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Magdalena Álvarez – on a fast train from Madrid to Malaga

As anticipated Zapatero has announced his Cabinet reshuffle. New blood to bring new ideas or strategies aimed at getting us out of this deepening recession. After 19 years at the helm of the Junta de Andalucía granted by six electoral victories, Manuel Chaves has been summoned back to Madrid to become the third of three Deputy Prime Ministers with the specific post of Minister of Territorial Coordination. I’m still not sure of what exactly this job entails – something to do with making sure that all the regional authorities are content with their share of funds designated by Central Government – but what is certain is that Zapatero wants Chaves in his team, by his side, in Madrid.

The reshuffle has also seen the exit of the Minister of Development of the last five years, Malaga’s own Magdalena Álvarez.

The local headlines inform us of the records Álvarez has broken: first by being the first woman to be responsible for the Ministry of Development (or Public Works as it used to be called); and then by building more kilometres of high speed railway line and motorway than any of her predecessors. And all without taking her eye off her home land - her ministry has spent no less than 6,000 million euros in the province of Malaga since she took the reins after the general election of 2004.

Meanwhile her known enemy, the President of the region of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre, turned up at the ministerial hand-over ceremony to get in her final attack on Álvarez as Minister, accusing her of  “suffocating” Madrid, of spending zero euros on new projects. For once Malaga feels contented and Madrid deprived when it comes to Government spending. What Magdalena appears to have done is to help relieve the sensation that Malaga has of always playing catch-up behind Spain’s other big cities.

So what’s next for Magdalena?  Rumours are already buzzing around. Chaves’s departure has left vacancies at the Junta de Andalucía, where Álvarez was once responsible for the economy. Others suggest that the planned merger between Unicaja and Cajasol, to create one great Andalusian savings bank, with throw up career opportunities for the now ex-Minister.  Finally the PSOE is still without a clear candidate to stand for Mayor of Malaga in the next municipal election. The question marks are there.

We can be sure that we will be seeing more of Magdalena in Malaga. And as she well knows, her journey home will only take two and a half hours.


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