Concern about the population increase, but without answers

The population continues to grow in the Canary Islands thanks to foreigners. / cover

PSOE, CC and NC highlight the need for an analysis to determine if it is possible to continue growing and the ability to guarantee services

B. Hernandez

B. HERNANDEZ The Gran Canarian palms

The
population increase in the Canary Islands and how to face the needs and challenges that it entails is a debate that leaves more questions than answers. It is a reality with numerous edges that requires an in-depth analysis that determines not only the carrying capacity of the territory -with islands that grow at different rates depending on the engine that drives their economy-, but also under what conditions it can continue to grow so that, As he says
socialist deputy, Iñaki Lavanderathe archipelago remains "a viable place from the economic and social point of view".

The data made public this week by the
National Institute of Statistics (INE) detail that the population of the Canary Islands increased by 0.36% in 2021 and was placed among the autonomous communities that registered a
higher growthuntil reaching 2,252,465 people on January 1.

This increase is fundamentally determined by foreigners, registering a foreign migratory balance of 12,702 more people during the past year.

For
the parliamentary spokesman of Nueva Canarias (NC), Luis Camposprogress must be made towards growth "that does not undermine sustainability, protects people and guarantees employment".

A scenario that cannot be homogenized considering that in the last 20 years, islands such as
La Palma have grown by 4% compared to others like
Fuerteventura that have done it 170% and to a lesser extent Lanzarote or the capital islands.

Obviously, this circumstance is linked to tourism development and, furthermore, in the case of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, the main focuses are in the metropolitan areas. Any conclusion must respond to these three different realities.

Foreign

An important change that has been recorded in recent years is that "more non-European foreigners leave the islands and more Europeans enter," details the
leader of the Canarian Coalition, José Miguel Barragánwho understands that this situation is largely due to the job offer.

Faced with the high demand for construction in past stages, more qualified jobs are now required to which they respond
"Italian, German or English", what serves to break the myth that always points to people who arrive by boat when talking about foreigners, says Luis Campos.

The representatives of CC, NC and PSOE also understand that
the formation of residents to fill these new jobs will also have an impact on the arrival of new people to the islands "although it is not a guarantee".

Campos points out that the islands have grown by 500,000 people in the last 20 years, well above the national average and always due to the flow of foreigners or Spaniards from the peninsula.

In his opinion,
this is one of the challenges of the Canary Islands because it is a limited territory and aspires to be the axis of sustainability. For this reason, it is essential, he says, to analyze well the load capacity not only from the residential point of view but also from the economic model. Although EU laws are quite restrictive in terms of limiting the movement of people, "our status as ORs could protect us," he says, "because at some point this issue must be addressed."

Lavandera, Campos and Barragán emphasize that the basis for determining growth is
the ability to offer public servicesfundamentally housing, but also education, health "or social benefits also in the case of foreigners, because many of these people remain unemployed," Barragán stresses.

Tourism

The analysis on the load of the territory has an important 'leg' in tourism and political spokesmen understand that this is one of the issues that must be analyzed. The three parliamentarians defend
tourism as the main economic engine of the islands but they argue that the success of the sector should not be just "counting tourists" and it is increasingly important to include quality in the equation.

In this sense, Barragán highlights
the change of mentality of the tourist himself, which already calls for more sustainable facilities, as the spearhead for the modification of strategies in the sector. In addition, says Luis Campos, "we are against criminalizing tourism but progress must be made in sustainability."

In a community with eight different islands, it is impossible to find a single recipe, says Iñaki Lavandera, who does consider it necessary to establish a “resilient territory”. Barragan insists that
"Equally there should be no limit to growth, but the rate at which it grows."

Archive image of the Parliament of the Canary Islands. / arcadio suarez

A “calm” debate that starts in September

"Listen a lot" and make decisions "that will not be easy." In this spirit, the political groups will sit in the new commission of the Parliament of the Canary Islands that will analyze the demographic challenge in the archipelago.

The spokesmen for the Socialist Party, Iñaki Lavandera; from the Canarian Coalition, José Miguel Barragán; and from Nueva Canarias, Luis Campos, agree that a "deep analysis" must be carried out to address this matter and they trust that it will be carried out in a "calm", "mature" manner and in which the "partisan interests"

In addition, Barragán hopes that the proximity of the electoral period "does not contribute to taking the debate out of context." The stagnation or loss of population of the green islands -La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro-, the growth experienced by Fuerteventura and Lanzarote or the situation of Gran Canaria and Tenerife, which concentrate a significant part of their population in the metropolitan areas They will be at the heart of the debate.

This new commission, recently approved with the support of all the groups present in the Parliament of the Canary Islands, will probably be constituted next July but will not start working until after the summer.

According to the three spokespersons consulted, the results could be, “at the earliest”, before the Chamber is dissolved for the next elections in May 2023. “Developing the conclusions of the commission will be up to the political leaders of the next term .

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