Haitong, Minsheng, Bacalhau and Gomes - another week's news from the Algarve

Dear reader

Shock and disappointment was caused to those who have gone through the registration process for short-term property rentals.

The government has proposed that for next year the applicable tax rate rises from 5% to 28%.

The 80% of property owners in the short-term lettings market who have failed to register with the Alojamento Local scheme now will be even more determined to evade tax, leaving the 20% to pay a disproportionate amount as the government plans a significant tax hike.

The Alojamento Local Association in Portugal commented that the resulting tax revenue to the State may decrease as a result of this rate rise, while the National Association of Local Lodging Establishments commented that the Finance Ministry may simply be testing the water of public opinion and that the tax rise is by no means certain to go ahead as part of the 2017 budget.

What this tax proposal does show is a cynical disregard by government for those who follow the rules to the benefit of those who do not. The Alojamento Local registration scheme is a failure and the answer is to change it and make it work, not to punish those who have taken the time, effort and often considerable expense in order to comply.


Another tax, this one aimed at people with properties that happen to face south or have a sea view, or both, seems likely to go ahead.

The Socialist, Communist and Left Bloc parties imagine this new ‘Sunshine Tax’ on property will grab more money from the rich so they can spend it on something more noble.

The National Association of Portuguese Municipalities reckons those properties deemed to be sunny, or just built in a nice place, will be paying 10% more on their 2017 rates.


The (second) sale process for Novo Banco was going according to plan with four institutions following the rules and meeting the criteria in order to be considered as the loss-making bank’s new owner.

Deadlines have been met, documents submitted, boxes ticked and then along comes an upstart Chinese financial institution at the last minute. Surely this mysterious bidder is too late to enter the competition?

Not so, the Bank of Portugal governor has allowed the rules to be broken and is entertaining a bid from Minsheng which is being ‘advised’ by Haitong which once was called BES Investimento and now is run by Espírito Santo clan member José Maria Ricciardi.

The four legitimate bidders, BCP, BPI, Loan Star and Apollo-Centerbridge have every right to be miffed and will be looking at legal options available to them if Minsheng gets its hands on Novo Banco.

The thought of anyone related to the Espírito Santo clan being involved with Novo Banco, formerly Banco Espírito Santo, is objectionable - so this is what probably will happen.


A reader’s letter about the threat to the Algarve from a nascent oil industry was well worth featuring as a news item as it sums up many of the ‘against oil’ arguments.

I have yet to read a credible ‘for’ argument so, in the absence of any balancing factors, was happy to reproduce the comments from Andy Words, presumably not his or her real name.


The busy port of Sines was closed down last Sunday due to a significant leak while a ship was being refuelled. The standard emergency plan was put into operation with the captain of the port advising that the Marine Pollution Authority may have to get involved as this was not a small spill, despite being registered as hardly noticeable.

As concerning was a leak on the same day at a nearby Repsol Polymers plant which belched black smoke across the neighbourhood - but this also was categorised as not important at all. The Spanish company issued a brief notice to assure any concerned neighbours that no equipment had been damaged and no staff had been injured.

Portugal has suffered some major marine pollution events. The last serious one was the 2002 oil spill from the MV Prestige which affected 1,000 beaches in Galicia and Portugal.

Serious incidents so far have been confined to the oil shipping sector. With an oil production industry due to be imposed on an increasingly well-informed Portuguese public, does the Algarve need the additional risk from drilling and pumping oil and gas from onshore and offshore sites? Just asking...


The politics continues over the Ria Formosa island property demolitions. Local Left Bloc MP, João Vasconcelos, he who spent six hours in the sun last Saturday to talk to islanders and to see their situations for himself, reported back to Lisbon with the result that the demolitions question will be raised in parliament - hopefully before the bulldozers arrive at the end of October to erase another 81 properties.


It has long been suspected that there exists a covert plan to remove inconvenient Ria Formosa island properties to make way for high-class tourist developments. Proof of this concept seems now to have emerged as a model of a new harbour and apartments was shown to an elite bunch of politicos at the 2014 Social Democrat convention in Quarteira.

Did this group include the then Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho...? The public should be told.


Plumbing the depths of bad taste, a Maddie sightseeing tour has been publicised by a British expatriate to include visits to notorious spots in Praia da Luz, gaining notoriety during the unsuccessful search for the missing girl.

Picked up by a self-righteous British press and a less than impressed Portuguese media, those living in this seaside haven must wonder if this sort of publicity will ever end.

The last ‘story’ was that Clement Freud entertained the McCanns to drinks at his holiday home, with any newspaper able to include ‘Praia da Luz’ or ‘Maddie’ in its headline guaranteed to sell more copies.


Faro mayor Rogério Bacalhau does seem to have got the council’s finances back on an even keel, mainly by shifting expensive short-term borrowing into long-term low interest loans.

‘U-turn Bacalhau’ - thus named due to his ever-shifting stance on the Ria Formosa demolitions - has announced a series of improvements to the city including contracts to repair and maintain the area’s green spaces and an upgrade to the eastern and western approached to the region’s capital.

While throwing these sweeties to the crowd, Bacalhau slipped in a proposal to build on 133 hectares of farmland in the Campinha de Faro area. Vale de Amoreira, Pena and Chelote are destined to become huge housing estates, as if Faro does not already have enough unused urban areas that can be recycled for housing.

Citing a 2011 demographic report, no doubt commissioned and paid for by the developer, which projects a 79% increase in Faro’s population when the country’s population is shrinking dramatically, the mayor’s statement contained priceless gibberish to justify this massive project, including “...it is necessary given the demographic trends, economic social development and the indispensability of urban renewal.”

I can’t see how building hundreds of properties on useful farmland will help urban renewal, but the mayor seems convinced by his own specialised brand of nonsense.

The last time the Campinha de Faro project was tabled, it was kicked out by the Algarve's regional development board and long may the CCDR-Algarve continue to reject such unthinking opportunism driven by strong developers and weak mayors.


Another council that has been able to take advantage of the government’s scheme to convert expensive loans into cheaper ones is Portimão where mayor Isilda Gomes admitted to be chuffed as a drunken badger when the refinancing deal finally went through and the first Municipal Aid Fund cheque for €30 million had been authorised.

Gomes also wants to tidy up her city’s formerly green and pleasant spaces and to fix the pavements and roads.

The council’s ratepayers now have 27 years to pay off a €142.5 million loan, much of this eye-watering debt having been incurred during the reign of Manuel da Luz whose ineptitude knew no bounds and whose lack of grip allowed many of his closest colleagues to help themselves.

Luís Carito and Jorge Campos, formerly the vice-mayor and a councillor at Portimão council; the head of Portimão Urbis, Lélio Branca, and Artur Curado and Luís Marreiros from Pictures Portugal were arrested in June 2013 on suspicion of corruption, maladministration and money laundering .

Luís Carito was the one who famously ate a document when the police raided his home early one morning.

Only when these men are tried, can Portimão’s long-suffering ratepayers start to understand where much of the €142 million went - money they are now starting to pay back.


The Algarfuturo association took the time and trouble to drive down a section of the EN125 one fine day and reported “a depressing panorama of desolation.”

The association is concerned that the roadworks failed to recommence on September 1st as planned and that a wall of silence has been erected, about the only thing that has been. There is a suspicion that unpaid contractors are fearful of complaining in case their invoices are put to the bottom of the pile.

Why has the government yet again halted work on this essential road? The answer may have a lot to do with year-end projections from the finance ministry as the government seems to have drifted way off its various economic targets, despite being buoyed by a strong performance from tourism, especially in the Algarve. Expect more delays in the roadwork programme.


One man in a position of power and prestige, our former president Aníbal Cavaco Silva, seems to have made a regrettable error with his property rates bill.

By building a far larger holiday home than the one on the original approved plan, Cavaco Silva seems happy to have paid rates based on the smaller property - 15 years running.

There’s nothing like leading by example and even if this was a genuine mistake, (nobody believes this), let’s see him pay the missing amounts going back the full 15 years, not just the few years that legally he must account for and pay the shortfalls.


The government’s lack of care and attention for hundreds of Portugal's historically important buildings has long been a shameful saga. The latest bright idea is to offload these crumbling yet important buildings, forts, palaces et al, to the business sector which then can borrow money from the government to turn the nation's heritage into as yet ill-defined tourist attractions and hotels.

The €150 million on offer to help businesses along with the renovations and alterations surely could be better spent on doing what the government should have been doing all along and repairing these buildings.

The Algarve’s Forte São Roque overlooking Meia Praia in Lagos is a case in point. Ignored for years, this wonderful old building has an interesting history and just recently was listed as a ‘monument of public interest.’

Soon the old fort may have to ‘pay its way’ as a bar or boutique hotel. Surely this would be much better as a fun and engaging museum where visitors could learn of Portugal’s rich and varied maritime history - or perhaps I need to keep up with the times...

The government’s thinking seems immature and the involvement of the corporate sector in the nation’s irreplaceable heritage leaves scope for blunders that the public will have to live with for 30 to 50 years.


Good old Harry Shindler. The 95-year-old veteran of the WWII campaign in Italy and latterly a doughty fighter for all British expatriates to have the vote - however long they have lived outside the United Kingdom - is close to achieving success.

A large group of long-term expats was prevented from voting in the recent UK referendum and may not vote in UK general elections. Most also are prevented from voting for an MP or in a referendum in their country of domicile.

Britain’s Minister for the Constitution, Chris Skidmore, has announced a 20 point plan to enable long-term expats to vote and this soon will be debated in parliament to enable the '15-year plus' contingent to vote in future UK general elections, the first being the one scheduled for 2020.

Personally, I would prefer to be able to vote for a member of the assembly in Portugal but unless I become a citizen of Portugal, I am prevented from doing so. Being able to vote does enable us to have access to a British MP. This is an important step, especially with this Brexit nonsense going on.


Try as I may, I can not find anyone prepared to say anything scurrilous about the former Portuguese Prime Minister, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres, who is to be the new secretary-general of the United Nations.

Guterres managed to get through the complicated and undemocratic selection procedure despite early objections from Russia and probably China.

His background as UN High Commissioner for Refugees may bring some good sense and compassion to the refugee problem and it is good to see a Portuguese national in such a prestigious and powerful position.


...and finally, there is seminar next Thursday on October 13th - 'From fires to flooding - disaster reduction in the Algarve' - run by the Portimão Civil Protection Service and Safe Communities Portugal.

The talks are in English, or in Portuguese with an interpreter. Click on the link below for details:


 Seminar:  'From fires to flooding – disaster reduction in the Algarve'

Seminar: 'From fires to flooding – disaster reduction in the Algarve'

To mark the 'International Day for Disaster Reduction'


Last day of BLiP. The Better Living in Portugal exhibition is on today, Sunday October 9th, in Portimão - details below:



For news stories you may have missed during the week, CLICK HERE


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