"The assumption that in a democracy, governments do the best for their electors seems a joke these days." That sentence commenced my article last month; it is repeated here.
Historically, the Algarve was exploited by foreigners and local pirates. First came the Moors, then the Spaniards and bandits; then early last century, dictators and their best friends. The current system, which politicians call a democracy, where more than half of the electors do not vote, allowed the development of the patos bravos, mainly real estate speculators and builders who bribed officials to build where they shouldn't build and thus destroyed the gorgeous nature which blessed this poor but nice people.
Many of the locals, from the early beginnings, isolated in their own kingdom by the mountains bordering the Alentejo, the Guadiana and the sea, had to catch what nature gave them almost for free: a hige range of delicious fresh fish, fruits, cereals and carob to eat and with which feed small animals.
They were poor, but survived well, using donkeys and horses for transport, herbs to avoid diseases and, later, radio for entertainment in between chats in the local bar following a medronho and a locally ground coffee.
1974: ANY REAL CHANGE?
This quality of life was destroyed by the Northern European consumption “culture” brought in after the 1974 revolution. Wa this a coup or a revolution? As always happens, the pendulum swung too far left, and now too far right.
In 1974, any experience gained abroad was ignored and extremists brought the country to a dangerous point. Now, in 2014, forty years later, extremist politicians again are bringing the country to a dangerous situation by following the dictates of a few foreign banks and overseas investment funds which wish to destroy the Portuguese and the Algarvian culture.
Many economists warned in the early 00-ies against both the Euro and the easy way that real estate projects were financed. Some 400,000 homes and flats were built for speculation, using some €40 billion which could have been used to update our industry and make it competitive.
Speculators destroyed the nature which attracted tourists. The sanctuaries of Ria Formosa, Salgados and the Arade were destroyed by ugly foreign arquitecture-based flats and homes which now are seldom used.
At the same time, against the odds of economists, American rating agencies were giving AAA to Portugal, which already had an excess of public debt, around 66% of the GNP.
Easy lending enlarged bureaucracy instead of reducing it. Huge, unnecessary ‘white elephants’ were built to make it possible for large constructors to donate up to 30% of the projects value to most of the large political parties. An example is the group of luxury buildings for the Expo 1988, another is the huge football stadia for Euro2004, or six-lanes bridges for motorways which have almost no traffic.
The then governor of Bank of Portugal let the Portuguese banks lend freely, despite the warnings. Local resources were ignored, it was easier to import, good for the very big central-european exporters.
The Portuguese constitution allows for a degree of regional independence. Madeira and the Azores have used it and, up to a certain degree, could keep a certain level of sustainable development, as have the autonomous regions in Spain such as the Canaries and Galicia. What about us?
Many of current national agencies do not care about the Algarve. The tolls on A22 and the absurd outdated downgrade of EN125 proves it.
The CCDR's authorisation for destroying the future of quality tourism in Ria Formosa, Salgados, etc could be avoided by local popular movements in Faro.
The Algarve and the Alentejo have more in common than other regions. The two are weak, but strong if they get together. We need a complete turn around if we are to achieve a sustainable development.
The people,against the wishes of the government of Switzerland said no to the EU. The people, against the wishes of the government of Sweden said no to the Euro.The Britons said YES to BREXIT. Why couldn’t we press for an Autonomous ALAL -Algarve/Alentejo?
YES, WE CAN -TOGETHER!!!