THE STORY SO FAR: The Portuguese government introduced a ‘Golden Visa’ program this year to attract wealthy non-EU foreigners.
Anyone investing a mere €500,000 in property is eligible for a visa that allows them to take up residence, saves them the inconvenience of paying tax on foreign-earned income and gives the right to unrestricted travel within the Schengen zone.
The government is declaring the Golden Visa scheme a roaring success with the biggest number of recipients coming from Russia, China, Angola and Colombia.
Official records show no evidence of oily oligarchs, corrupt communists, money-launderers or drug barons taking advantage of the scheme.
Addressing business leaders at a gala dinner in a sumptuous hotel in the Algarve this week, a government minister said the program had attracted huge amounts of money and much more was on the way.
According to press reports, the minister attributed Portugal’s attractiveness “not only to the transport infrastructures but also the country’s better prepared and more flexible human resources and the ongoing structural reforms.”
Those reading accounts of the speech in discarded newspapers while searching in rubbish bins and queuing up at soup kitchens said they had no idea what the minister was talking about.
Meanwhile the government has emphasised that the newcomers are adding equilibrium to the most unequal country in the eurozone in which the rich are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the poor. Asked to comment, a spokesman for the Bank of Portugal said, “Pois, pois.”
The scheme is also thought to be benefiting the country by further encouraging the mass exodus of a generation of young people obsessed with Facebook and sitting on their backsides.
Property market sources dismiss rumours that covert intermediaries in the Golden Visa program have been asking estate agents to increase commissions from 5% to 10%+ so that the introducers can get their cut.
The same sources reject notions that in this time of austerity intermediaries are trying to buy houses at €400k and then sell them on to their clients at €500k+, or that agents would stoop to advising clients to add 10% to their asking prices to allow for fat commissions to be paid.
A 20-something unemployed science graduate about to board an overseas flight at Lisbon airport said, more or less: “This whole Golden Visa thing is a load of codswollop.”