By: CHRIS GRAEME
PARTS OF Lisbon will be without traditional festive Christmas lights this year because the Câmara cannot afford it.
For the first time in living memory, Lisbon’s famous Rossio Square may not have illuminations, while various Lisbon parishes, freguesias, have been told they won’t get handouts to pay for Christmas lights.
As part of new cash-saving austerity measures to put the bankrupt municipal Câmara back on a sound financial footing, the budget for Christmas lights has been slashed by 50 per cent to make savings of around 600,000 euros.
This year, the Câmara has promised the Union of Commerce Associations and Services, União das Associações e Serviços, only 400,000 euros instead of the usual one million euros or more. Instead, local traders’ associations and chambers of commerce have been told to seek the shortfall funding from business and financial sponsors.
The Christmas lights were supposed to be switched on Saturday but, on that date, Lisbon’s Avenida da Liberdade, the main city shopping thoroughfare, and Rossio were without lights.
When asked about the overall situation, the Vice President of the União das Associações e Serviços, Vasco de Mello, gave “no comment”.
Lisbon’s Christmas illuminations are considered among the best in the whole of Europe, better and more original than those of London and Paris, which are generally the same year-after-year.
“I cannot see that we are going to get lights set up by the end of November, which is a shame, not just because of its effect on shoppers and trade, but also because of its dampening effect on the overall Christmas spirit and especially for tourists,” said Rita Rua, the manageress of Chapelaria Azevedo in Lisbon’s Baixa.
The Junta de Alcântara’s President, José Godinho, admitted: “We are adopting a drastic solution this year to save money; we are not having a single lamp!”
In neighbouring Ajuda, the local Junta President Joaquim Granadeiro, said: “It will be a much more modest Christmas this year with fewer lights and some streets going without them altogether.”
One reason is that the Câmara Municipal de Lisboa normally gives grants of between 10-30,000 euros for Christmas lights.
Lisbon Câmara has stated that, under a reworked agreement, it will only be financially responsible for 25 streets and squares in the city. Neither will there be a giant Christmas tree in Praça do Comércio.
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