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Tourism budget cuts questioned

By INÊS LOPES [email protected]

Tourism boards in Portugal are questioning the legality of cuts made to their budgets in the last three years, which they say have been approved outside State Budget parliamentary control.

Algarve tourism chief António Pina, also the president of the National Association of Tourism Boards (ANRET), representing 11 tourism regions, said the ANRET had decided at a meeting in Peniche last week to seek legal advice on the legitimacy of budgetary cuts imposed by Turismo de Portugal, which this year reached 30%.

“We want to set the record straight about the legality of these cuts as what has been approved in Parliament each year, for the last three years at least, is that €20.8 million is to be distributed by the 11 tourism regions,” António Pina told Lusa news agency.

However, ANRET questions the legitimacy of Turismo de Portugal, the entity governing the tourism boards, to implement these cuts, even if stipulated by the Ministry of Economy, following approval a budget for the tourism regions.

According to the president of ANRET, a document is being prepared detailing the budget cuts suffered in the last three years, which were -15% in 2010, -20% in 2011 and -30% in 2012.

“It is after a budget is approved that we become the victims of these drastic cuts. We want to know if this is legal,” said António Pina, adding that if the cuts are ruled illegal, the case will be taken to the Supreme Administrative Court or the Republic’s Attorney-General.

Ever escalating cuts

The president of ANRET continued by saying that as well as the “ever escalating” budget cuts to the annual €20.8 million budget destined for the 11 tourism boards, 10% of that is withheld for the Secretariat of State for Tourism.

António Pina said that, by law, this 10% should later be redistributed between the tourism boards, something that “has never happened”.

In the Algarve region, António Pina said that the €6.2 million originally allocated for the region will decrease to €4.17 million, an amount that will mostly go towards the payment of general operational expenses of the organisation.

ANRET members slam the “shots that the government has been firing” at the tourism sector in Portugal, namely the VAT rise in the restaurant (from 13% to 23%) and golf (from 6% to 23%) sectors and the implementation of tolls in the former free-for-users SCUT roads.

The association demands to have a hearing with the Minister of Economy prior to the publication of the new organic law for tourism boards, which is expected in June.