PLANS TO build several new shopping centres over the next three years and create nearly 6,000 jobs in the Algarve have caused a rift between politicians and small business owners.
Politicians have given their support to the projects and welcomed the creation of so many new jobs but local small business owners have voiced their concerns, pointing out the ‘social fragilities’ that the developments will bring.
For Macário Correia, president of the Regional Commission for Commercial Licensing, the new shopping centres will help to attract more people to the traditional shopping areas.
Macário Correia, who is also president of Tavira Câmara, believes that people who go to shopping centres also visit other local outlets and, consequently, the smaller shops will not be negatively affected.
However, this opinion is not shared by the president of Associação do Comércio e Serviços da Região do Algarve (ACRAL), a business association representing local commerce and retailers.
In an interview in the Portuguese-language weekly newspaper Barlavento, Gilberto de Sousa said that 95 per cent of the new jobs to be created by the new shopping centres are unqualified positions, attracting low salaries and short-term contracts. The new shopping complexes are planned for Tavira, Olhão, Albufeira and Portimão.
In Tavira, where the official number of unemployed people is 638, an ambitious project from the Martifer group is promising to create a total 650 jobs in its modern Gran Plaza.
In Olhão, the Ria Shopping centre, due to open in 2009, expects to employ around 1,200 people. According to the Portuguese Employment Agency (IEFP), Olhão council registered a total of 1,500 jobless people in February.
In Albufeira, the Martifer group is planning a new Gran Plaza opposite Algarve Shopping. The new centre is expected to recruit 1,900 people. The most recent figures from the IEFP put the number of unemployed people in the local council area at 1,860 people.
Portimão, which has the largest number of shopping centres of any council, has one of the highest unemployment figures in the Algarve, with 2,500 people out of work.
The Bouygues Imobiliária project at the Centro Comercial de Portimão is expected to employ nearly 2,000 people. The project is still waiting for approval from Direcção Regional de Economia, the regional authority that issues commercial licences.
Bouygues is already building the Portimão Retail Centre, located near the existing Portimão Retail Park, which is also expected to employ a few hundred more people.
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