But as figures from a Deloitte study revealed, motorists here now pay the most for fuel in Europe when taking into consideration the buying power of Portuguese consumers. However, the anti-austerity government has said the cost of fuel has not yet risen by enough to eliminate the surcharge on petrol.
Just as news emerged that petrol prices were to go up once more, this week by up to four cents a litre, the Minister of Economy, Manuel Caldeira Cabral, called on the Portuguese to be more patriotic and fill up their vehicles in Portugal.
He made this plea over the weekend as it emerged that increasing numbers of haulage companies and private individuals were travelling into neighbouring Spain to refuel at forecourts where petrol is as much as 35 cents a litre cheaper than it is Portugal.
But despite these considerable savings, Minister Caldeira Cabral has called on Portuguese companies to perform their “civic duty” and not fill the Spanish taxman’s coffers, but rather fork out up to 300 euros to refuel a truck (with a 1,000 litre fuel tank) in Portugal than head into Spain.
Calculations by newspaper Correio da Manhã are that the exodus across the border is costing the Portuguese state around one million euros a day in lost revenue.
While Lisbon is losing millions to Madrid, haulage and transport associations here in Portugal have called for the Economy Minister’s sacking after demanding more patriotism from Portuguese motorists.
At a meeting in Pombal earlier this week, truck associations said they would be staging two weeks of protest which will culminate in a “go-slow” by truckers across the country.
Márcio Lopes, chairman of the National Portuguese Transport Association (ANTP) this week told reporters that transport companies are being disrespected by the government by calling them unpatriotic.
While he admitted that a growing number of his associates are heading over the border to refuel, he said the “Minister obviously has no idea of how to make a fair and a just living. He obviously can’t add up either, we will have to hand him a calculator”, before calling for Caldeira Cabral’s resignation.
Gustavo Duarte, chairman of the ANTRAM haulage association said that trucks will spend the next couple of weeks driving with black sashes attached to their vehicles in protest.
“All trucks in Portugal will be drawing attention to the protest, which is being staged against complete ignorance and the attack on business people of this sector”, Gustavo Duarte added.
“We are the people who every day transport food, water and fuel”, he said, but despite the power they hold over the country’s normal functioning, he assured that trucks will not be asked to come to a complete stop over the Easter long-weekend, but instead drive at slower speeds than that which is normal.
Following the outcry, and after days of silence, Minister Manuel Caldeira Cabral said he was open to discuss the truckers’ grievances at the earliest convenience.