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The Portuguese government is cracking down on so-called “digital nomads,” the remote workers who moved to foreign countries, especially during the pandemic, to take advantage of the joys of new locales, as well as liberal visa rules, favorable exchange rates, lower prices, and less burdensome tax regimes.
Recently, lawmakers in the capital of Lisbon voted to give these nomads until the end of the year to prove they moved to the southern European country before the deadline passes, reported Reuters. The generous incentives created in 2009 were designed to stimulate the Portuguese economy following the outbreak of the European sovereign debt crisis and the worldwide financial crisis.
Now, however, many Portuguese view them as unfair, especially because locals are competing with foreigners for housing, and hitting the streets in protests, wrote the Guardian. Meanwhile, as Euronews noted, locals are waiting longer for medical attention due to a shortage of doctors in the country’s national health service. Many younger Portuguese have also ironically sought better work elsewhere as foreigners have moved to the country, added Bloomberg, while companies in Portugal still struggle to hire.
As a result, the government might have a point: More than 74,000 nomads benefited from the incentives last year, costing the state treasury around $1.65 billion – almost 19 percent more than the year before.
The change has become one of the many issues stirred up when Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa resigned abruptly in early November due to corruption allegations, triggering a snap election slated for March 2024.
As the Financial Times explained, Costa quit after prosecutors issued arrest warrants and raided government offices for buildings as part of a probe of the politician’s stakes in lithium mines. Costa had been seeking to make Portugal the main domestic supplier of lithium in Europe, a lucrative business given lithium’s role in batteries for electric vehicles, cell phones and laptops.
Costa’s resignation also brought a halt to the planned privatization of TAP Air Portugal, the country’s state-owned carrier, noted Aviation Week. Large European airlines like Air France-KLM and Lufthansa have expressed interest in TAP due to its routes to Brazil and elsewhere in South America. The sale could help leverage funding for a new Lisbon airport, too.
The far right appears to be benefitting from the chaos.
European far-right luminaries met in Lisbon recently to show their support of the Chega Party – “Chega” means “Enough” in Portuguese, for example, wrote the Portuguese American Journal. Attendees were emboldened by far-right Dutch leader Geert Wilder’s success in the Netherlands’ recent election.
A Politico poll found that 15 percent of the electorate supported Chega while Costa’s Socialist Party and the lead opposition, the Social Democratic Party, enjoyed 25 percent apiece.
Meanwhile, the nomads can’t vote.