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ALICANTE

Why many people in Alicante feel cheated by the Spanish State

A recent protest in Alicante has brought to light the fact that the Costa Blanca province receives less public investment than any other part of Spain, even though it's the fifth biggest GDP contributor. It now appears their voices are being heard.

Why many people in Alicante feel cheated by the Spanish State
Someone living in Soria, in Castilla y León, receives €1,104 per year from the state, whereas the amount received by Alicante residents is just €85 - an incredible thirteen times less. Photo: Pixabay.

Alicante residents may have noticed that there was quite a large protest in the city at the start of the month.

On November 3rd, over 2,000 Alicantinos demonstrated in the eastern city’s Plaza de la Montañeta against the persistent underfunding of the province, with experts claiming the current model “will bury the future of the province of Alicante”.

Demanding that the national government increase Alicante’s allocation in the General State Budget, the protestors carried placards saying “Se acabó, Alicante se merece más” (That’s enough, Alicante deserves better) and “Alicante no se humilla” (Alicante does not humiliate itself).

It’s not the first protest of this kind in Alicante and it won’t be the last either. 

For the second consecutive year the Costa Blanca province comes dead last in terms of public investment per inhabitant – which in Alicante is a meagre €85 per person. It’s been referred to as the “worst budget in Alicante’s history”. 

A recent survey by Sigma Dos for El Mundo newspaper found that 65 percent of Alicantinos believe that their province receives less state investment than neighbouring Valencia and Castellón. 

Neglected by the State?

Underfunding in Alicante has long been a problem, hence the protest motto: ‘That’s enough.’

According to the Institute of Economic Studies of Alicante (Ineca), taking into account population, since 2008 the province of Alicante has had a deficit of €3.5 billion in state investment.

Alicante province’s population is around 1.8 million, and when you factor in the so-called “floating population” of Alicante, as in people who have second homes there and the wave of tourists that arrive and put pressure on public infrastructure, the per-capita per-annum figure plummets to €56.

This is despite the fact that, according to Ineca, Alicante is the fifth most productive province in Spain in terms of contributing to GDP, behind only Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Seville.

Castellón, a province with 571,600 people, is set to receive more government investment than Alicante in 2023.

Someone living in Soria, in Castilla y León, receives €1,104 per year from the state, whereas the amount received by Alicante residents is just €85 – an incredible thirteen times less.

Across Spain, the average per capita investment is €282.74.

Jaén, the penultimate province in terms of per-capita spending, receives €110 per person compared to Alicante’s €85.

“That’s enough, Alicante doesn’t humiliate itself”

The rally was well attended by Alicante’s political and business communities, with a range of local politicians from PP, Ciudadanos and Vox showing their faces, including the mayor of Alicante, Luis Barcala, and the mayor of Benidorm, Toni Pérez. Spanish media reports suggest that there was no representative from the left (neither PSOE or Podemos) nor trade union organisations.

Yet the event was not an overtly political protest, rather a unifying demonstration that had all Alicantinos’ interests at heart. As such, the event was attended by representatives from the public and private sector, including the CEV, Alicante’s business federation, Ineca, and Aefa, the Alicante Association of Family Businesses. 

Carlos Baño, President of Alicante’s Chamber of Commerce, struck a conciliatory, non-political tone. “We want to claim what Alicante deserves and nothing else, without any kind of political connotations,” he said. “We just want to claim what belongs to the province… we want justice. We want solidarity with the province and that’s it,” he added.

Will anything change?

In Spain’s 2023 national budget, investment is set to grow by 3.3 percent across the provinces but planned investment in Alicante was initially set to be cut by 12.3 percent compared to the previous year. This would’ve represented a reduction of 36.8 percent. 

As a result, there is another demo planned for Friday November 18th, where protestors will be saying loudly again: se acabó.

It has the support of Valencian regional president Ximo Puig, who will also talk in a plenary session on Friday in Alicante rather than Valencia about the lacklustre state budget funds the coastal city is set to receive. 

Will all the noise being made influence the Spanish government’s stance?

It appears so, as on Thursday November 17th Spain’s Accounts Commission greenlighted an extra €51 million to be injected into Alicante’s investment pot, to be added to the already allocated €160.8 million. This will be confirmed once Spain’s 2023 State Budget are published.

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SPANISH POLITICS

How Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez is set to become ‘King of the Socialists’

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will on Friday become president of an international socialist grouping encompassing 132 countries, a potential springboard to a major post on the world stage.

How Spain's PM Pedro Sánchez is set to become 'King of the Socialists'

A year before a general election in Spain, which polls suggest he will struggle to win, Sánchez is the only candidate to head the Socialist International (SI) — an umbrella group of 132 centre-left parties from around the world.

The telegenic 50-year-old will take over the reins of the SI, which is gathering in Madrid this weekend, from former Greek prime minister George Papandreou.

“While symbolic… this post could be a way (for Sánchez) to regain credit among voters by presenting himself as influential on the world stage,” said Pablo Simón, political science professor at the Carlos III University.

“But it also could be that he plans on capitalising on this network of international contacts” which the post offers to “play a prominent role later” in a top global body, he added.

Former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres led the International Socialist before he went on to head the United Nations refugee agency in 2005 and then become UN secretary general in 2017.

“All prime ministers who love foreign affairs have a tendency to look for an international post to secure a post-governmental career,” said Teneo Intelligence analyst Antonio Barroso.

‘More weight’

Sánchez has made international affairs a priority since he came to power in June 2018, in contrast to his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy, and has sought to boost Spain’s influence in the European Union.

Within days of taking office, Sánchez made international headlines by agreeing to take in migrants from the Aquarius rescue ship who were rejected by other European nations.

The first modern Spanish premier to speak English fluently, Sánchez served as chief of staff to the UN high representative to Bosnia during the Kosovo conflict.

He has fostered good relations with France and Germany, which has made Spain “one of the engines of European politics”, said Simon, citing as an example Madrid’s lead in talks over the energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his wife Maria Begoña Gómez Fernández arrive for the welcoming dinner during the G20 Summit in Badung on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 15th, 2022. (Photo by WILLY KURNIAWAN / POOL / AFP)

Sánchez successfully lobbied to have his foreign minister, Josep Borrell, appointed as European Union foreign policy chief in 2019.

“Spain has much more weight in the European Union debate than 10 years ago,” said Barroso, adding the premier had “boosted Spain’s credibility” with its “European partners”.

Beyond the EU, Sánchez hosted a crucial NATO summit in Madrid in June, just four months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and has “reconnected” with Latin America, which has shifted to the left in recent years, said Simon,

Sánchez visited four Latin American countries in August 2018, his first official trip outside Europe, in what was seen as an effort to underscore the region as a priority of his foreign policy.

With Biden and Macron

During the recent G20 summit in Indonesia, Sánchez posted a photo of himself meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden.

Seen as an attempt to burnish his credentials on international affairs, the photo was much mocked on social media.

But Ignacio Molina, a senior analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute think tank, said he believes Sánchez’s priority is to remain Spanish prime minister after the general election, which is expected at the end of 2023.

The speculation about a possible senior role for Sánchez at a global body comes from Spain’s opposition parties, which have “spread the idea that he uses international meetings to prepare his future in case of an electoral defeat next year”, Molina said.

“I don’t think he’s deliberately developing an international network for personal reasons. It’s more because he’s at ease in European politics, where he faces less opposition.”

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