It’s anticipated that Portugal will finish this year with exports in excess of 40% of GDP. This would be the first time this has been achieved since before the end of World War II in 1943. In spite of these positive predictions, the Portuguese government is hoping to increase exports until they reach 70% or even 80% of GDP.
The Portuguese economy minister Alvaro Santos Periera, feels that the key areas of investment have been ignored in the past, and that more efforts should be concentrated on sectors such as mining and agriculture. The agricultural minister is due to open the first-ever Portugal-Mozambique food forum this month. The minister is hoping to increase Portuguese exports to Mozambique, although exports to this country increased by 33% last year.
At the same time the Portuguese economy minister is aiming to be in the top 10 business friendly countries. It’s hoped Portugal will become less bureaucratic, and it’s aiming to emulate the British coalition government’s policy of ensuring every time a new regulation is introduced, another older one is eliminated.
Portugal’s corporate tax system is already being reviewed to see if it can be made more business friendly. Part of this plan will definitely be to make the country more tourism friendly, but it’s also hoped the mining industry will see significant investment. It’s estimated the value of deposits of iron ore, copper, wolfram and gold are worth between €170 billion and €250 billion. In addition prospecting for gas and oil is ongoing.
Lisbon was recently named as being the fourth most beautiful city in the world in the latest edition of Urban City Guides, behind Venice, Paris and Prague. It’s hoped this accolade will help boost tourism to the city, as Lisbon is often overlooked by tourists in search of a beach holiday.
Lisbon beat other notable cities such as Amsterdam, Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Florence. The guide is certainly effusive in its description of Lisbon, pointing out the enchanting views, picturesque streets and beautiful buildings. Urban City Guides also praised Portugal, awarding it sixth place in the world’s top 10 most beautiful countries. It was beaten by Greece, Australia, France, Spain and Italy, but was ahead of Germany, South Africa, Brazil and the USA. Areas that were particularly singled out for attention included the Azores, and Madeira.
Many people would say Lisbon thoroughly deserves its fourth place, as it does have unique architecture and is undeniably beautiful. Visitors will find a plethora of things to do and see, while there are plenty of parks and gardens to enjoy a quieter moments. Madeira and the Azores are often thought of as being expensive places to visit, as it would be reasonable to expect the cost of transporting goods to these islands would push up the prices.
However the reality is somewhat different and holidaymakers are often pleasantly surprised to find the cost of living is as low as in mainland Portugal. Portugal currently has the distinction of being the cheapest western European nation in the euro area in which to live.
The Algarve Tourism Board recently invited a group of journalists to attend the launch of the Portuguese/Spanish European Route of Discoveries project. A major part of the project was a ship called Victoria which was docked and open to the public for four days in February.
The ship was docked in the port of Baleeira in Sagres and is a replica of the first ship that successfully circumnavigated the world and which was under the command of Fernão de Magalhães. The replica ship is a part of a number of projects being planned, including the launch of a virtual museum.
The aim is to promote the route between Cape St. Vincent to Seville and to offer tourists something that’s a little different from the normal beach and golfing holiday. The hope is to combine the unique aspects of the Algarve that normally attract so many visitors with its more historical side.
The moment the project is still very much in the planning stage, but is being actively developed and promoted by the cultural and tourism boards in the Andalucia and Algarve regions. The aim is to raise awareness as to the immense historical heritage of these regions due to the explorers of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.
It’s expected that all planned activities will be operating by July this year, and that the Route of Discoveries itinerary will be complete. It’s also expected the virtual museum will be operational by this stage. The project has received a total investment of €450,000, three quarters of which has been financed by the Spain-Portugal Crossborder Cooperation programme.
Although Portugal may still be recovering from the economic crisis, its tourism industry is very much alive and kicking. While property in Portugal might not be quite as cheap as Spain, it is still pretty desirable, and the Portuguese government is doing its best to boost the market share of homes sold abroad. It’s currently trying to entice more foreign investors, and has introduced a number of new reforms including tax incentives of offering a flat rate of 20% to foreign residents and new residency reforms.
The very best of Portugal’s tourism industry recently travelled to London to try to boost the second home market. At the moment Portugal is 18th in the world for the number of tourists, but the government fully expects its ranking to increase.
In particular it’s looking to boost the year-round attractiveness of the country which in turn would support this business is dependent on tourism such as local restaurants. At the moment Portugal sells approximately 5,000 homes per year with average value of €200,000 each. The aim is to at least double this figure, and a new guide is to be produced in helping people to make the move to Portugal, or to explain the process of buying property there.
This guide includes important information on the residency permits, taxes, schools and health care, as well as pointing out exactly why Portugal is such a great place to live. It’s certainly still a popular country to visit, something that is constantly recognized by UK holiday companies. A leading online holiday planning company recently announced new holiday packages to Portugal, including a flight booking service to cater for the increased demand and interest in the country this year.
Recently the Portuguese government stated that a plan to build a network of high-speed rail lines had been cancelled, and that some of the European Union subsidies for this project were to be redirected into freight transport.
This plan has led to the government managing to secure funding for a high-speed link between Lisbon and Madrid. Initially the European Union had withdrawn funding for the high-speed link between the two capitals due to Portugal’s decision to cease work on the project.
Apparently the Finance Ministry in Portugal has now received funding for the project through the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility funding, and the government has managed to hold onto the European Union funding for the link while reducing the percentage of EU funding.
The previous agreement has now been nullified, and new funding for the project has increased from 25% to 40%. However the plan for a high-speed passenger link doesn’t look as if it will be revived, as the emphasis is now on rail freight. The government is looking to link Lisbon with the rest of Europe, and expects a rail line could reduce costs to exporters by 40%, and could increase the capacity by up to 80%. Whereas a passenger rail link would have cost €4.276 billion, the freight line is anticipated to cost just €700 million, and the government only needs to find €175 million due to European Union subsidies.
This is obviously good news for exporters, and Portugal’s trade deficit narrowed during the last quarter to €.58 billion compared to €3.12 billion a year earlier. Exports increased by 1%, while imports decreased by 3%.