Prime Minister António Costa and a full entourage of ministers and secretaries of state visited the Algarve on March 1 and 2 as part of a new government programme entitled ‘Governo + Próximo’ (Closer Government).
The goal was to bring political decision-makers closer to the reality of the Algarve, announce new investments and see first-hand some of the projects being carried out in the Algarve, such as developments in housing, healthcare, security, education and even the successful attempt to save Ria Formosa’s seahorse population.
“These will be two days to work with and for the people of the Algarve,” said PM António Costa at the laying of the first stone of 49 houses which will be built in Montenegro (Faro). The houses will be rented out at accessible costs to families in need currently living in Praia de Faro.
As Costa recognised, multiple governments have been criticised for ‘forgetting’ about the Algarve when it comes to making important investments.
“Some of us have the rare privilege of holidaying in the Algarve and do not often think about the people who live, study and work in the Algarve year-round and need housing, healthcare, mobility and a right to safety,” the prime minister told reporters.
The visit saw several new facilities being inaugurated – from Vila Real de Santo António’s new PSP police station and the new outdoor area surrounding Castro Marim’s Casa do Sal (Salt House) to the Sagres Fortress Exhibition Centre.
Major investments were also announced, headlined by what was initially described as a “38km light metro system to link Olhão, Faro and Loulé”, which the PM said could cost around €300 million. The Algarve’s regional development commission (CCDR Algarve) later clarified that the plan is to build a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which costs significantly less, €120 million (click here).
Another major project revealed was the €10 million fish farm which is due to be built in VRSA (click here).
In Faro, Health Minister Manuel Pizarro visited the University of the Algarve’s new Clinical Simulation Centre, a €2 million investment which allows trainee doctors and nurses to simulate everything from surgeries to births with a stunning degree of realness.
Further west in Portimão, the ministers of housing and education revealed that 15 houses in the centre of town are earmarked to be used as accommodation for teachers and health professionals.
Meanwhile in Lagos, the local wastewater plant (ETAR) is due to be renovated before this summer. The €16 million project will significantly improve the quality of water treated at the plant.
The governmental visit also addressed other key topics such as the rising number of drugs seized off the coast of the Algarve, which in the first two months of 2023 has already matched the numbers of the entirety of 2022. Authorities believe the ‘toughening up’ of laws in Spain may be shifting trafficking routes to Portugal.
There was also time for Justice Minister Catarina Sarmento e Castro to visit Faro Prison and check up on the new project which allows prisoners to benefit from telehealth appointments.