Luís Gomes: Development of the Algarve only advances with Regionalization

«It is only possible to guarantee the implementation» of the PSD proposals for the Algarve «if we manage to guarantee the conditions to implement the Regionalization process»

Luís Gomes, 48 ​​years old, graduated in Territory Engineering, currently visiting assistant professor at the University of the Algarve, president of the Vila Real de Santo António City Council for 12 years, between October 2005 and October 2017, is the head of the PSD list to the 30 January Legislative Elections, by the Algarve circle.

With Luís Gomes, the series of interviews that the Sul Informação will publish, with all the heads of the list of all the political forces that are candidates for the constituency of the district of Faro.

To all, and in a logic of equal opportunities, the same questionnaire with 12 questions was sent, in a timely manner.

The answers are, of course, diverse, as will become clear over the next few days, with the publication of all the interviews.

Sul Informação – What are the priorities of your political force for the next legislature for the Algarve?

Luís Gomes – The priorities are to ensure access to quality healthcare in a timely manner for all those who live in and visit the Algarve region;
Ensuring a public transport network that reaches the Airport of Faro and also the requalification of the EN125 on the section between Olhão and Vila Real de Santo António;
Promote the diversification of the region's economic base;
Create a regional housing strategy in order to solve housing access problems and also
Create a financing instrument to improve telecommunications in this part of the Algarve.
However, we are absolutely convinced that it is only possible to guarantee the implementation of these points if we manage to guarantee the conditions to implement the Regionalization process.

SI – What led you to accept being the head of the list for the party or political force you represent?

LG – During the last legislature, I did not hold any political office and, therefore, my analysis is, above all, as a citizen interested in public life and the future of my own country.
The legislature, even so, had a number of very important announcements for the Algarve, from the outset the opportunity that the Recovery and Resilience Plan represents for the region, by contemplating 300 million euros for regional development.
There were also announcements aimed at investing in water resources, in order to combat the problems of lack of water. The requalification of the EN125 was also announced and the supposed announcement of the timetable for the construction of the Hospital Central do Algarve and of a set of measures to reduce waiting lists in healthcare.
However, the ads were just that, ads! None of these promises came true.
The Algarve does not even have a positive sign from the Government. Nothing that can be said: this was a mark of socialist governance.
Not only did the works on the EN125 not progress along its entire length, but there was no real promised 50% reduction in tolls on the A22, there is no sign of the PRR in the region, nor of the Central Hospital of the Algarve.
And, with regard to health, the waiting lines are still endless and the number of citizens without a family doctor has increased, from 2020 to 2021, by almost 25%.
Given this scenario, and with the invitation addressed by the president of my party, I could only accept this challenge, in order to be able to make a decisive contribution so that the Algarve has the dignity and attention it deserves.
But I am also clear: if my party wins the elections, as I hope, and if, under that circumstance, in the next four years there are no clear indications that this situation will change, I will no longer run for the Assembly of the Republic.

SI – What are the expectations and objectives of your political force in relation to these Legislative Elections?

LG – Naturally, we want to improve the result for 2019 and, above all, to convey the message that we, the Algarve, must prevent the continuation of promoting a policy of illusions and false promises.
We have to think about the day-to-day and the difficulties we have in mobility, in access to health.
We want to ensure that the Algarve and the Algarve are strongly present in the Assembly of the Republic.
This is our purpose and we hope that people will recognize this message on election day.

SI – What remains to be done in the Algarve?

LG – Without any demagoguery, everything remains to be done!
I ask: what is being done regarding the fight against climate change? Has a quota for sustainable energy production been established?
How are we doing with public transport? Is there an integrated transport network in the region? How is it possible for it not to access an international airport that, before Covid-19, handled approximately 8 million passengers?
As for access to health care, there is no mention. We broke national records for waiting times for consultations and surgeries.
What is certain is that in the last 26 years, 19 were governed by the PS and, increasingly, those who have no money do not have access to health care with dignity.
Then, it is still unacceptable that the best beach destination of 2020 has its main infrastructure for crossing and distributing traffic between the main tourist areas in the region, the EN125, completely degraded.
The Algarve needs a serious programme, with serious proposals and with really secure funding to stimulate the diversification of the economic base.
Dependence on approximately 60% of the product generated by tourism is absolutely excessive and makes us walk with our hearts in our hands, as the regional economy is very exposed. We have to make it more resilient and reduce its dependence on the tourism sector.

SI – Health is a deficit sector in the Algarve and in the country. What measures do you recommend to solve the health problems in the Algarve?

LG – We advocate the following measures for this sector: Ensure access to quality healthcare in a timely manner for all those who live and visit the Algarve region.
Necessary investments: increase in the coverage of the primary care network, construction of the Central Hospital of the Algarve, reinforcement of investment in human and material resources in the Hospitals of Portimão and Lagos and connection with the private hospitals that exist in the Algarve.
Expand the network of continued care in the Algarve region.
Create a response in the area of ​​palliative care.

SI – And what about Hospital Central do Algarve? When should you move forward and why?

LG – When should it move forward is the question to ask the Socialist Party. In 2015, it was the government's second priority in terms of building hospital equipment. However, some hospitals have already passed ahead, such as the Hospital de Todos os Santos and the Hospital de Évora.
It was the then Secretary of State for Health Jamila Madeira who, in 2020, said that the “file of the Central do Algarve hospital was on the table and in the great options of the plan”.
Unfortunately, the Secretary of State of the Government left and the Hospital also left the plans of the same Government.
In short, in these 19 years of management of PS governments, always in electoral season, they throw us in the face with promises and with the “will happen”. In these days, the novelty was the Oncological Reference Center of the Algarve. It was the new rabbit in the hat for the 2022 elections.
Enough of demagoguery and populism! We have to speak clearly to people, with or without Hospital Central do Algarve, what we have to have is access to quality healthcare and stop being national record holders on the waiting lists.
Today, in the Algarve, only those who have money have access to quality healthcare. Those who don't have money, enter the lottery of being able to be called by the hospital for a consultation or surgery.

SI – The previous government advanced with the Decentralization of Competences to the Municipalities. What balance do you make of this process?

LG – This process clearly fell short of expectations. In the few areas where decentralization took place, the process fundamentally depended on sectoral responses from certain Ministries. All without an overall vision, all without a change in the territory management paradigm.
What is certain is that we still have a Coordination and Regional Development Commission that depends on Lisbon's tutelage and we continue with a set of regional directorates that do not articulate policies and, on many occasions, even compete with each other.

SI – Should a future government move forward with Regionalization? Why or why not?

LG – For the reasons described above, we are absolutely convinced that it is only possible to guarantee the implementation of a set of fundamental measures for the development of the Algarve, when we manage to ensure the conditions to implement the Regionalization process.

SI – In the Assembly of the Republic, there have been resolutions to end tolls on Via do Infante or, at least, to introduce significant discounts. What do you think about this topic and what solutions do you recommend?

LG – I think this is in line with the draft resolution presented in 2017 by the PSD deputy. Tolls must be exempted until the completion of the works on the EN125.

SI – At the beginning of the current pandemic crisis, the Government announced a specific plan for the Algarve, which never came to fruition. What does Algarve Tourism need to recover from the pandemic?

LG – The 300 million promised for the Algarve were fundamentally to implement a set of measures that would play an important role in the diversification of the economic base. Currently, the region's product depends on approximately 60% of the tourist activity.
We have to make the region more resilient and, for that, we have to increase the weight of other sectors in the region's product.
Naturally, we have to continue the effort to improve the tourist offer, but above all we have to develop other sectors of economic activity, such as technology-based companies.
We have to promote the dynamism of the agricultural sector, based on a strong technological base and R&D, in order to meet our essential needs, and also geared towards exports. In this context, and in close liaison with the University of Algarve (UAlg), it is important to optimize our traditional production (citrus, carob, figs, etc.) , cannabis.
The creation of a cluster industrial sector linked to the blue economy, based on scientific knowledge, which ensures our long-term future.
As I mentioned earlier, investing in new technologies as a lever to change the region's economic paradigm is a challenge for the next decade that we have to tackle.
The priority areas are the establishment of digital nomads, the acceleration of the construction of the ICT cluster in the Algarve (departing from the Algarve Tech Hub) and, above all, the attraction of international players that accelerate (and credible) this effort to change the region.
It is also necessary to promote the creation of a program that allows the establishment of companies and people in the interior of the Algarve, in order to minimize the strong regional asymmetries that exist in this domain.
It is important to have a strategy for the coast, both in terms of its conservation and in the context of creating a plan for new recreational ports and anchorages, organizing the maritime space and implementing the investment in the Port of Cruzeiros de Portimão, as well as the recovery of the Arade and Guadiana rivers.
Finally, the creation of a program that allows mergers should be promoted, in order to strengthen the national and international competitive capacity of companies in the region.

SI – In the case of more fractious issues, such as regionalization, tolls on Via do Infante and health, among others, if you are elected, will you vote for the AR according to your conviction, even if it goes against the guidelines of your party?

LG – I start this campaign, and this process, with total detachment and, if the PSD wins the elections and constitutes a Government, if there is no clear progress with regard to these issues, I believe that I will no longer be able to run as a candidate, under these circumstances, to new mandates in the Assembly of the Republic.

SI – Do you want to add any more topics or questions?

LG – I want to emphasize that, in the last 26 years of governance, 19 were provided by the PS. And the PS repeatedly filled us with commitments to the socialist.
What is it? It is, at the time of elections, to say that they do everything and then do nothing. Where is the toll exemption? Where is the Central Hospital of the Algarve? Where is the EN125 requalification?
It is time for the Algarve to turn the page and bet on a change. In the region and in the country.