After what the Federation of Associations of Orihuela Costa reportedly called a total fiasco in relation to the budget of 2016, the municipal government (Popular Party-Ciudadanos) has again launched a proposal for citizens to submit ideas and vote on schemes for the 2018 budget. They are presenting this as a big, generous, democratic initiative. However, reading the details immediately makes it clear that this is not the case.
Orihuela citizens registered on the Padron are invited to make proposals equal to €660,000. Last year’s budget was some €85,000,000. On this basis, the initiative relates to 0.78% of the prospective budget for 2018. Hardly a ground breaking initiative.
What is more, for this purpose, the €660,000 total is to be distributed in equal shares to the 11 districts which have been designated to cover the whole municipality. €60,000 each district means citizens are invited to consider directly 0.08% of the prospective budget. Orihuela Costa with some 28,000 registered residents, equal to nearly 40% of the total registered population of Orihuela, has 2 of the 11 districts, some 18% of the total of 11. Correspondingly its 2 districts will receive some 18% of the €660,000.
The real taxpaying population of the coast is probably nearer 50% of the total population.
It is obvious from these facts that discrimination against Orihuela Costa which contributes some 60% of the Town Hall income is inbuilt and institutionalised.
When it comes to real money, the discrimination against the coast is blatant. In 2017 the total amount available for investments was some €12.8 million. Orihuela Costa will receive some €2 million, less than 20%.
This discrimination is historic. It is not surprising that Orihuela Costa has no cultural or social centre and no proper professionally staffed Library, only a Reading Point with second hand books staffed by volunteers. The city has 3 Libraries which provide opportunities for study for young people as well as leisure reading.
Recently, Orihuela Town Hall allocated some €400,000 to revamp the abandoned bullring which will provide the city with a third venue for cultural events, in addition to the Teatro Circo and the Lonja. Other recent investment decisions benefiting the city include restoring the Rubalcaba palace (€1.9m), the Industrial Estate (€1.6m), and the Paseo Andennes (0.8m).
The city and the coast have more or less equal populations of registered residents but nowhere near an equal share of municipal facilities.
The big question on which the voice of Orihuela Costa residents should be heard is the distribution of the estimated €14.5 million which the Town Hall will obtain this year from the further sale of municipally owned land, mainly of course in Orihuela Costa.
If the coast does not receive at least 40% of this sum, the failure to provide it with a fair and democratic allocation of the Town Hall’s funds will be demonstrable and Orihuela Costa will be able to draw the appropriate political conclusions.
The citizens’ participation exercise just launched will have little concrete importance. However, it provides a smokescreen for the current Popular Party-Ciudadanos (Citizens Party) government to hide the continuing, blatant discrimination against Orihuela Costa which they continue to perpetuate.