The meaning of economic collapse becomes visible on the drive from the Algarve to Évora, the ancient Roman heart of Alentejo. When the government ran out of cash last year, they simply stopped building roads mid-bridge, repeating the surreal Cape Town highway to nowhere many times. In the towns, gold shops, like the one below are popping up for locals to pawn their jewellery and all the restaurants are full but the only Portuguese speakers are the waiters. In the Algarve, the punters are Russian, German and British while in Évora they seem mainly Spanish. And there I was thinking Spain was an economic basket case.
“For sale” signs punctuate every street and there are abandoned farms and buildings in some of the smartest locations. Heck, even the office of the Barmen Association of Portugal in the heart of Sétubal is beautiful and derelict. What an opportunity for SA to snap up well qualified young engineers, teachers and medical staff. The history of Portugal is of brave people leaving Europe to make a better life. Given the critical skills shortage in SA, we should be welcoming them with open arms.