Wednesday, 19.12.2018
 Daily news from the Canaries and the islands' biggest English language newspaper on-line
Daily news from the Canaries and the islands
   Daily news from the Canaries and the islands' biggest English language newspaper on-line

Projects to receive go ahead?
Minister criticised during visit to Tenerife
José Manuel Soria, from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is a politician and current Spanish government minister who has been head of the Industry, energy and tourism department since 2011.

Designs for the planned marina in Puerto de La Cruz, one of the area’s vital projects
Designs for the planned marina in Puerto de La Cruz, one of the area’s vital projects

07.12.2015 - Soria recently visited Puerto de La Cruz and met with the mayor, Lope Afonso, who asked for support in bringing forward vital projects for the town that are currently held up due to bureaucratic obstacles: “We have three initiatives that aren’t moving forwards and it’s important that we resolve this.  The first is for a new bus station, the second a new marina and the third is for beach improvements at Playa Martiánez” said Afonso.  For all the projects to go ahead it needs the cooperation of the borough council, the island council, the Canarian government and the central government in Madrid, and a strong word from the right political figure can put a lot into motion.

“We ask that the central government realise the vital needs of Puerto de La Cruz so that this important resort in the north can play the role it deserves, namely, to be the driving force for the whole Orotava valley area” added the former mayor and current deputy, Sandra Rodríguez.

Soria, a prominent minister in Madrid, was “open and willing to talk” but challenged island officials to provide evidence for a €1.5 million payment made to the consortium of the city, island and Canarian authorities; issued for improving tourist areas in Puerto de La Cruz up until December 31, 2013.

Soria attached great importance in cooperating fully with the consortium but insisted that they have to justify where the sum went with invoices and clear outlines otherwise they would be “prevaricating”.  However, the consortium have stated they have submitted all requested and supporting documentation related to the transfer, including additional paperwork asked for recently, believing that the consortium for the regeneration of Puerto de La Cruz has honoured all the criteria asked of it.

Clearly proving how the funds were used is essential to releasing more money for the three projects Afonso laid out and to clear up any suggestions that the money was misused or diverted elsewhere.  Soria’s visit is intended to achieve a consensus to the miscommunication between the two bodies.

Soria acknowledged the key role of the North Tenerife resort, saying that “Puerto de La Cruz is an established, popular destination for which I see great opportunities.  It has been consistently successful as a tourist spot and has many local companies and businesses on a sound footing.  However, now is the time to adapt to new market needs”.  Soria spoke of ‘intelligent tourism’ and the new demands placed on the tourism sector by social media and the expectations placed on resorts and businesses by tourists who publicly inform many people before, during and after their trip.  All destinations need to adjust to this form of heightened attention and public scrutiny.

However, future prospects look positive, with national tourist numbers expected to rise this year to around 68 million visitors, with the Canaries accounting for approximately 13 million of them.  During the long-running economic downturn, the tourism sector has remained very strong.  One key factor is due to Spain’s security within Europe, with many established resorts outside of the EU suffering from global uncertainty and safety concerns.

The socialist opposition saw Soria’s visit to the island and meeting with PP party members as nothing more than a gimmick: “That was a theatre show; a simple walk through the city at the centre of the debate, while taking no concrete measures or promising support for resolving the improvements needed!” said Marco González, general secretary of the PSOE.  “If he would have at least made guarantees about the bus station that would have been something, but instead: absolutely nothing.  It’s typical political fudging” he added.  With regards to the €1.5 million González said: “The government is claiming that there’s been an abuse of office, but the only thing abused in all this mess is the town of Puerto de La Cruz!”

The mayor of La Orotava, Francisco Linares, also called Madrid’s claims that the funds weren’t used properly as “further delaying for purely bureaucratic reasons”.

Regeneration in the area would prevent pessimism spreading and potential investors from being deterred.  Linares believes the construction of the new marina is vital to stimulating the economy for North Tenerife.  He also believes that the three-lane expansion of the motorway between La Orotava and La Laguna, where commuters are constantly snarled up in traffic jams, is something long overdue.


Student protest

During a speech at the Faculty of Law at the University of La Laguna (ULL) at the end of November, Soria was confronted by another angry front; the new generation of voters.  “What good are politicians who can only think right before a general election and suddenly look to the youth voter at the last moment?” asked one student of Soria.  The question was a poignant one, government policies over the past four years have seen student aid cut to the bone, accompanied by rising tuition fees.  The ULL has already seen 3,000 fewer students enrol for courses this year, compared to 2014, due to economic reasons.

The largely student audience was also critical of Soria’s attempts to praise the alleged economic recovery and improving employment situation.  They raised pertinent questions related to the 22 per cent of Spanish residents living below the poverty line, and that many of these so-called new jobs are temporary, part-time and often insecure.

Understandably, the younger generation – whether looking for work or attending university – have had it hard in recent years, and youth employment and poor prospects on the Islands are alarmingly high.  Student representatives called for more university and student support instead of empty electioneering.

Gallery: Minister criticised during visit to Tenerife
Designs for the planned marina in Puerto de La Cruz, one of the area’s vital projects 
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