Several Algarve MPs have slammed the 2018 State Budget which they say expects to invest “little to nothing” in the Algarve next year. They feel that the Algarve is the ‘odd region out’ and that numerous promises made by the government remain unfulfilled. As they explain, there is still no word about the EN125 renovations between Olhão and Vila Real de Santo António, the electrification of the Algarve’s railway and there is uncertainty surrounding plans to build a new bridge between Alcoutim and Spain.
“In a budget in which the state says it wants to increase public investment, the Algarve has strangely been left out of the equation,” says Cristóvão Norte, Algarve MP for opposition party PSD and also known for being one of the creators of Portugal’s animal protection law.
“It wasn’t any different in 2016 and 2017, when every region in the country saw an investment drop. This time, though, it is just the Algarve,” he adds.
His criticism is also directed at the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Pedro Marques, who he says has failed to accomplish three goals: “to invest in the Algarve’s railway by electrifying it and linking it to Faro Airport; to renovate the EN125 between Olhão and VRSA which is almost impossible to drive on; and modernise Portimão port so that it can welcome three times the number of cruises that it does now”.
But as he says, “the minister did not accomplish any of them, did not prepare projects or launch tenders”.
“So far, his work has been a disappointment for the region,” he added.
Norte also said that there is a “consensus about the investments that are needed to develop the region”.
“The government announces them, but does not complete them. If it does, it will have our support in doing so.”
Another Algarve MP for PSD, José Carlos Barros, also delivered a few blows regarding the government’s lack of investment in the region’s culture sector.
He says that the Algarve will receive just a 2% slice of the overall sum planned for cultural investments in Portugal, which he says shows “unacceptable disregard” towards the region.
Barros also accused the government of failing to keep its promise about the A22 motorway tolls, which the socialists had promised in 2015 would “gradually see prices drop 50% until it eventually became a free highway once again”.
However, toll prices only dropped 15% last year.
João Vasconcelos, MP for Bloco de Esquerda and known for his tireless campaign against the A22 tolls, also named public investment as the “budget’s biggest problem”.
“And the Algarve will suffer the consequences,” he said.
“Pivotal works are not moving forward in 2018,” Vasconcelos stressed, naming Portimão port, the EN125 and the railway as examples.
He added that BE will be presenting a proposal to be included in the budget to scrap the A22 tolls.
“We hope that this time, MPs for PS, PSD and CDS-PP will approve the proposal. If they don’t, they will again be positioning themselves against the Algarve and its people.”
Criticism has also been voiced by Algarve MP for PCP, Paulo Sá, who says the 2018 State Budget is riddled with omissions about the investments that are planned for the Algarve’s railway and EN125 road.
Sá has demanded answers from the Ministry for Planning and Infrastructures, as the questions that his (communist) party had already posed “were either not answered or were given very generic responses”.
He wants to know how much money will be channelled into studies about the electrification of the Algarve’s railway, when the studies will be completed and when the works will finally begin.
Sá is also pressing the ministry for more information about the EN125 roadworks between Olhão and Vila Real de Santo António.
Last but not least, the communist MP questioned the government about the plans to build a bridge between Alcoutim and Spain.
As the Resident reported, Parliament approved a bid last month to build the bridge, described as a long-time goal of residents from both sides of the river.
The proposal was presented by the PCP. But Sá wants to know when the government is planning to actually begin working on the bridge.
“When will the government start talks with the Spanish and Andalusian authorities,” he asks, also requesting information on whether studies will be carried out and how much money the project is expected to cost.
By MICHAEL BRUXO