You will understand that I cannot let James Preston’s spirited reply (Letters, April 18) to my observations on Portugal’s economy go unchallenged.
He cites as an example of the country’s success story the large rise in shoe production in the last few years. In reality, if you look at the figures produced by their trade association, APICCAPS, you will find it is only back to what it was running at throughout the 1990s. Mr Preston will know, from his own family’s Lancashire textile experience, that you do not build an advanced western European economy on the back of such things.
He points out that the Douro is a typical example of a declining agrarian economy and that if I travel to Porto I will find a much more thriving environment. Indeed the tourist hotspots on both sides of that city’s riverbank are buzzing with activity, but step back more than 100m and you will find street after street with shuttered shops, cafés and restaurants. For example, Rua 31st de Janeiro, often regarded as the Bond Street of Porto, is a shadow of its former self.
Regarding the Douro, it is by no means the typical agrarian economy as it is a grape-producing region, which besides the eponymous port business is making a name for itself in high quality table wines. Other regional employment there is scarce. The father of the delightful family who rent our Douro house was the general manager of a now closed-down paint factory and he cannot find work these days as a qualified engineer.
Finally Mr Preston suggests I might spend a little more time in the industrial cities of the north of England where I would witness real industrial decline. I am actually in those parts quite often and many of those great cities are experiencing better times. Indeed, if he cares to leave the metropolitan delights of his Madrid home he will find me exhibiting at Wakefield’s award-winning Hepworth Gallery at its mid-century modern fair on June 29-30 where we could discuss the fortunes of Portugal further.
Penshurst, Kent, UK
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