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Global Recession: Paulo (45) and Ana (42), Portugal

 INSP 26 July 2019

"Portugal has never given us the conditions to grow a business or work towards a dream that allows us to earn and save some money and live a worthy life." (933 Words) - By Sofia da Palma Rodrigues


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Paulo Lis, 45, and Ana Lis, 42 are stuggling to survive in Portugal as the government introduces more cuts.Photo: Goncalo Portugues

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Paulo Lis, 45: "Living in Portugal with less than €1000 a month for a couple is really difficult."Photo: Goncalo Portugues

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After loosing his job in January, Paulo and his wife Ana live on €140 a month and rely on help from their grandparents and understanding landlords.Photo: Goncalo Portugues

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Paulo Lis' hopes for the future are that the government will pay him his subsidy, and that he and his wife will have enough money again to eat without having to ask for people’s charity.Photo: Goncalo Portugues

"In 2003, Ana was unemployed and I was the manager of a condominium company that didn't make enough profit for both of us to live.

Because of this, we decided to go to England, through a temporary work company called Atlanco. But things weren't as they had promised us. We worked in a factory that produced  McDonald's chicken nuggets and earned £3,50 per hour - complete exploitation, as it was impossible to live in England on those wages. We had to share an apartment with 14 people and sometimes couldn't eat because we didn't have money. We had to walk almost two kilometres in the coldest weather we'd ever experienced, because we didn't have enough money to pay for transportation.

We worked almost a year with that company until we decided to move to Whitestaunton, in the South, because of the weather. There, I was invited to paint a book shop - the beginning of our success in England. After that, more jobs like it emerged, and I set up a restoration company in 2010. We experienced success from the beginning. By then in England, we had a wealthy life. We could travel the world. My wife travelled to and from Portugal every month to visit her mother and provide food. We had even rented a big house with a garden in Whitestaunton.

However, my wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis and we had to move back to Portugal. Ana needed sun and warmth and the doctor told us we had been born in the perfect country for her condition. I didn't want her to go back alone, so I decided to come back also. It was impossible to maintain my company living far away, so I gave it all up.

It was difficult to leave England, but as we had saved some money - almost €80 000 - I never thought it will be the nightmare it was. When we arrived at Baixa da Banheira, a small village near Lisbon where our family lives, we planned to set up a jeans company. But a friend and business partner stole all our money and the only solution was to find a job as soon as possible - without it we couldn't even eat.

Here, the nightmare began. I was overcome with sadness to discover my country didn't have a place for me. After six months of trying, I got a job in a car factory where I earned €700 per month. I had to do extra hours if I wanted to eat, pay the rent and the bills.

Ana couldn't find a job, so she began doing a two-year professional beautician course. She finished this past September, but she only makes €140 a month. During one year, we lived on less than €1000 a month. It was really difficult, but still possible to pay our bills, eat and sometimes splurge for a €0,60 coffee.

While we were always complaining about our life and remembering how happy we were with our company in England, the worst hadn't arrived yet. This January, I lost my job and we are living on €140 per month, the money my wife makes. I've asked for the unemployment subsidy I deserve, and the social security department always says we'll receive it as soon as possible - but the truth is, in the meantime we need to eat.

Living in Portugal with less than €1000 a month for a couple is really difficult. We were surviving - not living - in that situation. Now we are eating because my mother and grandmother help us, and the owner of our apartment told us to pay the rent when we can - and because I am a man who never gives up. I'm always trying to find some small jobs that will pay me €100 or €200 for electricity, water and so on...

What do we expect of the future? I hope things will get better, that the government will pay me my subsidy, and we will have enough money again to eat without having to ask for people's charity. I hope to have the opportunity to set up a restoration company in Portugal that has as much success as I did in England. I hope my wife finds a job as beautician, the area she has been studying. I have never lost hope but it is too sad to admit that my country has never given its people opportunities to grow and do something really good.

With the crisis getting worse, we only hear the word 'cuts'. I think politicians should keep in mind they are talking about people with feelings.

Don't talk me about start-up companies, don't talk me about having kids, don't talk me about travelling... First of all, show me conditions and ways that allow me to do all those things. All those things are beautiful - the things I once dreamt about but now are completely impossible. These politicians are killing us; people need the government's help but the government thinks only of how to get the money to pay its debts.

I don't want to lose hope - I would like to leave a message for Portuguese politicians: Don't strangle the people, without them you are not going to be able to save the country. In spite of debt, give them conditions to work and be successful."

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