Correct the disadvantages of being islands

After analyzing for a year and a half the imbalances derived from insularity, the Senate sends the Government a package of suggestions

Loreto Gutierrez

Eight islands 1,700 kilometers from the peninsula. The geographical situation of the Canary Islands, as a fragmented territory far from the mainland, has a decisive weight in its socioeconomic development and in the quality of life of its inhabitants. This is recognized in fact by the Spanish Constitution, which in its article 138 establishes the obligation of the State to ensure the economic, adequate and fair balance of the various parts of the Spanish territory, "taking particular care of the circumstances of the island event".

The structural disadvantages of insularity are diversebut they converge in a loss of competitiveness with respect to the continental territory -the Canary Islands is in 153rd place of the total of the 233 regions of the European Union- and in a level of income that is also lower than the average, which does not shorten distances despite the compensatory measures that have been adopted for years in the State and the EU, particularly through the Economic and Fiscal Regime (REF), updated in 2018.

To analyze the specific problems that affect the citizens of the insular territories, the Senate launched a year and a half ago at the initiative of the PSOE a
study paper within the Commission on Depopulation and Demographic Challenge, which after listening to the contributions of 64 people appearing -including the President of the Government of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, and the presidents of the seven Island Councils, in February 2021- has just approved its opinion of conclusions and recommendations.

The presentation was configured with the aim of identifying the disadvantages of being islands -although many of those present pointed out that insularity also entails positive strategic values ​​and offers potential yet to be explored-, but throughout the work sessions the approach that
the imbalances generated by the insular fact must be tackled not only with compensatory measures, but also with measures aimed at correction of those real disadvantages that burden the island territories. Economic compensations or fiscal measures are not enough -which are indicated in any case as essential and must be guaranteed-, but other aspects that affect socioeconomic development and that are key to reducing inequalities must also be weighed.

The paper concludes that the REF has acted more as a containment dam than as an element that enhances development

In this line, the report highlights that some rapporteurs consider that the
REF has so far served as a containment dam for the negative effects of insularity but not as an element that enhances development, and suggests a review to cover more social aspects and incorporate new measures linked to job creation and quality improvement of life of families.

Proposals and disadvantages

In the block of proposals on transport, the opinion points to the improvement of connectivity as an essential tool for mobility and economic development linked to tourism, and includes the concern for the
higher ticket prices for non-residents, especially on inter-island routes, a factor that "greatly limits tourism and weighs down the economy of non-capital islands that have few or no national and international flight connections," he says. The importance of
shield the 75% discount for residentsestablishing the necessary mechanisms to prevent the subsidy from resulting in an increase in prices for the user and in greater profits for the airlines, for which it is proposed to study the feasibility of establishing flat rates "to avoid picaresque".

added disadvantages of double insularity are also reflected in the need for stimulus policies to retain and attract population to the three westernmost islands -La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro-, and especially with regard to the extra cost of the shopping basket, even greater than that of the capital islands. "Some of the corrective measures are not reflected in the prices of consumer goods and food, the expense of which is assumed by families and causes the rates of economic insecurity to continue to grow," the Senate document states.

The report of the paper, approved by a majority with the abstention of the PP, will now be
ratified by the plenary session of the Upper House and then sent to the Government so that it takes into account its conclusions when articulating state policies. The lack of specificity - the proposed measures are very generic - and the fact that it does not commit compliance, since the opinion is not binding and does not establish time limits, entails the risk that it will be left alone in what it is, a set of suggestions, according to several of the parliamentary groups that supported it. However, they trust that it will serve to pay more attention to the singularities of the island territories when legislating, regardless of the political color of the government in power.

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