‘End the red tape – it’s strangling foreign property investment in Portugal!’ This was the message from Beltico President, Stuart Swycher, to the British Royal Club on Friday.
Swycher informed members, through José Manuel Luz Pampolim (Beltico Executive Administrator), that one of his reasons for deciding to invest in Portugal in 1988 was the proximity of the country in relation to the United Kingdom, a big tourist market. Other reasons were the stable political climate, low crime rate and easy-going nature of the Portuguese, as well as development opportunities in the tourism and leisure industries.
However, there are, in his opinion, negative factors that do not facilitate investment in Portugal. Among these is the existence of an unclear legal and administrative framework – bureaucracy. This, as well as too much power concentrated in the hands of too few people, rigid labour laws, a culture of saying ‘no’ to new things and a widespread resistance to change. Also, in his opinion, the major problems an investor is confronted with include planning permission difiiculties. “The number of entities that need to be consulted with, the time it takes and pointless environmental requirements,” he said.
In other words, the system is riddled by the existence of red tape, which asphyxiates the Portuguese economy. These are considered some of the aspects that do not help the acceleration of foreign investment in Portugal. “Liberalise and welcome investment, embrace change as an opportunity and not as a threat, he concludes.
Nevertheless, despite the problems, Beltico Group’s Praia D’El Rey Golf and Beach Resort development has been a success story for the local real estate sector. In December 2003, the Beltico Group began constructingthe Hotel Marriott/Praia D’El Rey Beach Resort – a five-star unit with 168 rooms and 11 suites. The hotel has conference rooms, two restaurants, three bars, outside and indoor pools, a health club and a spa, which will open in November this year, representing an investment of approximately 25 million euros. This project is the first of its kind, within a non-urban area, on the west coast between Cascais and Alveira.
Besides the Marriott Hotel and the golf course, the project embodied other amenities and services. These include eight all-weather tennis courts, food and beverage areas, a children’s playground, service affiliated companies in the areas of maintenance and cleaning, rentals, a 2,600 metre beach, and a football pitch which was inaugurated by the Portuguese national team. Still in the early stage are plans for an equestrian centre.
The real estate development of the project includes the so-called Vila de Praia, which is expected to commence in the autumn of 2005. This project will consist of a total of 320 units divided between apartments and houses. It will form the core of the resort and will have a range of facilities including a beach club, restaurants and bars, and a supermarket.
The Beltico Group has another project called the Falésia D’ El Rey, also in the western region, that is a new project with similar dimensions to the Praia D’El Rey development. Subject to planning approval, this new project will contain a retirement village with on-site medical facilities, a five-star hotel and an 18-hole golf course.
The Group and Stuart Swycher considered the possibility of new projects taking place in the north and south of Portugal. Equally, the possibility has not been ruled out of investments in other international areas such as Brazil and Eastern Europe. Despite the red-tape problems in Portugal, Swycher says he continues to be “in love with Portugal – its people, traditions and coastline”, calling it the Florida of Europe.