In the past 15 years Croatia has invested 27.8 billion kuna (€3.7 billion) in the development of its islands, and in 2020 alone the investments totaled 3.8 billion kuna (€500 million), shows a report on "the effects of the application of the Islands Act in 2020," state news agency Hina said.
Of the HRK 3.8 billion, grants accounted for 3.5 billion, while loans, that is, funding granted by the Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (HBOR) and the HAMAG-BICRO agency for SMEs, innovation and investments totalled HRK 324 million or 8% of the amount.
From 2016 to 2020, HRK 12.27 billion was invested in islands, with investments growing each year, reaching their highest level in 2020.
This shows that the state recognises islands, the island population and life on islands as an area of special state concern and an area of great natural, economic and tourism potential, says the report.
On the other hand, there is an evident decrease in investments in the form of loans, and in 2016 they amounted to HRK 432 million or 25% of the total investments, while in 2020 they accounted for only 8%.
Most of the funding was invested in connectivity and infrastructure (HRK 9.5 billion or 35%), the business sector (HRK 7.04 billion or 26%), subsidies and grants (HRK 3.4 billion or 13%), and communal infrastructure (HRK 2.7 billion).
Most of the grants in 2020 were allocated by the Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure (HRK 893 million) and the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds (HRK 647 million).
Business sector: HRK 44 bn revenue over a period of four years
One of the indicators of the impact of the investments is the number of new businesses on islands, their number being the highest in 2018 – 1,257.
In the period between 2017 and 2020 businesses operating on islands together earned HRK 44 billion in revenue, with the annual revenue being the highest in 2019 – HRK 12 billion. In 2020, the year marked by the coronavirus pandemic, the revenue of island businesses amounted to HRK 9.9 billion, a decrease of 18.1% from 2019.
Due to the pandemic, the number of employed persons on islands in 2020 dropped by 1,884, from 23,174 in 2019 to 21,290.
The number of primary school pupils rose from 8,060 in the school year 2013/14 to 8,582 in 2020/21. The number of primary school pupils was the highest in the school year 2018/19 – 8,658.
19 islands see an increase in the number of residents, 29 see a decrease
As the results of this year’s population census are being awaited, the report on islands says that according to the 2011 census, there were 1.98% more residents on islands than in 2001, with 19 inhabited islands seeing an increase or stagnation in the number of residents and 29 experiencing a drop in the number of residents compared to 2001.
Slightly fewer than 133,000 people live on some 50 permanently inhabited islands, with one in 32 Croatians living on an island. Of that number, people aged under 14 account for about 13%, those aged 15-64 account for 65% of the island population, and those above 65 account for 22%.
There are 58 health clinics, 69 kindergartens, 109 primary and secondary schools, and 23 homes for senior citizens on the islands.
The government, which submitted the report to the parliament, boasted that apart from Finland, Croatia was the only European country that systematically cares about its islands, as regulated for almost 20 years by the Islands Act, which was first adopted in 1999 and amended in 2018.
(€1 = HRK 7.51)