Portugal Country Guide

by Jose Marc Castro on August 5, 2009

costoflivingPORTUGAL200Situated on the Southwestern peak of Europe, Portugal is one of the more popular tourist destinations of Europe.  The country has encountered a constant flow of attention over the centuries, offering a strategic entry point to the European continent.  The Romans, Germanics and Moorish have all held the country at some point in time, each leaving a little of their cultural footprints behind.

While Portugal is fairly small compared to the other major nations of Europe, the country was a much stronger force throughout the world in the 15th and 16th centuries.  Slowly but surely the Portuguese Empire has been broken up, reducing the impact of the country’s historic success at exploring the world. This success in the early imperialistic galleon trade was shared with its neighbor in the Iberian Peninsula, Spain. Over time, the country has relinquished its control over its foreign lands.  This participation though in world affairs has not waned, as Portugal is very much an integral part of Europe, being a member of the European Union, United Nations and NATO.

The country has a very stable political environment which has been a major reason behind the prosperity of Portugal.  This stability has attracted a number of Expats living in Portugal from areas such as Brazil, Ukraine, Romania, Russia and Moldova, reversing the earlier trend of net emigration.

The countries past age of discovery and subsequent enlarged empire of old have all left an impression on the Portugal of today.  Strong in poetry and literature the country offers an interesting and beautiful mix of various cultures.

Contents: Economy in PortugalProspects in PortugalPortugal Facts

Economy in Portugal

For a country with a population of only 10 million, Portugal has a fairly strong economy which is ranked some where in the region of 22nd on the world stage.  The willingness of progressive governments to continue a policy of inward investment and development has allowed a capitalist economy to flourish. The changes in economic policies have been driven by government, with its current thrust on exports, private investment and development of the technology sector. In common with other major European countries, Portugal has also undergone a program of privatization – thereby weakening the historical state control of industry.

The economy is dominated by a small number of industries which include, oil refining, automotive, cement production, pulp and paper and textiles – thereby eliminating the countries once dependence on agriculture.  Tourism and fine wines are also a very strong area of growth for the country, with Portugal among one of the largest exporters of wine in the world. Another growth industry is tourism, with many property developments currently underway to address the demand of both the foreign and local tourism industry.

Portugal has recently become one of the leaders in the growing area of alternative power sources, having opened the world’s largest solar power station, with the government committed to investing some $3.8 billion over the next 5 years.  When you consider where Portugal is situated, the country has the potential to further strengthen its position in the renewable energy market.

A recent rise in the rate of unemployment to 7.7% is slightly concerning, although the longer term picture is still fairly upbeat.  Economic growth is currently running at some 1.3% which is an improvement on the 0.5% rate of 2005, further allaying fears of a recession.

Income tax rates for Portuguese nationals are between 10.5% and 40% while corporation tax is set at 27.5%.

Prospects in Portugal

While there have been recent concerns about a possible slowdown on the Portuguese economy, these have been allayed with recent figures showing an increase in the rate of growth.  The progressive attitude of the authorities has benefited the country as a whole, with inward and foreign investment very healthy.

Unemployment has risen of late, although there is always a lag behind an increase in the economy and reduction in unemployment – so this should start to fall fairly soon.  Looking longer term the forward thinking by the authorities may well see Portugal become a major player in the field of renewable energy systems – with a further $3.8 billion already put aside for investment.

The tourism market in Portugal continues to flourish, and the area is a favorite for holiday homes, with many older people actually looking to retire to the sun and quiet life of Portugal.  An interesting area of the world, which has growth potential in a number of business areas.

This positive outlook for living in Portugal was narrated in a post at the Portugal Expat Forum last April 13, 2009:

“Although portugal is an E.U. country, this is where the similarity ends ! Life here although very nice, is absolutely nothing like what you are used to in the uk and in my opinion anything that you have learned in the uk will be worthless and non applicable here.

So you know, it is not that expats who are living here are all being negative and just trying to put you and others off (although this is how it seems I know) it is just that they know (because they have already seen it ) that people coming here with a uk mentality and mindset who actually know nothing, or very little about day to day living here and about the economy, the markets, the culture and the language are almost CERTAINLY doomed to fail.

I was extremely lucky and fortunate in that I was able to come here for a year, first on a trial basis and just to rent so that I could see and discover these things first hand and for myself. Although it hascot me a tidy sum to do this, it was money well spent and only now after 10 months of living here, do I feel that I know enough to now make good sensible choices based on the facts and not on some preconceived pipe dream and idealistic fantasy that I had from afar. Do not think that I am having a go at you, because this is certainly not the case. I just don’t want to see anyone jumping in feet first with rose tinted blinkers on, that’s all. By all means give it a go, but it is nothing like the uk.

Key Facts of Portugal:

Bordered by Spain

Food: High meat and fish content

Temperature: From -2C to 40c+

Industries: Wines, Automobiles, Tourism, Oil Refining, Paper and Renewable Energy

Education: 12 years compulsory, with a highly developed university sector

Health: Life expectancy 77 years

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