Â I was fortunate to be able to spend the last month and a half in the Algarve. I hadn't been there since the summer of 2003. In places like Luz it was as I had imagined it would be ten years ago. Acres of holiday homes and holiday complexes and very little else. Humble dwellings and farm plots of locals in the interstices of ostentatious mansions and country, ocean and golf clubs dot the land.
All is not well in the Algarve and probably much of Portugal for that matter. What was striking was the number of shop closures. This was endemic all over the Algarve from holiday home complex shopping parades to the main commercial streets of a substantial Portuguese town like Lagos.
It would seem that the good times are at an end in Portugal and the shops are going out of business because locals and visitors alike are spending less. The government and local councils are broke. Progress in the form of pretty cobbled pavements and squares and the laying down of asphalt on almost every insignificant road with borrowed money is one of the things that has put Portugal in quite a pickle. People point the blame at the government but the fact of the matter is local councils and Portuguese people in general were happy to spend the money being dumped into the economy willy nilly without asking themselves how it all was going to be paid for. Yes, that old 'There is no such thing as a free lunch' adage would have been well heeded.
Well, Portugal is where she is now and we have to look forward. Personally I think two things are killing the Portuguese economy. The first is the Euro. Being in the Euro zone is beneficial neither to tourism nor manufacturing. Portugal has managed to price herself out of the tourism market by becoming too expensive. No too discerning British tourists will as easily go to a North Africa country as to Portugal purely based on the cost of the holiday.
The state of the Portuguese manufacturing is a real tragedy. Portugal makes and can make high quality garments, footware , assorted leather apparel, ceramics and other furnishing at completive prices. Yet the Portuguese government has been very slow to help such unique cottage and medium size industries and has done little to promote them to the younger generation who either want to be 'famous' or get jobs as architects.
The government who spent loads of taxpayers money on ill thought out cutting edge technology projects i.e huge visual display screens displaying adverts at rural bustops to high speed fibre optic network rolled out at a break net pace to recycling projects that are followed rigorous though. These grand projects which look good for the EU and the Portuguese government were of little or no benefit to the people who were actually working and making things in Portugal.
Further damage to Portuguese craftsmanship has been caused by the Portuguese government allowing the markets for Portuguese manufactured products to be severely undermined by allowing the import of similar though arguably inferior garments/products etc from countries like China and Morocco. It does not make any sense. You have big brands in Portugal like Tezeniz and intimissimi purporting to stock Italian products. However on closer inspection one will find most of their stuff is made in Sri Lanka and other non EU places where child labour is rife. Big profits for the Corporations but little long term investment in the Portuguese people. Really, the price of these products is what I think the same item, could easily have been produced in Portugal for. We have the same disease plaguing the UK but I will save that for another day.
All is not lost. The town of GuimarÃ£es is leading the way as world renowned as a centre of excellence the footwear it makes. In Lagos if you search through the belts on sale in almost every shop you can find belts made in Portugal. Shops like Chrisbel in Lagos stock bags, wallets etc made in Portugal. But it is always good to verify this is the case when making a purchase. The same goes for ForÃ§a Portugal who have shops throughout Portugal. In Lagos the staff are very friendly and helpful.
Just check the label as some of their stuff is made in China, Morroco and elsewhere. If you are looking for a fashionable leather or cork bag made in Portugal you can't go wrong with shopping at NOVIPEL. It is a small shop at the top of a flight of stairs just past the Lagos Fish Market. The owner is a passionate supporter of products made in Portugal. You can also find the well the now well known
hand painted tiles in many gift shops.
Addresses are below. Let's all hope for a brighter and more sensible future for Portugal and ourselves. The addresses ODF shops for Lagos are below.
Rua 25 Abril 62, 8600-763, Lagos, Portugal
PraÃ§a Gil Eanes, 8600, Lagos, Portugal
Rua Dr. Faria Silva, 33, Lagos, Portugal