THANKS TO DIGITAL LANCELOT
The population of the island of Lanzarote will increase in the next decade, specifically in the next eleven years, by 29%, this means that the island will reach 192,792 inhabitants, of which 38%, that is, just over 73,000 people will be foreign residents. In this sense, and around the debate on the population growth of the Canary Islands, the Vice President of the Canary Islands and Minister of Finance, Budgets and European Affairs, Román Rodríguez, warns that the fact that this is excessive compromises the social and economic recovery of the islands. In his opinion, he hinders the absorption capacity of the labor market, despite registering historical data of contributors to Social Security; stresses existing infrastructures –roads, homes, hospital or educational facilities, water treatment plants or waste treatment–, multiplies the problems of land mobility and increases electricity demand, land occupation and water consumption. In short, it threatens sustainability.
Rodríguez recalls that the Canary Islands have experienced a population growth of over 30% so far this century, increasing its number of inhabitants by more than half a million. In the same period, the Basque Country – a territory similar in size to the island – grew by 3.76% (about 80,000 people), which is eight times less than the percentage increase of our community and already has less population than the islands. The whole of the Spanish State did so by 17%, slightly more than half than our land. If we take 1990 as a reference, the population in the Canary Islands has risen by almost 52%, compared to 2.9% in the Basque Country and 22.1% in the state average.
Of this demographic increase in the Canary Islands (530,000 more inhabitants in just two decades), only part – some 70,000 – corresponds to natural growth (number of births minus the number of deaths). The rest, some 460,000, are people who came from other parts of the world, mainly from other autonomous communities and the European Union, a very relevant circumstance in the face of selective xenophobic discourse. Of the current foreign population on the islands, 53.28% come from EU states (above all, and in order, Italians, English and Germans) compared to 25.77% from America and only 10.23% from Africa, percentages that undo prejudices.
More specifically, the increase in residents in the archipelago is due, in the last year, to the foreign population since the natural balance (births versus deaths) is negative. Of 2,252,565 inhabitants, 287,488 (13%) are foreigners.
The Vice President of the Government emphasizes that the progression is not linear in all the islands. Faced with processes of overpopulation on the islands of Gran Canaria and, especially, Tenerife, there is outstanding growth in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, where the native population is beginning to be a minority. In La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, the population stagnates or even declines, which leads to specific and appropriate responses to their realities.
2.5 million inhabitants
The projections included in the report of the Economic and Social Council of the Canary Islands (CES) for eleven years from now, place our archipelago with 2.5 million inhabitants. “An unsustainable barbarity from any point of view”, emphasizes Román Rodríguez. Tenerife would exceed one million, with a foreign population of around 29%. Gran Canaria would increase more moderately, by 9%, reaching 920,000 and with a 17% foreign population. Fuerteventura would increase its current population by a whopping 45%, with the native population being a minority, and Lanzarote would rise by 29%, with 192,792 inhabitants, of which 38%, 73,260 people, will be foreign residents.
“Such an uncontrolled demographic process causes distortions that require an exercise of study, rigor and efficiency based on the premise that talking about population is talking about an economic model. This is the only way to control demographics,” he explains. For this reason, “the role of the study commission on the demographic challenge constituted in the Canarian Parliament must be key”.
“The forecasts for a decade ahead would not only weigh down the social and economic recovery that all the data from these areas confirm, but there is also the real risk that they will multiply some of the problems that we are suffering from today, especially those linked to sustainability”, points out the Minister of Finance, Budgets and European Affairs.
Both the current data and its projections in the short and medium term “recommend urgent and bold measures, not just diagnoses and proposals. Almost two decades have passed since the Committee of Experts that I promoted as President of the Government presented its conclusions on this matter, as valid as they have not been applied”.
In that report, they concluded that “the pressure of the population on the territory has a special character in the Canary Islands. The islands do not support the same capacity as the continental territories, especially the remote islands”. They already highlighted that those who arrived at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st were, fundamentally, young people with small children or who had them once they had settled on the islands. Assuming, therefore, a greater weight of the potentially labor-active group in the population as a whole.
On the other hand, the conclusions of the Committee of Experts highlighted the importance of the territorial planning guidelines and the tourism sector guidelines –approved by Parliament in 2003– to reorient the economic model towards sustainability and modulate population growth as the only feasible option to reorient the situation, given the complexity or impossibility of a restrictive residence law of free movement in the European framework. But successive governments have lowered those standards. So demographic political actions should be subordinated “to future development options in the field of the economy and the environment, in particular.”
Rigorous debate without delay
Almost twenty years after that document, “the debate reopens and we want it to be rigorous and without previous closed positions. What seems clear is that, from the Canary Islands, we must seek formulas that make it possible to stop uncontrolled population growth in order to continue reducing unemployment, through proper management of the territory and natural resources. This is the only way to avoid the gap in our public services and traffic chaos on the roads, while promoting sustainability. But this debate cannot be delayed for another two decades. Not even one because the two crises that have occurred since then require actions as immediate as possible”, says Román Rodríguez.
In this sense, Lancelot Medios already collected this summer in a report the concern that exists in the tourism sector about the quality of the visit to the Tourist Centers that, at specific times of the year, such as summer, Easter and Christmas, is overwhelmed . They fear that the scenes of last Holy Week will be repeated, in which queues of more than an hour were formed at the entrance to the Montañas del Fuego or in the Cueva de los Verdes. The political leadership of the CACTs is aware of the problem and seeks solutions and alternatives.