Local Development in Maestrat (2)

[article publicat en el meu perfil de linkedin el 25/1/2017]

As I promised in the last chapter now it is time to deepen further into the local development. The figure of agent for local development in Maestrat emerge in a context characterised by rurality and culture, boosted by the public funds from SERVEF (the public organism in charge of employment). In this way, the original and primary tasks ordered to them (local development) are reinforced and reoriented to satisfy the needs for labour market (employment and local employment). Indeed, agents for employment and local development (from now on AELD) are requested to render accounts to SERVEF to avaluate labour results in their job.

SERVEF has granted annual subsidies for more than 10 years to pay the cost of both salary and social security of AELD. This formula has given certain stability of workers and some flexibility in the introduction of new staff (with good university background) in a world so rigid like the public Administration.

However, what it was at first a great idea, now it has turned out to be a real nightmare for many workers, who has become slaves of the subsidy that pays 50% of their salary.

Although the aims of AELD are well described in the law that regulates their function, the process of selection, and the criteria that inspire their everyday life and actions, the reality is stubborn, and the needs in every town council are imposed. The reality obliges every AELD to adapt themselves to the everyday tasks in our jobs. Therefore, in many cases, many AELD have shamefully become mere staff of general Administration.

Moreover, the trend of constantly asking for funds (the syndrome of subvencionitis that affects the majority of majors) has limited and focused our tasks only on funds. Besides, the view on mercantilism prevails in the majority of cases, so many AELD belong to this stream.

From my point of view, one of the sins that our municipalities has to pay is the short view on municipalisation that majors have. Never before have our municipalities had staff so well prepared, and, nevertheless, their potential is not fully used.

In the town councils the major has the competence to order over the staff. However, there are cases that this is not like that. AELD assess or propose ideas or projects to majors, who refuse or agree them. It is advisable for majors to give some freedom to their staff to propose ideas for the good of the municipality. Accepting ideas from their staff allows AELD to increase their self-esteem and, therefore, their implication in work, enhancing, as a result and at last instance, the labour environment.

AELD is a figure in local administration, selfish in essence. Although the regulations that guide our job advise AELD to join themselves in groups to defend better, not only their interests as workers but also the interests of their municipalities, the truth is that the everyday dynamic at office does not allow us to see beyond. Moreover, the short view on municipalisation, besides the wrong diagnose of territory of some AELD, do not neither help to gather AELD.

The real municipalisation consists in joining efforts among municipalities to fight for common aims, which benefit everybody, improving the standards of living of their inhabitants. We are waiting for that to happen, still…

Local development in Maestrat (1)

[article publicat al meu perfil de linkedin el 15/1/2017]

Maybe you are one of those that have never before heard about the concept “local development”. If so, you are likely to ignore the job “agent for employment and local development.” Do not panic, unfortunately you are not a rara avis, you make part of the mainstream that fits both answers.

My job during these 8 years has consisted basically of developing locally the municipality of la Serratella, of which I consider myself very proud. I have always applied to myself the idea of “thinking globally, acting locally.”

La Serratella belongs to an area of territory located in the northern Valencian Country, called Maestrat. Maestrat occupies a vast area ranging from Vistabella del Maestrat to Vinaròs, from Vilanova d’Alcolea to Rossell, from Ares del Maestrat to Alcalà de Xivert. From the inner land (with heights from 1,800 mts) to the Mediterranean coast. Maestrat is like a desert in the way from València to Barcelona.

Far from the main cities of Maestrat (Peníscola, Benicarló, Vinaròs), which accounts for 60,000 inhabitants in total, the rest of the 27 municipalities add up hardly 30,000 inhabitants. The datum means a lot about how population is concentrated on these coastal municipalites. Nevertheless, the rest of 27 little municipalities have traits in common that must not be neglected, all of them located in rural areas.

  • Poor infrastructures. In some sense, there are little areas that have bet for industrialising the raw material obtained from nature (almonds, cheese, cherries, olives). There are other areas, in les Coves de Vinromà, where famous enterprises like LM WindPower have settled its business, oriented on sustainability (wind energy). They export high demand through Castelló harbour to the North Sea, although the blockage that hampers every order in the form of poor roads and the absence of highways (the closest to 15 km). Loss of competitiveness. Moreover, little enterprises go forward in the global market from the convincement and everyday passion of their owners.
  • Isolation. Related to the previous point. Our municipalities prefer to see themselves indoors rather than outdoors. Indeed, that attitude provokes isolation. Many of the cultural associations in Maestrat work together in order to break the imaginary local bonds. Building bridges, weaving nets.
  • Continuous depopulation and aging of population. The lack of expectances for young people pushes them to go abroad in search for a future. Meanwhile, old people is diying at a fast pace, more accelerated by now than in recent years. All this leakage, not only the brain drain but also the “life drain”, affects the behaviour of local residents, undermining their everyday life until the extent of scorning themselves.

Local development should have all these factors into account to promote positive values, boosting self-esteem among local population, letting them to empower through tools, being open to embrace any action or proposal from the society. In this sense, our task as agent for local development is to assess, to propose, never to impose or lead. However, there are cases of bad practices.

In the next article I will talk about the nature of our job, the streams and conditions into which we work, basically. Have a nice week! 🙂