August 2, 2018 by Eden Flaherty
The Week em Breve – August 2
Welcome to the Week em Breve! This week in Portugal: Empty Façades, Property Speculation, Renewable Energy, Getting off the Hype Train, Tosta Targets, and much, much more!
Santo António — the most expensive parish in the country — is hemorrhaging residents due to soaring house prices. The average price per square meter has, for the first time, surpassed 4000€. Vasco Morgado, president of the parish, says, “In the medium term we will have a city full of beautiful façades but where nobody lives.” This comes at a time when house prices continue to rise, residents are being served with eviction notices, and officials are starting to worry about a genuine speculation bubble.
There have been some outspoken critics of property speculation in Lisbon, such as Lisbon City Councilor Ricardo Robles. But wait, what’s this? He himself partakes in property speculation? Surprise, surprise, another official has been caught red-handed doing exactly what they tell others not to. Robles and his sister purchased a property in Alfama for €347,000 before having it renovated and put on the market for €5.7 million. Obviously, this has drawn criticism from across the spectrum, and the building has subsequently had anti-speculation graffiti daubed across its facade: “Aqui Podia Morar Gente” — People Could Live Here.
As part of wider warnings, the IMF has said that Portugal is at risk of falling victim to a “real estate bubble.” This follows a warning from Banco de Portugal that there are signs of overvaluation in the market. After an IMF mission to Portugal in May, they announced that in certain areas house prices should be monitored carefully so as to reduce “vulnerabilities arising from high public and private indebtedness.”
The state debt, however, fell by 0.4% in June, compared with the same period last year. This is the second largest drop in debt since 1999 — the largest being 0.8% in February 2016 — and only the third time it has dropped in nearly two decades. These are possible signs of a reversal of the trend of growing debt, but it falls far short of European targets.
The hype train could be derailed as large cities such as Paris, Madrid, and London bid to host the Web Summit. The techy congregation first came to Lisbon in 2015, from its previous home in Dublin, on a three-year contract, 2018 being the final year. Now, when challenged by larger cities, Lisbon looks to be at a great disadvantage as it hasn’t the international sporting infrastructure that other cities have — London’s Olympic grounds, for example. There are many hubs in Europe battling it out, and while Lisbon officials are still negotiating, the future of the summit is far from certain.
Tilray is set to invest about €20 million by 2020 in medical cannabis production in Portugal. The company will research the possible benefits of medical marijuana at their facility in Coimbra and hope to use Portugal as a supply hub for Europe. The company is now looking to hire 100 people for its production facility, in what is a boost to the economic arguments for the legalization of medical cannabis. Another reason for Lisbon being the Green Capital 2020, perhaps.
In order to meet government goals, many ham, cheese, packet soup, and tosta producers will have to cut salt content by more than 80%. The target, to be reached by 2020, is part of the Integrated Strategy for the Promotion of Healthy Eating and comes after a study found that many foods far exceeded recommended salt levels. It isn’t just our tostas, however, as it was also found that only “22 solid yogurts out of the 167 analyzed meet the established targets,” and don’t even think about the liquid ones.
Since the start of the year, 57% of energy consumed in Portugal has been from renewables, alongside a fall in the overall consumption of electricity and natural gas. Hydroelectric accounted for 77% of this renewable power, with a further 23% coming from wind energy. This, of course, leaves 43% of Portugal’s power coming from non-renewables such as gas and coal, but we are certainly on track.
Considering Portugal’s great power production, it is no surprise that they are part of a deal with France and Spain for a new underground power line. It will link northern Spain to south-west France and is designed to better connect Iberian power producers to the rest of the EU and tap into Portugal’s booming renewables industry.
This news is worth a mention, but there’s a reason it comes last. Madonna has announced that she will release a “Portugal-inspired” album this year. Apparently, she has collaborated with Lisbon musicians, which could make for an interesting sound and add some authenticity. However, could this sound the end for Lisbon as we know it? A heralding call to holidaymakers by the queen of pop?
Think we missed an important story? Let us know in the comments!