With the world still mired in the worst recession for decades the economy is, not surprisingly, the main issue in this Portuguese election.
For a while, the downturn which crippled neighbour Spain, seemed to leave Portugal relatively unscathed. No longer, the effects are now being felt, although if the economic take-off was less spectacular here, so it seems is the crash landing.
In the past 30 years, Portugal has seen great changes:
Farming, once all-important, now occupies only eleven per cent of the population, and makes up only four per cent to GDP.
Industry employs one-in-three, contributing about 33 per cent of GDP, while the service sector now takes up more than half the working population.
With an average wage of 15,000 euros Portugal ranks 18th among the EU’s 27 states, above only new eastern European nations.
On the other hand, though, Portugal is 19th in the WORLD for quality of life. It’s poor but happy.
Tourism has long been a vital cog in Portugal’s economic wheel, but it too has suffered in the recession. Figures are down this year by between one and two-and-a-half percent; the region worst-hit is the Algarve, already suffering a jump in job losses.
Unemployment is rising across all sectors and across the country, allied to failing businesses, where Portugal leads Europe at 15 per cent; a quarter of all new businesses in the past year have since closed down.
As a result, unemployment jumped to 9,1 per cent in the second quarter of this year, GDP is down by 3,7 per cent and the budget deficit is up to 5,9 per cent over the same period.
That has knock-on effects: demand for goods and services is down, exports have fallen – by 12 per cent – investment has dropped by 14 per cent, and spending in the shops has been hit too, in a country where the minimum wage is just 450 euros per month.
Such figures make uncomfortable reading. Critics talk of a social crisis unfolding in Portugal, and the next government knows it faces tough decisions and a difficult future.
Portuguese elections: economy