Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Window-Dressing: The Balearic Government's adjustment measures

The local "austerity" and "adjustment" measures are taking shape. The regional government will raise income tax for high earners, but it is opposing the central government's move to prevent town halls getting into greater debt. Ministries at regional level are to be further rationalised, this time as a means of saving money as opposed to being a political expedient (as was the case with the combining of transport and environment). These measures come on top of the increase in IVA (VAT) which is due to kick in from 1 July. The opposition Partido Popular is, as you might expect, against the income tax rise and the ministry rationalisation. So much for any consensus for getting Mallorca and the Balearic out of their current mess.

Changes at government level, scrapping specific ministries for agriculture and work, can be seen as either window-dressing or sensible. The office of the president will assume responsibility for agriculture, and work will be combined with tourism, a justification for the latter being that as tourism is the main generator of employment then it makes sense to bring them together. Up to a point, the government has a point. But does getting away with a couple of ministers really amount to much? There will still, presumably, be civil servants to support the combined ministries. That President Antich is holding out for the town halls to still be able to mount up debt just adds to what I would say is in fact window-dressing. If there is to be rationalisation at governmental level - at all governmental levels - then it needs to be more savage. The question would be, what?

I am, as you might be aware, unconvinced as to the necessity for the Council of Mallorca, but this would be most unlikely to be either rationalised dramatically or scrapped altogether. There have been suggestions that local municipalities should be merged. This might reduce all the duplication, but it would be politically (and socially) impossible. The towns are historical entities, and the notion of local representation is long; even during Franco's time it remained. Putting towns together would only create the potential for alienation which already exists, as in, for example, Puerto Pollensa. It is the functions at town hall level that need addressing, not the number of town halls.

The regional government is also looking at the role and the funding of some of its agencies or "companies", as they are called. One such is Inestur, the tourism strategy institute at the heart of the massive corruption scandal that led to Unió Mallorquina ministers being booted out of the coalition. There are other such companies. But what do they do? In Inestur's case, it serves different roles - one is promotion of aspects of tourism to tourists. Why? There are other agencies doing the same thing, such as IBATUR, which is the tourism board, and not to be confused with the essentially private Fomento del Turismo (otherwise known as the tourism board). Confusing, huh? Confusing and seemingly duplicating. Inestur also acts in a research capacity, which is rather more acceptable a purpose. However, when you consider what it provides, e.g. library facilities, archives, etc., you do have to wonder why this can't be rolled into efforts at the university's tourism department, which provides a similar function.

Yesterday, I sent an email to Inestur. Why? To tell them that I have a project in mind that would be aimed at tourism promotion of Mallorca overseas and to ask if it would be possible to make an appointment so that I could come and explain it in greater detail and to discuss possible assistance or collaboration. They may well have read the word "ayuda" (meaning help or assistance) and thought "money". That wasn't what I had in mind (well not necessarily). And the project is not another tourism website; it's something completely different and unique, not aimed at tourists as such. Whatever. I have had no response. Maybe they will respond, but I'm not holding my breath.

But rather as tourism promotion as a whole is, or should be, a collaboration between public and private sectors - as evidenced by the very existence of the Fomento - so I'm raising the possibility of just such a collaboration. Greater involvement by the private sector is just one way that the government can trim its costs. But more fundamental is the need for a root-and-branch study of the system of public administration in Mallorca. Chopping a couple of ministries does not amount to this; it is window-dressing.

Any comments to please.

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