Friday, February 28, 2014

Golden Visa scheme looks set to soar

Portugal’s burgeoning ‘Golden Visa’ programme could see a huge upsurge in applications, particularly from wealthy Chinese, as a result of the recent scrapping of a controversial investor scheme in Canada.
News of this comes as new measures are about to be introduced to stop alleged abuse of the programme from within immigration services as well as among estate agents and illegal intermediaries.
.The Canadian scheme allowed foreigners with a net worth of more than a million euros (C$1.6 million) to gain residency and perhaps citizenship by lending the government €526,000 (C$800,000) that would be paid back in about five years without interest.
Many Canadians criticised the scheme as a way for rich foreigners to buy citizenship and live abroad without creating jobs or economic growth in Canada.
The scheme was brought to a close in Canada’s budget this month because it was viewed as "a flawed, inefficient way to lure wealthy entrepreneurs who could benefit the economy," according to the Toronto-based Globe and Mail.  It meant that “tens of thousands of those who have applied to the program and are currently on the waiting list will have their fees refunded – but will not have their applications processed,”  reported the newspaper.
The number of would-be investors is believed to be as many as 65,000, with 70% of them Chinese.
“Disappointed would-be Canadian investor migrants would do well to look to Europe, and more precisely to Portugal,” says Rosemary de Rougemont, senior partner with the Lisbon-based legal firm NDR.
“It is an opportunity for Portugal to solidify its Golden Visa programme, which was launched last year and which we have been involved with from the outset.”
Less than 1,000 residence visas have been issued in this country so far. While other countries within the EU have competing schemes, “the Portuguese programme is fast establishing itself as the European migration scheme of choice,” says Rosemary de Rougemont.
“This is because it has achieved a sensible balance between formality and attracting investment,” she adds.
A minimum investment of €500,000 in property can secure a Golden Visa residence permit to citizens of non-EU countries. It may lead to the granting of a permanent residence permit and Portuguese nationality. It also opens the door to unrestricted movement within the 26 countries of the Schengen area and quashes any need to pay tax on foreign earnings for five years.
Portugal is seen as an attractive proposition for rich foreigners seeking more convenience and security than they feel is available in their own countries. 
The potential benefit for Portugal is that significant help in turning around the country’s deeply depressed property market could give a critical lift to the economy as a whole, say advocates of the scheme.
The other ways foreign investors can become eligible is to transfer capital of at least a million euros or create at least 10 jobs in Portugal. Whatever the type of investment chosen, applicants must maintain it for a minimum of five years. There are other conditions, including precautions against money laundering, but for honest applicants these are not onerous.
Many of the Chinese investors have been attracted to the scheme because of concerns about their children’s education and health in their much polluted homeland, or because of speculation that China may be following in Europe’s footsteps and heading for an economic collapse of its own.
Applications have also been coming in from countries as diverse as Russia, Angola, Brazil and South Africa. A growing number are emerging from Arab countries. A Portuguese trade delegation has been visiting Oman this week to familiarise investors there with the programme.
The Association of Professionals and Real Estate Enterprises of Portugal (APEMIP) will soon sign agreements in China aimed at curbing abuses related to the Golden Visa scheme, such as phoney property price inflations and greedy ‘introducers’ cashing in. 
      The agreements, drawn up in collaboration with Portugal’s Ministry of Justice, will be signed during the Portugal-China Property and Investment Road Show  in Shanghai between March 14 and 17.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Yet more Madeleine misinformation

Churning out the news without a care

The recent flurry of fictitious reports about the Madeleine McCann case is another example of how far quality journalism has been replaced by the latest form of ‘churnalism.’
A story is concocted by a reporter and published on the website of a major newspaper or TV network. Within hours, it has been copied, rewritten or translated without anyone bothering to check for accuracy. If it is sensational enough, the story is then regurgitated around the world.
The media have long been able to share important information from established news agencies and other reliable sources. The rot set in with the upsurge some years ago of propaganda and slanted press releases put out by PR people. The Internet has dramatically speeded and simplified shoddy, second-hand reporting.
Churnalism has now reached unprecedented levels with media organisations shamelessly copying one another online. As a result, a profusion of misinformation is spewed out daily.
Last week’s excitement over the Madeleine McCann case was based on the fact that four Scotland Yard detectives flew to the Algarve to meet with Polícia Judiciária counterparts. The visit followed a letter of request sent by the British Crown Prosecution Service to the Portuguese equivalent.
Officials in both countries refused to comment on the contents of the letter or the reason for the visit. This did not stop the British tabloids from improvising. They spoke of “a dramatic breakthrough” and claimed that the arrest of three burglars was “imminent.”
Kate and Gerry McCann were said to be “on tenderhooks” and being "kept fully informed" about the latest developments.
These “exclusive” assertions in the Daily Mirror were picked up and used not only by competing tabloids, but by ‘quality’ papers such as the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph.
Portuguese papers did not jump on the bandwagon, but the revelation of a ‘breakthrough’ spun around the world and found its way into the Sydney Morning Herald, the Times of India, the Huffington Post and the Daily Beast to name but a few online services.
The Epoch Times, which prides itself on being published in 21 languages in 35 countries across five continents, was running the same “imminent arrest” yarn on the same day ITV mercifully set the record straight with the headline: “No imminent plans to make any arrests in Madeleine McCann case.”
ITV described the meeting between British and Portuguese detectives as “a routine part of the investigation to establish what happened to Madeleine McCann.”
USA Today quoted the British investigative reporter and former detective Mark Williams-Thomas as saying, “this isn’t a major breakthrough” and “burglars don’t abduct children.”
By then the media damage had been done. As the Sunday Mirror columnist Carole Malone put it: “How devastating this must all be for Kate and Gerry McCann – another flurry of headlines, more promises of suspects and arrests... and then nothing. Again!”
The copy and paste style of churnalism practised nowadays is akin to plagiarism, but who cares? For example, a retired British police superintendent with a keen interest in the McCann case spotted that several paragraphs in a Daily Mirror story on 28 December had been copied almost word-for-word, without quoting or crediting the source, from a story that had appeared in the Daily Mail on 15 October. He brought this to the attention of both papers and the Press Complaints Commission. They expressed little interest.
Journalistic analysts put the growth in churnalism down to a combination of things, including increased competition, reduced revenues and inadequate staff with insufficient time to verify and properly develop stories.
It is likely to get ever more frantic. We have already moved on from last week’s “imminent arrests” to this week’s tabloid revelation that “detectives are probing a Portuguese gypsy site just 15 minutes away from where Madeleine was snatched.”
Well, maybe, but for starters the place the foreign media are talking about is not a gypsy site at all. 
One thing is certain though: the media will continue to churn out this sort of rubbish as long as there are people who want to read it.