TPR, 56 (3) 1985
J. R. LEWIS AND A. M. WILLIAMS
The Sines Project
Portugal's growth centre
or white elephant?
Despite the use of growth centre terminology in Portuguese national and regional
plans up to 1974, the only project actually undertaken was at Sines. The paper
sets out the ways in which the plan for Sines was expected to achieve several
national and regional policy objectives and reviews its implementation between
1972 and 1984.The evaluation of its performance suggests that some of the
national goals have been fulfilledbut 'spread' effects have been limited spatially.
This lack of regional benefits is attributed to initial design faults, changes in
economic circumstances and a lack of consistent political commitment to the
In the 1950s a traveller described the little fishing village of Sines on Portugal's
West coast as a 'snug little harbour ... filled with small boats ... so remote, is
there any reason why it should fundamentally change in the next 500 years?' ~
Less then twenty years later, this was to be chosen as the site of Portugal's
major, perhaps only, growth centre, an industrial complex to be based on oil
refining and steel production. This article reviews the objectives of the Sines
project and evaluates its economic impact-both intended and actual-in terms
of the development of the Portuguese economy and of regional planning and
Growth pole theory and growth centre policies have been extensively reviewed
and summarised elsewhere, with a distinction being drawn between Perroux's
theoretical construct, the growth pole, and its adaptation by, among others,
BoudevilIe, as a planning instrument, the ,geographically specific growth centre."
Particular features of both the theories and their planning applications have been
extensively criticised, leading to some attempts to revise fundamentally the basic
concepts-notably in terms of an alternative type of agropolitan development?
However, the theory still has its adherents." and continues to be the mainstay of
regional planning and policies in many countries." The idea of a growth centre was
~eized upon by policy makers, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, as an
~ntellectual justification while regional planning emerged as a new form of state
Intervention in 'economic management." The argument usually advanced was that
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