THERE were marches in Valencia, Castellón and Alicante yesterday in protest over the ‘unfair’ distribution of money from the central Spanish government.
At the head of Valencia’s protest was regional president, Ximo Puig, accompanied by vice-president and minister for equality Mónica Oltra and the city’s mayor, Joan Ribó.
Education minister, Vicent Marzà marched in Castelló while Popular Party leader and head of the provincial government Carlos Mazón marched in Alicante.
Saturday’s protest was organised by political parties, unions and other groups rather than being a popular march of the people. In fact, a recent poll showed that the issue, although important, is not considered a priority by most Valencians. The demonstration brought together political parties from across the board – except Vox who nobody missed – united behind banners with the slogan Un poble unit per un finançament just, People united for fair funding.
The protesters argue that money from central government is unfairly distributed throughout Spain with Valencia, one of the most densely populated regions, receiving the least amount of money. The problem is not a new one and four years ago there were similar demonstrations over the same issue. With its large population Valencia needs a large budget to pay for services, mainly health and education. But in other parts of the country, Aragón for example, there are far fewer people and many sparsely populated villages. However, in these small towns and villages the residents also have the right to basic services like a health centre, a nursery and a school.
So should the government ensure basic services for everyone, even in tiny villages with very few inhabitants or should funding be distributed nationally according to the number of residents even if that means leaving rural areas worse off?
Having lived in a village near Huesca, Aragón, for 10 years I can speak from personal experience. In our village of some 400 residents we had a health centre on certain days of the week, a municipal nursery which was incredibly cheap and a school where my daughters were in classes of 10 to 15 students. We also had subsidised sports activities both for children and adults.
Now we live in a town outside Valencia where municipal nursery places are few and far between, meaning most families are forced to pay for childcare in private guarderias and while activities at the local sports centre are comparable to those in Aragón, class sizes in schools are much larger, hovering around 30.
Depopulation is a big problem in many regions, especially Aragón which has one of the highest number of abandoned villages in the country. Directing money to try and halt the trend of depopulation will certainly have an impact on more densely populated areas, like Valencia. The problem is a complex one and finding the right balance will be difficult but the leaders who marched yesterday all agreed that the different autonomous regions need to work together to find a solution.
Puig said: “If there is no strong political agreement between the regions, the government cannot do it alone, now nobody can look the other way.”
Mazón commented: “A proposal should have been put on the table a long time ago, an economic study to reverse the unfair situation, we are already late, now we have to decide how much longer it will be delayed.”
Despite the size of the triple protest, some commentators pointed out that the event was not even mentioned in news reports on national channels which preferred to lead on anti-lockdown demonstrations in Austria, a march against the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in the US and the Madrid march in favour of the “Trans Law”.