SALAMANCA – Now and then a proposal pops up in Spain for a new macro project that – after previous failed projects such as Eurovegas Madrid or INTU Torremolinos – mainly arouses scepticism. The latest idea is to turn the city of Salamanca into a kind of Dubai.
That idea comes from the company Peace City World and is supported by the PP/Ciudadanos municipality and received with scepticism by the opposition. Peace City World organised a conference in the provincial capital from January 23 to 27 to enthuse investors with plans presented in detail. The project requires an investment of €10 to €15 billion.
“City of the Future”
La Gaceta Salamanca writes that Peace City World wants to build “the city of the future” with the support of the Tourism Department of Salamanca. Because the city is relatively close to Madrid (200 km) and Porto (300 km), a huge logistics platform, a “dry port”, would be appropriate. The idea is to build a new business district, new residential areas and industrial areas. There is also an extensive tram network, a planetarium and even a funicular to connect the new city with the old in the plans.
Fernando Castaño, Councilor of Tourism of Salamanca, emphasises in the aforementioned newspaper: “This project is not a chimaera and would initially allow the arrival of 400 companies to set up in the capital”. From the United Arab Emirates, €4.8 billion of the required initial investment have already been committed.
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Ana Suarez Otoño, first deputy mayor of Salamanca, tweeted enthusiastically after the congress: “Fifteen municipalities support the ‘Peace City Salamanca’ project! The ‘Peace City World 2023’ congress attracted more than 250 investors and 60 companies. An opportunity for economic and social development of this magnitude is very staggering… but it would be inexcusable not to try”.
Quince municipios apoyamos el proyecto “Peace City Salamanca"! 👏👏
El congreso "Peace City World 2023" ha atraído a más 250 inversores y 60 empresas. Una oportunidad de desarrollo económico y social de esta magnitud da mucho vértigo… pero sería imperdonable no intentarlo 😊💪 pic.twitter.com/pOPX80VvKR
— Ana Suárez Otero 💚 (@AnaSuarezcs) January 27, 2023
Peace City World
The Peace City World company is based in the UK and claims to build “Capitals of Peace” in various countries around the world on its website. South Korea, Indonesia, Angola, Paraguay, Sudan and Kazakhstan are among these. The promoter assures that it is committed to the “new Dubai” on the banks of the Tormes River in Salamanca, according to municipal sources. The company says it works closely with the United Nations, governments, leading companies and world leaders to build smart cities in support of “The UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030.”
Scepticism and many questions from the opposition
The opposition parties in the Salamanca City Council share their bewilderment at the whole issue of the ‘Peace City World’ Congress and the investment pledges. In addition, they complain that – apart from invitations to participate in events – they have not received any prior information.
“Bizarre and grotesque”
José Luis Mateos, PSOE spokesperson points out: “We don’t know what’s behind this, it all seems a bit grotesque”, as “it doesn’t seem that the investors who would have participated can be absolutely trusted”. “Very bizarre and grotesque and does not inspire us with any confidence,” he sums up.
Carmen Diez of Podemos shares with Eldiario.es her doubts about this story: “the only thing I know as a councillor is that this issue has not been seen in any committee as a matter related to the city.” “How many times have they come to Salamanca to promise mountains of gold and it has come to nothing?”. She adds that they are “all very surprised”. “I’ve seen this before and it never happened.” Her party wants to question the PP mayor and the Ciudadanos alderman who maintain contacts with Peace City World about the project.
A little further south, the government of Extremadura wants to build a macro-leisure complex inspired by Las Vegas in Badajoz province. The provincial government has released more than €4 billion for ‘Elysium City’. According to the publication in the regional gazette in January, hotels, casinos, theme parks, shopping malls, housing and other infrastructure will be built for it.
In 2023, these macro projects will also be presented on a grand scale. Always a little more enthusiastic when regional or municipal elections approach, as was the case in May this year. Administrators and politicians seem to see money and fame above all else. With a little more attention to similar initiatives in recent history, they most probably would not have shouted so loudly.
In November 2021, Spain’s highest judicial body (TSJA) drew a line through another megalomaniac project near Torremolinos. A mega recreation complex of 235,000 square metres was to appear there for an investment of more than €800 million. However, there was no Strategic Environmental Assessment (EAE).
Years earlier there was a plan to build a kind of Las Vegas near Madrid with 12 hotels, 6 casinos, dozens of restaurants and theatres. But, after years of talking about it, initiator Sheldon Adelson saw no point in carrying on because of the Spanish and European directives and laws that hindered his plans. Among other things, he wanted adjusted tax rates for his project and he wanted smoking to be allowed in EuroVegas.
Gran Scala in Los Monegros in the northern Spanish region of Aragón ‘fortunately’ failed before public money was put into it. In the middle of the ‘desert’ in sparsely populated Aragón, a complex of 4,000 hectares was proposed with more than 30 casinos, 70 hotels, 16 theme parks, golf courses, shopping centres and residential complexes.
El Reino de Don Quixote
El Reino de Don Quijote in Ciudad Real is another example. In 2008, the main investor Harrah’s left due to the crisis, after only €38 million was paid off the €650 million promised. The promise to return when economic conditions improved offered little solace to the municipality, which then had to finance millions of euros in costs already incurred. The theme park overlooking the mountains of Toledo would have created 7,000 direct and 11,000 indirect jobs. Furthermore, an airport and a motorway were even built for it.