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An interview with the Mayor of Onda, in Spain
Carmina Ballester has a degree in Law from the Jaume I University in Castellón and more than 20 years of experience in public law. She has worked as a technician in the Ministry of Finance and as a Notary Officer for 19 years. In 2019, after several councillorship positions, she became the first female mayor of the city of Onda.
Madam Mayor, how would you describe Onda in your own words?
Onda is an ancient city open to the Mediterranean, full of talent and culture. A healthy, sustainable city with the best quality of life. A city of solidarity, fairness and social and economic opportunities for all.
What are the main economic sectors in your municipality and how have they been affected by the Covid crisis?
The ceramic industry is the main economic engine of our city, with thousands of direct and indirect jobs. However, we are working on economic policies to attract new investments and diversify the business fabric with other complementary sectors such as logistics or tourism.
Covid-19 has hit Onda, as it has the whole world, but we reacted quickly at the municipal government and activated aid plans for freelancers, merchants and companies for more than two million euros and, at the same time, we applied incentives and invested in improving infrastructures to add competitiveness to our companies. All this has contributed to the consolidation of jobs in Onda today, in the midst of the Covid crisis.
What has been done to improve the competitiveness of industrial estates in Onda?
We have been working on the Onda Logistic plan for more than a year to attract investment and improve our industrial estates and encourage the generation of new jobs. That is why it is not by chance that until today we have granted 75 major construction licenses, registering a total investment of 60 million euros to expand and build new warehouses in the city. This figure doubles all the investments registered during the last four years.
Another key point is the tax incentives, bureaucratic agility and the competitiveness of our industrial areas, which has led international companies to focus on Onda in their expansion, which will lead to thousands of new jobs.
In this government, we believe that the role of the administration in the business milieu should be limited to being as useful as possible and making public resources and tools available. We would be wrong if we, in the public sector, insisted on competing with the private sector to see who generates the most jobs. A competitive and prosperous country is one that makes the administration slimmer, with fewer taxes and bureaucratic obstacles, and encourages entrepreneurship, as well as a culture of effort and talent.
Your administration has been awarded regionally for Good Governance practices. Can you tell us more about the award for transparency and promotion of participation?
The Valencian Federation of Municipalities and Provinces has awarded Onda for our commitment to citizen participation in the drafting of the Municipality's Local Waste Management Plan, in which we have involved manufacturers, neighbours, educational centres, event organizers and local political groups to make contributions in the treatment of waste.
The results of this participatory process have served to create the basis of the Local Plan for Waste Management of Onda and will allow the municipality to achieve the objectives set by the new Comprehensive Waste Plan of the Valencian Community (PIRCVA 2019-2022).
Among the proposals made by the residents, the commitment to awareness and sensitization campaigns, the increase in the frequency of collection and the proposal to install machines for returning containers and glass stands out. This initiative shows that it is essential to maintain a policy of active listening to meet all the requests of the citizens and improve their quality of life.
In general, does digital transformation play an important role in your municipality?
Absolutely. Onda Smart City is a living project that has come to make everyday life easier for our neighbours and visitors, add efficiency to the City Council and bring the administration closer to the citizen. Now we are working on new smart mobility solutions and, for this, we have challenged the main technology companies in the country to come up with proposals.
Finally, what is your vision of the future of Onda?
My team and I work to leave the next generations a city of which they can feel prouder, a city which will be fairer, more pleasant for living and with more opportunities for all. And this will happen by putting into practice the UN Sustainable Development Goals that we are implementing with the Onda 2030 action plan.
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