In the December plenary meeting, the Popular Party-Ciudadanos coalition government defeated a motion presented by the opposition, with the support of C.L.A.R.O., which would have allocated 40% of investment funds available in 2017 to Orihuela Costa, respecting a commitment by all parties in the context of the 2012 budget drafted by Juan Ignacio Lopez Bas, leader of today’s Ciudadanos Party.
The motion specifically mentioned, among other projects, the construction of a much needed Cultural and social Centre in Orihuela Costa.
After the plenary meeting, the Ciudadanos party issued a statement which totally misleadingly claims that the coast did obtain 40% of the funds for investment resulting from the sale of municipal land in Orihuela Costa. In fact, the statement boasts, the coast received 47% of these funds.
This argument is only defensible on the premise that the commitment that the coast would benefit from 40% of the sale of municipal land applies uniquely to land sold in the period 2012-2014 and that the commitment does not apply to the sale of other land or other investment funds included in the budget of the municipality.
This is a totally deceptive argument, the only purpose of which is to continue discriminating in favour of Orihuela city and surrounding villages, where these parties get their voters support and against Orihuela Costa where too few people vote.
The principle of 40% of investments for the coast was, at the time, understood to be a broad and general commitment which would compensate for the historic deficit in investments in Orihuela Costa with its resulting deficiencies in terms of civic facilities, such as the Emergency Services centre, 24 hour police station, civic and social centre, library, proper parks and gardens and decent streets and pavements.
40% of the sale of land worth €3.7 million in 2012-2014 could not possibly compensate for such a huge historical deficit.
In fact, in 2017 the total of investment funds available amounted to €12.8 million derived from various sources including sale of land prior to 2012-2014, as well as 2012-14, and investments made possible by the greatly increased municipal budget of over €90 million compared to €65 million in 2012.
€12.8 million is nearly four times greater than the sale of land in 2012-14. What Ciudadanos fail to explain in their statement is that out of the total investments in 2017, Orihuela Costa will receive only a little over €2 million, the equivalent of less than 20%.
A less than 20% share of investments for Orihuela Costa is shameful. It mocks the idea of compensating for a historical deficit in investments and leaves Orihuela Costa poorer compared to the rest of the municipality in civic facilities (not to mention inferior services such as street cleaning and rubbish removal) – despite the fact that Orihuela Costa contributes to some 60% of municipal income.
According to an informed newspaper report, in the latest 2017 census the number of registered coastal residents is 28,000, equal to 38% of the total registered municipal population of 76-78,000. The census figures show the coastal population is increasingly and for the first time a majority of registered residents in Orihuela Costa are Spanish.
On a registered population basis, Orihuela Costa should therefore receive 38% of investments. The notion that 40% of investment would compensate for a historic deficit is fast becoming outdated by population changes. 40% will soon be the percentage which corresponds to the registered population level of Orihuela Costa.
At 28,000 the population of Orihuela Costa is in fact seriously understated. Taking the level of water consumption, the Town Hall calculates that the municipal population should be 8-10,000 more than the registered population of 76-78,000.
There is no doubt that the great majority of this 8-10,000 extra population lives on the coast and consists of those who have purchased property, who pay property taxes, who contribute to the income of the Town Hall and to the municipal economy and employment by their local expenditure.
These non-residents may not be on the municipal register (padron) but they have certain rights to services and facilities. AND the right not to be discriminated against. If these non-residents were included and their rights were recognised, the share of the coast in investments should be nearer 50%
Discrimination against Orihuela Costa matters and leaves us with an inferior quality of life, compared to the rest of the municipality, especially when the coast provides some 60% of the income of Orihuela. It should be stopped. Another test is coming. The Town Hall has sold more land, mainly of course in Orihuela Costa. The government estimates that the proceeds amount to €14.5 million.
If the Popular Party-Ciudadanos government does not allocate Orihuela Costa at least 40% of this amount, enabling a substantial investment in needed civic facilities, there will be a serious reaction to this continued, unjust discrimination against nearly 40% of the official population of Orihuela.