I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Almost every week Luis brings home some stray dog that he’s kidnapped off the street. Usually, however, he has to take it back to where he found it the next day because some distraught owner is looking for the escaped mutt. Elton is different, however. For two weeks, he has been walking the streets of Carvoeiro where he charmed everyone; he was clearly a house pet, not a street mutt, abandoned, not lost. It was inevitable that someone would take him home and that was, predictably, Luis. Now, we have three dogs and Puggie, the one-eyed cat. And a mother-in-law. So Elton made himself at home within seconds and likes to cuddle up on the couch when he’s not eating Puggie. Frankly, he should watch his step as Puggie is far more ferocious than the dogs. We still can’t believe that people would abandon such animals, seemingly without a conscience. I guess we don’t know the story behind it all but tend to think the worst of such people. Perhaps their story was sad and the parting bitter. Recession has that effect on people.
Trying to legalise my car has now taken seven months, but the light is at the end of the tunnel…maybe next week. In Germany, this would have taken a few days but, here in the sun, the Portuguese government has other motives, a lucrative scam. In a nutshell, they levy an entirely illegal tax on the import of cars. “If you want your plates quickly, pay us and you can have them.” Now, EU law says that if the tax has been paid in one member state, it has been paid in all member states. Not so here, however, but there is a let-out, if you have the tenacity and patience. If you want to avoid the tax (in my case 4,400€), they make you dance for it; the bureaucracy is utterly mind-boggling but I refuse to pay a tax that is illegal. The European Commission fines the Portuguese government every year but it makes no difference because the car import tax is so lucrative. And so it goes on. I can’t help making the observation that, as long as the government breaks the law, this country will always be a more a banana republic than a fully paid-up member of the European club. They need the tax money, they say. Yes, I agree. If they simply collected income tax and stamped on the black economy, things might improve.
Another scam introduced recently has been to levy tolls on the A22, the Algarve motorway. Not only that, there are no toll booths, only cameras, and paying for motorway use is therefore fiendishly difficult; stand in a Post Office queue for hours or buy a transponder (they’ve run out, of course). Local worthies with shotguns have started shooting the cameras as target practise. Tourists are bemused and the bureaucracy to get the dosh is costing more than the tolls raise because people have stopped using the motorway; it’s basically deserted as most locals refuse to use it in protest. This road was paid for by EU money and one of the conditions was that it be free. It brings tourists and their money to the Algarve, which has precious few other ways of earning a living. Combine this with the imposition of 23% VAT on restaurants and golf clubs and you have the Portuguese government’s answer to regenerating the economy by delivering a number of killer blows simultaneously. The Communist Party is in resurgence and, for once I find myself thinking that Marx and Engels weren’t so bad after all.
Recession makes fools of us all.