Thursday, January 23, 2014

Effects of the change in demographics

Like in most other countries, towns in Spain receive money from the state according to the number of residents on the electoral roll. Once you have a home here, the town hall encourages registration on what is called ‘the padron’. Many of the new residents did not bother to register causing a major headache for the expanding towns but that is another story.

In the boom years, when towns grew, they received more money from the state which enabled them to develop ambitious plans to build sports facilities, new town hall, health centres, new schools etc etc. Of course, the extra money did not kick in straight away which left towns in the situation of having to provide services to the new houses without income. That didn’t seem to matter though because eventually things would sort themselves out and in any case, there was lots of money coming in from the building licenses.

There was also an issue with utilities. The demand for supplies of essentials such as water, electricity and sewerage put a great strain on the existing infrastructure. Still these problems would also be sorted out in time and the new residents would not mind living without an efficient supply in the meantime. As for luxuries like telephones, those would have to wait until such time as companies like Telefonica decided to extend their network to the new developments. That could be in one, two or more years – possibly never if the demand was not shown to be there.

Now we are in a reverse situation where many towns are experiencing a reduction of population. Not only are people leaving, the birth rate is also in decline which bodes badly for the future. In time, the money from the government will be less and the demand for services will reduce. Councils will no longer be able to afford to provide the same facilities as before.

In spite of what governments might tell us, there is no way of knowing when the country will get out of the mire and start to grow again. My guess is that it won’t be anytime soon. That is not entirely a bad thing because a period of stability and normality will be more settling and will provide a wakeup call to those who dreamt of exponential expansion at any price. 

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