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Lisbon always decides

Recerca | 23/04/2009

Infrastructure planning in Portugal

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Without decentralization, all decisions on infrastructures in Portugal are taken by the state. Not even the municipalities have clear areas of influence. Without regional dialogue, other actors can affect the decisions made by Lisbon.

Portugal is a completely centralist state in relation to infrastructure decision-making. Only the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores, with certain autonomy, have room for manoeuvre. The state decides almost alone on roads, railway lines, ports and airports, and it does so under the constitutional mandate of promoting territorial and national cohesion. It is an unusual case in Europe. Even so, centralization does not mean consensus.

As Carlos Nunes states in a study on infrastructure governance in Portugal, the lack of institutional contacts in the regions means that other actors, such as the organized private sector or civil society, are able to influence state planning. This was demonstrated with the selection of the location for the new Lisbon airport. This will is clearer in the north, around Oporto, which perceives that the Portuguese government favours Lisbon excessively with its policies. The pressures in favour of privatizing some key infrastructures and the future political regionalization will undoubtedly change this scenario.

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