area and of the public beach. There is a smooth promotional video available, showing a modern tourist resort on what currently is unspoiled beach-front countryside.

How MillenniumBCP has ended up with this project remains to be explained but the bank seems keen to punt it on to the highest bidder.

Any company interested in spending €200 million inevitably will carry out due diligence and find that far from being the investment of a lifetime, this development already has suffered five years of delays due to a well informed, adept and energetic eco-opposition.

The 2012 Save Salgados petition now runs to 33,773 signatories making it the second largest petition ever launched in the Algarve, beaten only by ASMAA's 42,000 anti-oil petition that was ignored by government earlier this year.

If you have not yet signed the petition, click HERE

MillenniumBCP is controlled by China’s Fosun and Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the kleptocratic ruler of Angola where stolen billions of State oil revenues have been laundered through an intricate network of companies. Indeed, the use by Isabel dos Santos of front companies in cascade operations is legendary and her future involvement in the Salgados - Praia Grande development should not be ruled out.

For a history of this epic struggle, click HERE

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11662-salgados-praia-grande-development-in-silves-now-being-marketed-to-international-property-companies

On the aforementioned oil and gas front, the 'antis' suffered deep disappointment last week after parliament voted for the continuation of the much-criticised exploration and extraction concessions.

Despite the Paris agreement on CO2 reduction, the threat to tourism and nature from oil spills, the expressed will of the people, the local opposition of business groups, mayors, tourist associations and businesses, a majority of Portugal's MPs failed to represent their constituencies by voting to carry on with the government's ill-conceived oil industry development programme.

The government line, that ‘we just want to know what resources are out there,’ is so weak it needs no further comment and MPs that have endorsed this fallacious policy statement again have shown themselves more interested in preserving their jobs than in representing their local electorate. 

My conclusion is that the oil lobby has undue influence over Portugal’s government. Media must continue to expose this as there have been so many secret agreements and signatures on key documents from people that suddenly ‘retire’ or get moved on, that this conclusion is inescapable and the current situation indefensible.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11665-parliament-votes-to-continue-oil-and-gas-exploration-concessions

Justice has been served in the case of Eugénio Reicha, accused and now convicted of the murder of British expatriate, Simon Carley-Pocock, who was attacked with a spear in his home in Serro da Vinha, Alcoutim.

Reicha remained silent during his trial so the reasoning that led to his appalling act of violence remain unknown. He now has 14 years and six months in jail to think about his actions that left a quiet and pleasant man dying on his cottage floor.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11611-alcoutim-briton-s-killer-gets-14-year-sentence

The case of Eleanor Chessell, the TUI travel rep who had two litres of acid thrown over her in Alvor last Saturday night, shocked the region and has received national and international coverage.

This appallingly cruel act by a man who said "sorry" in Portuguese before running off, inevitably will leave Eleanor scarred after she suffered 60% second and third degree burns over her arms, stomach and legs.

An ex-boyfriend has been identified by police and investigations continue to find out who was responsible for this cowardly attack. In the meantime, I am sure readers will join me in sending sympathies to Eleanor and hopes for her recovery at Lisbon’s São José Hospital burns unit.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11638-acid-attack-in-alvor-tui-travel-rep-has-acid-burns-to-arms-stomach-and-legs

An attack of a different nature resulted in an off-duty member of the GNR being formally considered a suspect after he attacked a taxpayer in a Finanças office and left him unconscious.

Despite being subjected to the old ‘mata leão’ choke-hold, the taxpayer managed to post the incident live on Facebook, until he lost consciousness, thus ensuring that the event has been available for the investigating team to review.

We do not know the full circumstances leading to this violent act, but are looking forward to publishing them when available.  

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11667-gnr-officer-who-choked-financas-customer-faces-charges

The President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, wins the ‘condescending politician of the month award’ after comments during a TSF radio interview.

Worthy of Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army, “you’re all doing awfully well,” Tajani said “I commend the achievements and sacrifices that the Portuguese people made during the difficult economic crisis. It has not been easy, it is still difficult, but thanks to their courage and pride, I am convinced that the worst is over."

With 600,000 workers in Portugal now on the national minimum wage of €7,420 a year and 10% still unemployed, Tajani seems under the impression that the sacrifices of the Portuguese people were some sort of voluntary arrangement, rather than the result of a full frontal assault by the government and the Tax Authority, with taxes up and incomes down.

Tajani's ‘I feel your pain’ commentary is at odds with his own exalted salary grade and fully expensed lifestyle as he swans around Brussels at the taxpayers’ expense.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11624-president-of-european-parliament-claims-the-worst-is-over-for-the-portuguese

One case that was so blatant, even the local council couldn’t mount a cover-up, was of the two Olhão council employees who successfully demanded money from property owners, or they would be reported and fined for illegal building work.

So successful was this scam that one of the women had €32,000 in cash hidden at her home.

These two criminals were well known in Olhão for their illegal activities. Delighted locals imagined both would serve time in jail and certainly lose their comfy council jobs.

The women were given suspended sentences of over three years and were not sacked.

This is wrong on two counts. Firstly, as pointed out last week by the public prosecutor, those given a sentence of three years or more normally would serve time in jail and, secondly, they should not continue to be employed by the council whose mayor’s stated policy is that, “it is important to fight corruption in public services.”

The Public Ministry is “considering appealing the judge's decision” to suspend the sentences.

Don't just consider it, do it. If these two crooks escape jail, where is the deterrent?

As for the women continuing in their employment at the council, what part of ‘gross misconduct’ does the mayor not understand?

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11621-corrupt-olhao-council-employees-may-yet-go-to-jail

Portugal’s national tourism body, Turismo de Portugal, has launched a four-part promotional video to attract visitors to the country during the off-season.

The erudite and sometimes wistful, ‘Can’t Skip Portugal’ campaign is to be posted on social media over the next two years. The total budget for the campaign is well-padded €20 million.

Assuming that the filming and production cost €1 million, this leaves an available budget of €790,000 a month for two years.

I am sure Turismo de Portugal can justify this expenditure by providing a full international social media schedule with costings for each of its key markets.

If not, some might say that this level of expenditure is excessive, but I couldn’t possibly comment...  

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11635-touritourist-authority-launches-20-million-can-t-skip-portugal-video-campaign

Hurrah again for the Algarve’s regional culture directorate, led by Alexandra Gonçalves, whose pressure to have the Roman city of Balsa correctly classified and expanded has been instrumental in the progress made thus far.

The protected area is to be increased from 53 hectares to 233 hectares and archaeologists, ironically being paid for by the Spanish fruit company that leased some of the farmland, have been burrowing away with great care to see what parts of the Roman port remain under the soil.

This site near Luz de Tavira has the potential to bring thousands of visitors to the eastern Algarve, if it is handled and promoted sensibly.

The extension of the current special interest area is a vital precursor but, as one reader points out, the land is privately owned so Balsa’s development into an attraction may yet take a while.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11632-eastern-algarve-roman-port-of-balsa-to-being-protected

Lisbon airport was brought to its proverbial knees last Wednesday as the system that normally supplies aviation fuel to waiting aeroplanes failed due to what is technically called, ‘air in the pipes.’

Around 50,000 passengers were stranded, camp beds were erected by Civil Protection staff, information was scarce and those in charge finally resorted to the old method of filling up the fuel tanks by using tankers.

The Grupo Operacional de Combustíveis run by Petrogal, the French-owned airports operator ANA and the National Civil Aviation Authority all no doubt are busy ‘working together to ensure it never happens again,’ but without a parallel fuel supply system, a simple airlock in the fuel pipes seems able to cripple an entire airport.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11657-air-in-the-pipes-brings-lisbon-airport-to-its-knees

A Court of Auditors’ report into Águas de Portugal described the company's direct contract awarding process, i.e. those contracts where managers appoint suppliers without going through a tendering process.

An unacceptably high percentage of contracts were awarded without allowing competing suppliers to bid and of these, 85% of the deals were considered ‘irregular.’

This turns long-running suspicions that the State-owned water company is riddled with corruption, into reality.

The report is so late in being published, having covered a period between 2012 and 2014, that many suppliers (conveniently) have ceased to operate. The auditors identified many Águas de Portugal managers as being responsible for this widespread illegality.

These State employees must be investigated and sacked, if guilty.

Those working on behalf of the taxpayer in State owned businesses must follow the Public Procurement Code which exists to help remove corruption and to increase transparency.

If State-controlled businesses ignore the procurement code, how should the government react when those in the private sector misbehave?

algarvedailynews.com/news/11652-portugal-s-national-water-company-awash-with-corruption

Lagoa Câmara has made two major blunders. Firstly, the council thought it acceptable to cover the market square area with tarmac painted bright red. Secondly, the cowardly town hall administration decided to blame the residents for this inappropriate choice of colour.

This is wrong on two counts. Turning an historic area into something resembling a Tesco’s car park does not accord with the region’s overall aim of carefully blending history and patrimony with modern facilities.

The desire of many councils to modernise, already has led to many projects and ‘improvements’ that overstep this boundary - Lagoa council has exceeded the boundary of good taste by a country mile.

The uproar from the good denizens of Lagoa has been inflamed by the flippant comment from the town hall that the colour was 'the people’s choice.'

This feeble-minded accusation references a poorly attended public meeting three years ago at which the council's choice of tarmac and its colour was not discussed.

The streets may have been coloured red on the plan projected at the meeting but it was not explained that this garish hue was to be the end result.

Also - tarmac? Who left these people in charge? The ratepayers deserve better.

Voters will be able to express their opinions at the local council elections this autumn, it looks like Lagoa is overdue for a change of administration...

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11664-lagoa-s-red-painted-streets-cause-local-outrage

 

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Until next week

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