Since making the decision to emigrate to Portugal, there has been one resounding question from friends, family and even strangers we meet at various events around town. Why Portugal?
One of the main factors in the decision were the political and economic realities of living in Portugal.
As of 2018, Portugal maintained a Global Peace Index ranking of 4th in the world, and when one walks the streets of any random village (or city) in Portugal, there is a general feeling of safety. I had a conversation with a Ukrainian woman the other night who made it plain when she said ‘I feel safe here’. There are issues that arise due to over-tourism and mistakes made in migrant immigration in Lisbon, but overall, most anywhere one goes in the country is insanely peaceful. In our personal lives, this is validated by @hangrywifey’s willingness to conduct herself as if she were in Hong Kong. She’s not afraid to go alone to any part of the city, and that’s certainly a weight off this husband’s mind. Peaceful environs are key to what we value in a place to live.
Portugal’s radical decision in 2001 to decriminalise drugs shows a humanistic approach to a common problem in society. Better yet, it’s working and serves as a model of ‘treatment’ to other countries around the world. Roughly 10 years ago, Porto’s streets were full of the lingering effects of rampant heroin addiction, but now it almost seems to be a relic of the past. Couple that with a modern and (mostly) progressive approach to the concept of addiction, and you have a prime example of Portugal’s basic conviction to supporting human rights. That’s a plus in my book, regardless of any individual position I may hold on drugs or drug addiction.
While energy costs in Portugal are a bit high at present, renewable energy options remain a strong positive. For example, in March of 2018, Portugal produced 103.6 percent of electrical demand for Mainland Portugal through renewable energy resources. Further, it is expected that by 2040 the production of renewable electricity will be able to guarantee, in a cost-effective way, the total annual electricity consumption of Mainland Portugal. (from source below)
Economically, things are doing better. After a series of years of negative GDP following the 2008 Financial Crisis extending all the way until 2013, Portugal saw an increase to 2.68% in 2017 (far removed from the -4.028 percentage in 2012). This ‘economic miracle’ reflected a validation of fiscal policies the government had implemented (including the much ballyhooed Golden Visa programme, which in Portugal, thus far, seems to be working) as well as Portuguese rejection of ‘austerity measures’ that limited growth.
In fact, Porto itself is a construction zone (although it doesn’t really feel overwhelming as one walks around the city), and property prices in Porto have risen by 34% since 2016 (47% in Lisbon!). Some argue that a bubble exists, but recent confidence from Moody’s (in November 2018) that the most likely scenario is that property prices will continue to rise, but stabilise due to ‘normalisation of monetary policies in the eurozone’ and a ‘gradual increase in interest rates in coming years’ helps stir investor confidence, which spurs investment. Golden Visa applications have grown steadily since 2013, and Portugal is keeping its options open for now, even extending a new ‘Green Visa’ for foreign investment in organic agriculture, ecotourism, renewable energy and other environmental projects. Seems the door to Portugal remains open…
Finally, due to Portugal’s long history with authoritarianist fascism, it doesn’t seem likely that local Portuguese will be willing to accept a resurgence. There’s a feeling of peace and prosperity that is continuing to grow, and these political and economic reasons were definitely part of our consideration in making the jump. Of course, there are more reasons, but that’s for the next part in the series!