Two major transport projects, the Lisbon to Oporto high-speed rail link and a new international airport, seemed close to approval earlier this year, but although both projects are due to start in 2008, the minister of public works may be considering an alternative location for the airport. The government has also announced plans to introduce public-private partnerships into the prison system.
A change in policy early in 2007 led to a decision to convert three of the country's seven shadow toll roads into conventional toll roads. The two concessionaires affected are still in negotiations with a government-appointed commission, and the policy decision will influence 10 concession agreements - due to be concluded by 2011 - for a further 680 kilometres of roads under the road-building programme.
The decree-law which sets out the legal framework for public-private partnerships (PPPs) was recently reviewed and amended. A revision of its scope of application has defined the types of entity which may be involved and the types of contract which may be governed by PPP rules.
The Audit Court monitors the legality of the most significant public contracts, such as public works agreements, public services concession agreements and public works concession agreements. Recent amendments to its legal framework will affect public works concessionaires and municipal public companies, which will now be required to deliver accounts to the court at least once a year.
A new decree law introduces several changes to the state's intervention in the design, tendering, awarding, monitoring and modification process of public-private partnerships (PPPs). The government has acknowledged the need to improve the financial control mechanisms required to set up PPPs, and to reinforce the interconnection of the public bodies involved in preparing and monitoring them.
Earlier in 2005 the Portuguese government announced the continuation of a number of major infrastructure projects approved by the previous administration. The largest of these is the construction of a high-speed railway; it is expected that the budget will largely be supplied by private sources, using project finance schemes which will involve granting concessions in the operation of the completed system.
The Portuguese government recently announced its intention to promote several major infrastructure projects, to be based on public-private partnership schemes and part-funded by the European Union. It also ended speculation that budgetary constraints might force it to replace existing shadow toll road schemes with conventional toll roads.
The new Portuguese government, elected in February 2005, is expected to continue to develop infrastructure projects on the basis of public-private partnership schemes. However the government's intentions concerning several projects (eg, the construction of a new international airport) remain uncertain.
In 1999 the Portuguese government entered into seven concession agreements for the construction of new road infrastructure using the shadow toll model. However, in light of budgetary constraints it recently announced its decision to discontinue the shadow toll system in favour of a real toll model.
The Portuguese water industry has long called for clarification of the roles of the private and public sectors, which would allow for private investment and enable the sector to develop in a sustainable way. The government has now finally responded by issuing long-awaited guidelines for the restructuring of the sector.
The success of the public-private partnership (PPP) model in large infrastructure projects has prompted the government to enact a statute establishing the necessary legal framework for PPP. A new decree-law duly sets out general legal provisions on state intervention in the design, tendering, award, supervision and modification of PPPs.
The Portuguese government has approved a new framework for venture capital entities. They are no longer governed by the strict regime regulating financial institutions, but instead are subject to a soft regime supervised by the Portuguese Securities Market Commission. New rules also apply to their incorporation.