Welcome to the Week em Breve! This Week’s News in Portugal: Seasonal Strikes, Yellow Jacket Riots, Tourism Tax, Going Green, Smoking Green, Train Inspections Delayed, Tram Derailments, and much more!
‘Tis the Striking Season
The festive season is upon us! And with it comes union strikes to try to pressure the government into further concessions and wage increases. Civil servants are responsible for the majority of planned actions, with current figures warning of almost 50 strikes over the holiday period. People trying to travel for Christmas are expected to hit hard as SEF immigration, border workers, and two private airport security firms threaten action. Additionally, there are plans for continued strikes in the healthcare sector as well as supermarket workers threatening strike action on Christmas Eve.
Yellow-Jacket Threat Continues to Rise
It isn’t only strikes, however, with the Yellow Jacket movement gaining traction over the past week. It is now being reported with a warning in the media and by various foreign embassies in Lisbon. Additionally, after complaints, Facebook removed the original event posting that had more than 40,000 people interested. This has led to organisers switching to whatsapp.
Tourism Tax Through Airbnb
Like it or not, Airbnb has had a serious impact on cities in Portugal. According to a statement by the short-term let company, it has “passed on” €5.5 million of “tourist tax” to Lisbon and Porto in the first 9 months of the year. This equalled €3.7 million to Lisbon and €1.8 million to Porto. It is important to remember that this is not a tax paid by Airbnb, but rather a fee paid by every tourist who stays in these cities.
Tourism’s Piece of the Pie Continues to Grow
The impact of tourism on Portugal’s GDP has grown once again. There was an increase of 14.5% between 2016 and 2017 with tourism accounting for 13.7% of the national GDP as of last year, according to Statistics Portugal. Furthermore, there was an increase from 6.9% in 2016 to 7.5% last year in the Gross Value Added (GVA) generated by tourism. This means that Portugal is one of the most tourism-reliant countries in the EU.
Good News for Going Green
Portugal placed 17th overall in the latest Climate Change Performance Index but ranked 1st when it came to policies to counter the effects of climate change. The 17th placement actually makes it 14th of the 57 countries listed since the top three spots are left empty due to no country being “deserving.” This ranking shows an improvement of one place compared with last year. Slow and steady.
Wear a Helmet, Don’t Wear a Helmet, It’s all the Same to ANSR
In a complete 180 of what was thought last week, the Autoridade Nacional de Segurança Rodoviária (National Road Safety Agency) has announced that wearing a helmet is not mandatory when riding a bike or scooter. They do, however, recommend doing so and also commented on the dangers of invading pedestrian space with electric scooters and bikes.
Is Lisbon About to Legalize Weed?
Bloco de Esquerda is moving forward with a legislative initiative to legalize weed. The party are arguing for the allowance of recreational cannabis in licenced shops to reduce drug trafficking, improve public health, and allow for informed and conscientious decisions. More importantly, this may include the ability to self cultivate up to five plants with registration. However, there would be restrictions on any additives that increase psychoactive effects, a limit of 40 grams per month, and smoking laws would be the same as with cigarettes.
Trains to Forgo Safety Inspections
Comboios de Portugal seems unable to stay out of the news. This month, the director of rolling stock, José Pontes Correia, was fired after raising concerns over safety. It happened after CP management decided to increase the distance that certain carriages can run for before having to be inspected. This increase was of 300,000KM and, according to Correia, could jeopardize passenger safety. The decision to postpone the inspections was made due to CP struggling to keep sufficient stock numbers to run all lines and the political ramifications of service delays in 2019 — an election year.
Tram Derails in Lapa Leaving 28 Injured
On a completely unrelated note, a tram derailed in Lisbon leaving 28 injured and the tram itself completely destroyed. The accident happened on Friday evening in the Lapa district after the tram apparently failed to stop despite breaking and came off the tracks, hitting a corner building. Luckily, there were no serious injuries and the line — the 25E from Prazeres to Praça da Figueira — was quickly cleared.
Think we missed an important story? Let us know in the comments!