Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Lisbon dispatches released by Wikileaks

The huge batch of documents released by Wikileaks at the weekend is said to contain 722 dispatches sent from the United States Embassy in Lisbon. Some are marked “Secret”. Tantalisingly, we don't know yet what is in them.

Many people would rather we were not be told, but it seems likely that we will be, especially if the contents of the documents are controversial or embarrassing in any way.

First reports suggest that many of the 722 cables focus on global terrorism, military operations and the economy. The first of the communications was sent on 24 May 2006 and the last on 25 February this year.

The US Embassy in Lisbon yesterday condemned Wikileaks. In line with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's castigation in a TV broadcast, the Embassy called the Wikileaks action an irresponsible attempt to destroy global security, adding that it could endanger lives.

Following yesterday's revelations about Arab countries wanting the US to bomb Iran, comes news this morning that China would be willing to accept Korean reunification.

There is more, much more to come.

Old Iberian foes stand united
Government offices, banks and many businesses will be closed tomorrow. It's not another general strike. It's a day of celebration rather than protest. It's Portugal's Independence Day and this year there is an interesting twist to it.
What is being celebrated is not the country's original independence back in 1145. That's what October 5th is all about. December 1st marks the anniversary of the restoration of independence from Spain following 60 years of Spanish domination between 1580 and 1640.
During that period of annexation, Spain dragged Portugal into wars against the English, the French and the Dutch. The 'invincible' Spanish Armada set sail in 1588 not from Spain, but Lisbon. To help pay for this and other foreign exploits, the Spanish heavily taxed the Portuguese people.
Right royally fed up of rule from Madrid by Philip IV, a band of conspirators stormed the Governor's palace in Lisbon in 1640 and by popular acclaim installed the Duke of Bragança as João IV of Portugal.
The relationship between the Iberian neighbours remained rather frosty right up until they became members of the European Union. Today they are united like never before. The two nations put in a joint bid to host the 2018 football World Cup.
They are competing against England, Russia and a joint Netherlands/Belgium bid. Portuguese and Spanish officials are said to be 'moderately confident” of winning. The executive of football's world ruling body, FIFA, will vote on it in Zurich on Thursday.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Wealth, wasted wisdom and counterfeit cash

The tycoon Stanley Ho of former Portuguese Macau paid $330,000 at the weekend for two Italian truffles.

The billionaire bought the truffles at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, Rome and London. They weighed 900 grams and 400 grams.

'The Gambling King' as he is know, held the monopoly on casinos in Macau for 40 years. He has investments in Portugal, including the Algarve, and has a road named after him in Estoril.

White truffles are the rarest and most expensive type. The 900 gram (two pound) fungus was found in Italy's central Tuscany region. The smaller one was from Molise.

The bidding was relayed via satellite link from the restaurants Don Alfonso 1890 in Macau, La Pergola in Rome and Franco's in Jeremy Street, London.

A total of 16 lots fetched altogether $373 000.“It was fun,” said Piers Boothman, associate director of Christie's International.

Proceeds will go to charity.


Portugal has never had so many university graduates - but it has never been so difficult for young people to find jobs. For many there is a stark choice: unemployment or emigration.


Some commentators are suggesting that the country is on track to lose an entire generation.

The academic qualifications of Portugal's workforce generally are considered to be low. So the number of graduates applying for jobs should be good news. And yet one in ten graduates is said to be leaving the country.


More than ever we need to question if the cash in our pockets or under the mattress is for real. A report just out says that so far this year nearly €24 million in counterfeit notes have been detected in the eurozone.

In Portugal, the number of fake €50s this year has reached a record level. Reassuringly, however, the Bank of Portugal says the chance of receiving a counterfeit note in this country is “probably very low.” However, it advises us if in doubt “to check and compare.”

Of the half a million counterfeit notes detected in the EU between January and August, more than 215,000 were €50s. The next commonest were €20s.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Controversial retail giant signs deal

At a time of dismal economic predictions, business closures and job losses, comes news of a huge new commercial venture in the region.

A year after Ikea announced its hopes of opening a store in Loulé, the Swedish chain is to to sign a co-operation agreement with Loulé câmara next Thursday.

Ikea is the world's largest furniture retailer. It specialises in designing and selling ready-to-assemble furniture, home accessories and appliances.

In addition to a massive Ikea store, the new Loulé project is expected to incorporate a retail park and shopping mall. Hopefully by the time it all comes to fruition, Portugal will be well on the road to all-round prosperity.

The Loulé deal comes as a brand new book, The Truth about Ikea, is causing considerable controversy. The author, Johan Stenebo, is a former executive who worked his way up from trainee to managing director of an Ikea subsidiary, GreenTech.

In a review on Friday The Guardian called the book “explosive.” Stenebo claims that far from offering British shoppers a bargain, at the height of its power in the 1990s Ikea betrayed its golden rule – that prices should be 10% lower than those of its rivals – and ruthlessly overcharged British shoppers to boost profits.

As Businessweek put it, “The Swedish furniture giant has long been viewed as a model company. But an unprecedented insider account by a former exec paints a much darker picture.”

According to Stenebo, “few retailers are as smart at extracting money from customers' pockets.”


Mediterranean diet dumped

It would appear that most young people in this country have lost their appetite for the Mediterranean diet that is supposed to be so good for them.

More than 50 percent of the population aged between 10 and 18 are overweight and nearly nine percent are actually obese. These are the findings of a national study to be presented at a congress on obesity in Portugal today.

The study, by a team from the universities of Oporto and the Minho, says that obesity is most prevalent among the young and especially among boys. It is the impact this could have on health in later life, on mortality rates and the economy, that is concerning specialists.

The researchers who carried out the study believe the blame for 95% of childhood obesity can be attributed to nutritional and lifestyle problems. Only 5% of cases are genetic in character. Today's conference will discuss what more can be done to contain the problem.

The overweight trend is not confined to Portugal, of course. It is rampant in the other Mediterranean diet countries of southern Europe. Indeed, people are getting fatter almost everywhere. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally. The World Health Organisation predicts there will be 2.3 billion overweight adults in the world by 2015 and more than 700 million of them will be obese.

This is mainly due to increased consumption of more energy dense, poor nutrient foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, combined with less physical activity. The upshot here and elsewhere is expected to be an exponential rise in heart problems, type II diabetes and other diseases, including some cancers.

Much of this could be curtailed by more exercise and a return to the Mediterranean diet. So bring on the fish, vegetables, fruit and whole grains, along with a generous splash of virgin olive oil and, for those who are old enough, a glass or two of red wine.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Here's to a happy and austere New Year

Another miserable week of tedious but crucial European economic manoeuvrings ended yesterday with Portugal's parliament approving its austerity budget for next year.

The budget contains a raft of tough measures aimed at sorting out the country's high debt and low growth problems. The hope is that they will restore market confidence and avoid the indignity of a bailout similar to those thrust upon Greece and Ireland.

It remains to be seen if the austerity measures quell alarm among investors and dampen speculation that Portugal is next in line to fall to 'contagion', the much-hyped European economic domino scenario.

The austerity measures officially approved yesterday are going to be felt by all in this country. Prime Minister José Sócrates admitted after yesterday's parliamentary vote that Portugal had "no alternative at all" but to accept them.

FT Deutschland said a majority of euro-zone states and the European Central Bank were leaning on Portugal to follow the example of Ireland and Greece in seeking a rescue plan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Reuters yesterday reported a Portuguese government spokesman as saying: "This news article is completely false".

José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president and former Portuguese prime minister, was adamant that an aid plan for Portugal had neither been requested nor suggested.

"I can tell you that it's absolutely false, completely false," he told reporters in Paris.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Parliament to vote on austerity measures

Big day in Lisbon following Wednesday's shut-down. Parliament will vote on the Socialist government's plan to introduce highly unpopular austerity measures, including pay cuts for civil servants, lower welfare benefits and an increase in value-added tax to 23 percent.

If passed as expected, the measures will be introduced on 1st January.

The vote comes the day after a lengthy European Commission report on the labour market shows that by working longer hours for the same money workers in Portugal have helped the country weather the current financial crisis better than some other member states.

Although unemployment stands at nearly 11 percent, the average hours worked per person has increased and this has boosted productivity.
The government hopes the austerity measures starting on 1st January will help solve the country's debt crisis and quell speculation that Portugal will be next, after Ireland and Greece, to request an international bailout.

Prime Minister Jose Socrates insists that the economic situation in Portugal is very different to that in Greece and Ireland and that this country does not need a lifeline from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Yesterday, investors kept up pressure on Portugal amid fears that we could be the next victim of the current 'contagion' crisis. If Portugal succumbs, Spain is likely to be next. The focus may then shift to Italy.

The Russians may be coming

News that Britain's second biggest tour operator, Thomas Cook, has bought a controlling interest in the huge Russian travel company, Intourist, brings a ray of hope for an improvement in the number of visitors coming to the Algarve next year.

The deal is expected to enable Thomas Cook to meet the growing demand in Russia for holidays in the sun. Egypt and Turkey are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries, but the Algarve may pick up a significant amount of business.

More than six million Russians went on overseas packaged holidays last year. The market is expected to grow by a double-digit percentage in the coming years, according to a statement from Thomas Cook.

This is refreshing news in the wake of Thomas Cook's cancellation of package holidays to the Algarve this winter. They will not resume until April.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Alex Ellis, Britain's 'digital diplomat'

Alex Ellis, who is soon to move on from his post as British ambassador in Portugal, is not your average fuddy-duddy diplomat.

A BBC correspondent described Ellis as “our bicycling, open-shirted and youthful man in Lisbon.”

After three years as “an unfeasibly young” envoy, Mr Ellis is to return to London to take up the post of Director for Strategy within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

What makes him different from all of his predecessors is not only that he's a youthful cyclist; he's also a blogger. He has had a blog running in Expresso online since 2008. This was in response to an Expresso invitation. Unlike many people in high positions, he writes his own blogs – and he does so in Portuguese.

What he likes about blogging for Expresso is that it allows his messages to reach a much wider audience across Portugal than they would through the British Embassy website. (To view his blog, go to http://aeiou.expresso.pt/um-bife-mal-passado=s24971.

"I blog to change the brand,” he explained, "to reach a new audience, to learn myself, and to make people laugh."

At a conference in the UK earlier this year he revealed that his mother had asked him what exactly he did as ambassador. He told her: “If you go to jail we visit you – once!”
He was jesting of course but this reply inadvertently highlighted a bone of contention in some circles in the Algarve. Modernisation within the FCO during Ambassador Ellis' tenure in Lisbon has meant less personal attention to British nationals abroad who get into trouble with the law, and more focus on such things as efficiency and cost-cutting.

Ambassador Ellis, however, showed considerable concern for those caught up in the flooding and mud slides in Madeira in February this year. He flew to the island with a consular rapid reaction team to provide support to affected Britons.

He started his Foreign Office career with the UK team supporting the transition to multi-party democracy in South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela. He was in Brussels while negotiations were going on to establish the euro. In Madrid he worked on EU and economic issues and then in London on the 2004 EU enlargement. Between 2005 and 2007 he was an adviser to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, on energy, climate change, competition, development, trade and strategy.

Having served as a junior member of the political team in the Lisbon Embassy in Lisbon between 1992 and 1996, he was an old Portugal hand when he arrived here as ambassador in 2007. And now another chapter in his rapid career rise is ending.

Last night, on probably his last visit to the Algarve, he was guest of honour at a British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce dinner. Today he will attend a consular lunch to mark the recent appointments of Clive Jewell as British Consul to the Algarve and Miguel Sengo da Costa as British Honorary Consul in the Faro area.

When Alex Ellis relinquishes his post at the end of December. Joanna Kuenssberg O'Sullivan, counsellor and deputy chief of mission at the embassy, will hold the fort until a new ambassador arrives.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Deepening anxiety in the Algarve

Today's nationwide general strike is unlikely to do anything to dispel deeping public anxiety about unemployment, job insecurity, pay cuts and rising prices in the Algarve.

The prevailing mood among workers seems to be despondency rather than outright anger, a feeling of fatalistic pessimism rather than demonstrative outrage.

The mood had set in long before the Government announced its 2011 budget, which includes cuts in civil servants' pay along with a hike in value-added tax from 21 percent to 23 percent. These austerity measures are only part of the story.

Although the Government is taking the brunt of today's nationwide expression of dissatisfaction, it is only partly to blame. External factors have been at work.

From time immemorial, fishing and farming were the twin pillars of the Algarve's economy. Tourism and property development started taking over in the 1960s but were interrupted by the 1974 revolution.

Once democracy had become firmly established, tourism and property development greatly expanded. Boosted by Portugal's entry into the EEC in 1986, they quickly eclipsed the traditional sources of income and employment.

During the first six years of the new millennium the Algarve had never had it so good. Then came the crunch. The warning signs emerged in 2007. The storm broke in 2008. It worsened in 2009. The crisis has rocked us this year and will almost certainly continue throughout 2011.

Tourism has taken a bashing because of conditions in our main market, the UK. Suffering austerities of their own at home, British holidaymakers were insisting more than ever on value for money. The exchange rates put a lot of visitors off. The pound and the euro now have almost the same value. The competition from inexpensive destinations in eastern Europe is fierce. In some ways – golf for example – the Algarve is in danger of out-pricing itself. Fortnights of fun in the Algarve sun at little cost are a thing of the past.

For the first time in decades, major tour operators have discontinued winter flights, thus adding to the already alarming number of job losses and business closures in the tourism sector.

The slump in the property market is even worse. Construction companies, suppliers of building materials, estate agents, decorators, furniture firms, landscape gardeners and everyone else involved are having a very hard time in a once booming sector that is now virtually moribund.

The knock-on effects are being felt in all other sections of the community. Wth so many people out of work, worried about being forced out of work, or having no option but to accept lower incomes in the face of ever-increasing prices for everyday needs, it is no wonder there is anxiety out there.

Interestingly, a recent poll in the United States showed that the things disturbing Americans the most are the economy, the government and unemployment. A similar poll in Portugal might come to the same conclusion.

Today's general strike is focusing on the Government's new austerity measures. It will be an opportunity to let off steam, but what lasting good will it do? Is the strike in the country's best interests?

It is unclear if the motives of today's action are directed by objective reason, fairness, balance and public-spiritedness, or whether they are essentially selfish.
Are we talking about abuses of power, either by the big unions on the one hand, or by the big bosses and the state on the other?

Are the protestors dutifully obeying union demands, displaying admirable togetherness in adversity, or acting out of fear of losing their livlihoods upon which the well-being of their families depend? Perhaps all three.

The right to strike is firmly respected in Portugal and this was reiterated the other day by Prime Minister Jósé Sócrates whose Government is now in the firing line.

The most unpopular man in the country today is Finance Minister Teixeira dos Santos. He has been dismissive of today's strike. “Trade unions have called it, they have a right to do so, but that won’t change the government’s mind about what needs to be done,” he said during a recent press conference.

“The country’s financing capacity is at stake” and that fiscal consolidation will be “harsh and demanding” but it needs to be done, otherwise “the nation’s situation will be much worse than people imagine,” said the finance minister.

Of course the whole thing comes down to money. The strike itself is going to cost the country many millions of euros in lost productivity. It remains to be seen whether it will be worth it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Shutdown expected in nationwide protest

The two biggest unions promoting tomorrow's general strike predict it will be massive.

The protest by public and private sector workers has been sparked by an unemployment rate of about 11%, increased taxation, cuts in social benefits and increased job insecurity.

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled. Public transport, schools, hospitals, government officees and local authority services are all expected to be affected.

The police are not allowed to strike but are said to be sympathetic to the walkout.

“Crazies” moving in on the debt crisis

It's much stuffier, but the Great Debt Crisis is a bit like Strictly Come Dancing, with all eyes on who's most likely to go down next.

“This country does not need any help,” declared Prime Minister José Sócrates yesterday. He was referring of course to speculation about a financial bailout in the wake of Ireland's acceptance of emergency funding from the EU and the IMF.

“What the country needs is to do what is necessary, to approve the budget, and to continue in its efforts." In other words, keep dancing.

Sócrates hoped Ireland's U-turn in asking for international help would end the uncertainty and contagion in financial markets.

"I think what was happening recently, was that Portugal was being hit by the lack of confidence over Ireland," Sócrates said. "I hope that the Irish government's decision will end this uncertainty and restore confidence to markets. There is no reason to have a lack of confidence over Portugal."

The Daily Telegraph quoted Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minister and chairman of the eurozone finance ministers’ group, as saying that “crazy” financial markets could now turn on Portugal and Spain.

Writing in the same paper, Ambrose Evans-Prichard noted that according to the OECD, Portugal will have a current account deficit of 10.3pc of GDP this year, 8.8pc in 2011, and 8.0pc in 2012. “That is to say, Portugal will be unable to pay its way in the world by a huge margin even after draconian austerity. This is the worst profile in Europe.”

Reuters news agency reported yesterday that Portugal had only a few months to pursuade markets it can avoid becoming the next domino to fall by folowing Ireland in seeking a bailout. "Its growth and fiscal outlook suggests it faces an uphill battle," said Reuters.

Le Monde thinks it is inevitable that Portugal will have to ask for outside help as has happened with Greece and Ireland.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Watch out for wobbly Wednesday

The nationwide general strike planned for Wednesday in protest against the Government's austerity measures is expected to cause a fair amount of chaos across the country. Among other things, Faro airport is likely to be brought to a standstill.

The strike has been called by the country's leading trade unions and could bring out tens if not hundreds of thousands of disgruntled employees.

A Faro airport spokesperson told me she would be unable to comment until tomorrow. Others seem to have a pretty good idea of what we can expect: total paralysis.

The announced intention of air traffic controllers to join the strike has forced the cancellation of many if not all of Wednesday's flights in and out of Faro.

Ryanair have cancelled 14 flights between Faro and Gatwick, Stansted, Liverpool, Dublin, Cork, Glasgow Prestwick, Frankfurt Hahn and Oporto.

Easyjet say they anticipate “some significant disruption” on flights to and from Portugal. “While the circumstances are outside of our control and are affecting all airlines, we do apologise in advance for any inconvenience caused and reassure you that we are doing everything possible to minimise the disruption,” say Easyjet.

If you booked through easyJet.com you will be able to rebook your flight free of charge. Normally this online service only takes a few minutes, but at very busy times it can take up to three hours.

Lisbon and Oporto are sure to be be affected too. Portugal's national airline, TAP, have advised passengers with reservations on any of their flights on Wednesday to re-book. British Airways of couse are all too familiar with cancelled flights.

The strike is likely to be felt right across the whole spectrum of public services.

What are the ethics of all this disruption and what is it likely to achieve? Your comments are welcome.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


From Afghanistan to value-added tax

Portugal can today afford to pause for a moment of self-satisfaction having successfully hosted such a mighty gathering of world leaders and their momentous agreements on war and peace. Next week is going to be rather less glitzy and agreeable.

The NATO summit ended with all-round accord on an exit strategy in Afghanistan. NATO combat operations are to cease and the vast majority of the 138,000 international troops will have left Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The other good news is that Russia has agreed in writing that it and the NATO nations pose no threat to each other. The old Cold War enemy has promised to co-operate on defence matters, particularly on the setting up of a ballistic missile shield.

Tomorrow is another day, of course, and fears have been expressed that a bailout in Ireland “may unleash market vigilantes on Portugal.” Unfortunately, even NATO could not cope with such an attack. In describing the dilemma on whether to seek an EU rescue plan, The Ecomomist quoted a Lisbon-based economist as saying: “Portugal does not want to ask for help, but it may have to.”

Tuesday will be a good day for us ordinary folk to get out and about and deal with normal daily chores because Wednesday could be problematic. Tens of thousands of public and private sector workers plan to stage a general strike in Lisbon and cities througout the country.

Organised by the biggest trade unions, the strike is in protest against the Government's austerity measures, which are designed to help solve the nation's economic woes. Many people doubt that cutting public sector wages by 5 percent, freezing pensions and raising value-added tax from 21 percent to 23 percent is the right way of going about it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Key Lisbon summit on debt and defence

It was domestic matters first when President Barack Obama flew into Lisbon for what is proving to be one of the most crucial NATO summits in the alliance's entire 61-year history.

Obama's first private meeting yesterday was with Portugal's president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, who told a press conference afterwards that the level of US investment in this country was "far from what you would expect." Obama was standing right next to Cavaco Silva at the time, but he didn't flinch at the apparent dig.

“We've come to Lisbon again to revitalize the NATO alliance for the 21st century and to strengthen the partnership between the United States and the European Union," was the main thrust of Obama's reply.

His next private meeting was with Prime Minister José Sócrates. Again the focused was on finance. The US president said America would work with Portugal and Europe to address the current crisis.

"Portugal is working through challenges created by some of the financial markets and I think that it's important to note that the prime minister has committed himself to a very, very vigorous package of economic steps," Obama told reporters.

He said Portugal and the United States had common economic problems. Jobs and economic benefits were the "highest priority for both our countries.”

During the main business of the day, the 28 NATO leaders approved a new alliance strategy for the next 10 years. Hopefully that has sorted out such matters as the prospect of ballistic missile attacks from rogue states and the onset of all-out cyber warfare.

And so to dinner consisting of Spinach Crepes, Medallions of Veal with Serra Cheese, and Priscos Abbot Pudding, helped along with Burmester red and white, and perhaps even a little vintage Port or two.

That just leaves discussion today with a keynote address by Afghan President Hamid Karzai on ending NATO's involvement in the war in Afghanistan by the an end of 2014.

Hopefully, clinking glasses of Portugese bubbly all-round at dinner tonight.

Strike expected to disrupt flights

The general strike called for next Wednesday to protest against austerity measures is expected to seriously disrupt many services, including activities at Faro and the other international airports in Portugal. Ryanair says the strike will cause flight delays and some cancellations for flights operating to and from Portuguese airports, as well as those that overfly Portugal. The national airline TAP has strongly recommended that passengers who were planning to fly next Wednesday rebook alternative dates.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Obama in Lisbon for crucial NATO meeting

President Barack Obama and other world leaders are gathering in Lisbon today for a 48-hour NATO meeting which has been billed as one of the most important in the history of the alliance.

Top of the agenda for the 28 member states are the war in Afghanistan and plans for a missile defence network in Europe.

Iran yesterday launched a war of words on NATO and tested a new air-defence system of its own. NATO has no future, declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We regard NATO decision-makers as politically backward, and their decisions are of no significance to us, because they are incapable of playing a role in future developments,” said the Iranian leader. He added: “Experience shows that NATO leaders have had a wrong interpretation of international events and all their decisions are based on false information.”

All is not well within the alliance itself. Germany and France are at odds over nuclear disarmament and the proposed European ballistic missile shield.

On the other hand Russia's more relaxed relationship with the West is evident by the presence in Lisbon of the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev. President Obama is keen to ratify a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan will address the meeting tomorrow and is expected to say he wants NATO forces out of his country by the end of 2014.


José Mourinho's new goal: the Ryder Cup

The announcement that José Mourinho is to be an ambassador for Portugal's bid to host the Ryder Cup in 2018 will evoke a mixed reaction in the Algarve.

There will be delight that such a respected and well-known personality in the sports world is to throw his weight behind Portugal's Ryder Cup campaign, which already has the full backing of the Portuguese Government.

There will be wry smiles because Mourinho does not play golf. His formidable expertise on how to play football does not extend to how to control little white balls being knocked around the manicured countryside.

Most of all in some quarters will be the painful reminder that the chosen venue for Portugal's Ryder Cup bid is in the Alentejo, not the Algarve.

The plan is to bring the world's number one golf event to Herdade da Comporta,which is near Mourinho's home town of Setúbal. This could be interpreted as a backhander to the Algarve, famous for some of the finest golf courses in Europe, let alone Portugal.

The Algarve has hosted many major international golf tournaments including three World Championships.

There will also be mixed reaction in Spain, which is competing for the 2018 Ryder Cup along with France, Germany and Holland. Mourinho, former boss at Chelsea, is now the coach at Real Madrid.

"I always play to win and I know everyone connected to the 2018 Portuguese Ryder Cup bid is exactly the same," said Mourinho yesterday.

A decision will be announced next spring.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Portugal's revenge over old rivals Spain

Forget the debt crisis engulfing Portugal and the rest of Euope. Forget preparations for the arrival in Lisbon tomorrow of President Obama for bilateral discussions and a meeting of NATO. The number one topic of conversation in the nation today is football and Portugal's 4-0 thrashing of world champions Spain last night.

Victory was all the sweeter for Portugal because they inflicted Spain's biggest defeat in 47 years. Spain had not suffered such humiliation since they were beaten 6-2 by Scotland back in 1963.

The game in Lisbon's Estadio da Luz provided Portugal with an element of revenge because it was Spain who put them out of last year's world cup.

For all the long-standing rivalry between the Iberian neighbours on and off the pitch, one of the aims of last night's friendly was to promote their joint bid to host the World Cup in 2018.


Highway robbery

Several people have recently reported falling victim to thieves posing as travelling visitors in need of help to find their way.

The modus operandi has variations but it goes something like this. The thieves spot a woman placing her handbag in her car parked outside a supermarket.

A couple approach the woman and distract her before she gets into the car, or entice her out of it, by asking for directions to the A2 motorway, Spain or some other destination.

The couple produce a map and fully engage the woman's attention on details. Thus distracted, the women does not notice another member of the gang nicking her handbag.

By the time the woman gets into her car to drive off, the thieves have disappeared.

One woman recently fell into the trap outside the Aldi supermarket at Armação de Pera. She lost her passport, credit cards, mobile phone and all her remaining holiday cash the day before her flight home to London.

After she had her mobile blocked, the itemised bill from the phone company in England showed that the last six calls made were to Romania, four of them to the same number. She informed the Armação police.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The debt bailout dilemma: is Portugal next?

Analysts seem agreed that Portugal is at risk from the 'contagious' or 'domino' effects of Ireland's continued refusal to even discuss a bailout agreement with the EU.

An EU rescue plan for Ireland and Portugal would end current market tension and avert contagion, some economists have been saying for more than a week now. But Ireland has dug its heels in.

Suffering from chronically low growth and a high deficit, Portugal is regarded as Europe's third most vulnerable economy after Greece and Ireland.

Coming austerity measures contained in the 2011 budget include a 5% cut in civil servants' wages and a rise in value-added tax from 21% to 23%. But the tough new austerity meaures may push Portugal back into recession next year.

Many economists say that the Government's prediction of 0.2% growth in 2011 is overly optimistic. This leads to another question: if the Government can't get the economy growing, how is it going to tackle its debt, which is currently running at 82% of gross domestic product?


William whooping it up on the west coast

Prince William's engagement to his long-time girlfriend raises the spectre of
a royal stag party in the Algarve next year.

The second-in-line to the British throne last visited these shores in 2005. He quietly slipped in incognito and without his girlfriend to whoop it up prior to the marriage of one of his chums.

The all-male group stayed in a nicely tucked-away B&B in the countryside next to the west coast. They spent much time surfing on a popular beach. Even a night out in the bars of Lagos went almost unnoticed.

Will he choose the same venue for his own stag party? A repeat laid-back visit prior to what is already being heralded as the wedding of the century? No way, unless the Portuguese Government is willing to mount the kind of massive security operation that will be in place when President Obama and the rest of the NATO leaders meet in Lisbon this weekend.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Portugal caught up in 'contagious' debt crisis

Speculation is rife that Portugal will be forced to follow Ireland into seeking a rescue plan from the EU because of the spreading international debt crisis.

Portugal's Finance Minister,Teixeira dos Santos said that the situations in Ireland and Portugal were quite different. He was quoted in the Diário de Notícias as saying that Portugal had not approached Brussels, either formally or informally, to discuss special asistance.

According to the Daily Telegraph EU authorities have begun to vent fury against Ireland over its refusal to accept a financial rescue, fearing that the contagious crisis will engulf Portugal and Spain unless confidence is restored immediately to eurozone bond markets.

Portugal has struggled to achieve economic growth under the euro common currency system. It has been disclosed that Greece's economic difficulties are even worse than previously thought. Spain's economy is moribund.

“Stronger countries and weaker countries using the common currency of the euro are being pulled in different directions,” says the New York Times. “Some economists wonder if unity will hold or if some new system that allows countries to move on one of two parallel financial tracts is needed.”

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned: “If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”