DON BENITO – Saddened to see more and more citizens leaving, two cities in a sparsely populated Spanish region decide to merge. The residents cast their vote in a referendum on Sunday.
With ‘yes’ or ‘no’ they answered the question of whether they agree that the municipality of Don Benito and the municipality of Villanueva de la Serena take the initiative for processing the procedure to merge. In both municipalities, more than 66% voted in favour of the fusion. The socialist mayors of both places are the initiators of the referendum.
What is the advantage of a merger?
Don Benito and Villanueva de la Serena are located in the Extremadura region just 3.5 kilometres away. From there it is a good hour’s drive before you are in the largest city in the region. The two cities are the fifth and seventh in population in Extremadura, with 37,000 and 26,000 inhabitants. The fusion will suddenly make them the third city in the region behind Badajoz and Cáceres and ahead of Mérida and Plasencia. In terms of gross domestic product, the merged municipality would become the second in the entire region, after the all-powerful Badajoz.
More employment and activity
The mayors based their decision to want to merge on an economic report by the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Extremadura. This 48-page study is the only one the subject to date. Theoretically, a fusion has a positive effect on employment of between 5% and 15%. In addition, the number of companies would increase by 15%. This would mean a growth in household income of almost 3%. Finally, future business investments in the new municipality could increase by 20% after a fusion.
Better future for all residents
The new city with a total of 63,000 inhabitants is to be built within five years. Both mayors expressly distance themselves from the possibility of becoming mayor of the merged city. “It’s not about medals, it’s about a better future for everyone,” is their argument.
The new city will be visible from the day of the referendum for practical purposes. However, the bureaucratic process will culminate in the 2027 elections with a new mayor.
New name for the city?
What after the fusion the name of the new city will be is still a big unknown. The name is least important for the mayors. On the other hand, they do think it is important that they can announce a new sewage treatment plant for everyone and a bicycle path between the two places on 21 February. Some important residents will think about a new name and announce the result 30 days after the fusion.
In Spain, more than 80% of municipalities have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. According to a report by state broadcaster RTVE, the fusion of Don Benito and Villanueva de la Serena is the largest of two cities in the country’s recent history. Politicians hailed the merger as a model for other communities.
‘Come together to move forward’
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez wrote on Twitter on Sunday: “Today the inhabitants of Don Benito and Villanueva de la Serena decide their future. The vote they are called to respond to a historic social demand and their union would make them one of the most important poles of economic development in Extremadura. Come together to move forward”.
Hoy los vecinos y vecinas de Don Benito y Villanueva de la Serena deciden su futuro. La votación a la que están convocados responde a una demanda social histórica y su unión les convertiría en uno de los principales polos de desarrollo económico de Extremadura.
Sumar para avanzar
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) February 20, 2022