Tuesday, October 24, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 October 2017

Morning high (7.35am): 13.4C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 25 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 26 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 27 October - Sun, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 4. Swells of one to two metres.

Should be a decent day. Bit breezy from the north perhaps.

The End Of Tourism

In 1983 the first Balearic government was formed. In addition to the president, Gabriel Cañellas, and the vice-president, Joan Rotger, there were nine ministers. Two of these ministers had one portfolio only. Jaume Llompart was the interior  minister and Jaume Cladera was the tourism minister. Debate will always be had on such matters, but Cladera is often held up as having been the Balearics best tourism minister. He went into the job holding an advantage that no others since have been able to claim. He was from the tourism industry and had been closely involved with the Fomento del Turismo (Mallorca Tourist Board) prior to his being made minister and the tourist board losing most of its role for promoting tourism, something it had been doing for almost eighty years.

Cladera was to remain tourism minister throughout the period of the second Cañellas administration of 1987 to 1991 and into the third, during which he was replaced by Joan Flaquer. Subsequent governments had their tourism ministers, and while there were to be other sole ministerial responsibilities, e.g. for health, tourism stood on its own. From 1983 to 2007 there were ministers who only had responsibility for tourism. No other ministry had such consistency of function.

When the 2007 administration of Francesc Antich came along, the PSOE-Unió Mallorquina-PSM Mallorcan socialist pact combined tourism for the first time. Employment and training were grafted on. The Bauzá government from 2011 changed things. Although Carlos Delgado and then Jaime Martínez also had responsibility for sport, tourism was pretty much restored to how it had previously been. Then came the current government. Biel Barceló is the government vice-president, he is the minister for innovation and research, and he is the minister for tourism.

The Antich PSOE-led government from 1999 hadn't tampered with the previous model, though the strategic importance of tourism for that administration took on a different complexion: Celestí Alomar was the minister who introduced the original ecotax. The two other PSOE pacts have tampered, and there might just be more to come.

Barceló, in announcing the formalisation of procedures to transfer tourism promotion responsibilities to the island councils and the downgrading of the role of the Balearic Tourism Agency, let it slip that he thought that after the 2019 election there might not be a tourism ministry. In other words, tourism would be rolled into another. It might, for example, be how tourism is currently treated by the Council of Mallorca - a subsidiary responsibility under the umbrella of economic affairs and finance.

One of the more extraordinary aspects of the suggestion that tourism will be further diminished at ministerial level is that it seems to have gone almost unnoticed. Yet it would break with 36 years of ministerial and government tradition and would, moreover, be highly symbolic. Barceló, one assumes, said this with one eye on Més and the pact still being in power after the next election. The Partido Popular, one would also assume, would not reduce tourism in the same way. Therefore, can we conclude that the very idea that tourism ceases to be a ministry in its own right and that there is no longer a minister with a specific tourism portfolio is an indication of what this current government really thinks about tourism?

The suggestion is even more extraordinary when one considers the fact that there has been a great deal of pressure placed on the national government to have a minister with sole tourism responsibility. In the Balearics, where in comparative GDP terms tourism is vastly more significant than it is nationally, a tourism minister hasn't just been important, it has been imperative.

One accepts that the island councils are to assume greater powers, but the transfer of these should not mean that the regional government abandons a ministerial function. Tourism is simply too important to be consumed by another ministry. It should not be allowed to become a component of, say, a general industry ministry, as it is an industry that stands apart from and above all other industry. Tourism is the Balearics, the Balearics is tourism, regardless of the attitude of this current government.

With the transfer for powers, one can understand that the current ministry of tourism, innovation and research wouldn't require the same level of budgeting. As things stand, it already has the second lowest budget of all ministries (74 million euros this year). But even stripped down, there is surely enough justification in terms of global planning and organisation to say nothing of coordination nationally and internationally for it to command more than the smallest of all the ministries - that of the presidency (24.6 million euros). 

Here, though, may lie the answer. I long ago once advocated, because of its strategic importance, that tourism should be a direct responsibility of the presidency. The ministry of the presidency and tourism. This government would never sanction such a notion.

Monday, October 23, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 October 2017

Morning high (6.33am): 14.3C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 24 October - Sun, 24C; 25 October - Sun, 25C; 26 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North 3 to 4.

Cloudy morning but improving later. Still looking good for the rest of the week.

Evening update (20.00): Some rain in the morning, not much though. Got better. Sun was out for a time. High of 21.8C.

Santa Margalida Livid About Tourist Tax

Joan Monjo, Santa Margalida's mayor, says that he has instructed a lawyer to prepare a report into a possible legal challenge to decisions made regarding the distribution of tourist tax revenue.

The committee which makes these decisions that are then ratified by the government's cabinet, announced spending plans earlier this week. There had been a total of 122 projects to be considered. This was whittled down to 62 plus eight ongoing from last year. A joint Santa Margalida-Muro project was not among the 62.

This project required 360,000 euros, equivalent to 0.73% of the 49 million euros for the 62 (the complete spend will be 64 million to include the eight projects from 2016). It was for an archaeological route on the Son Real finca. In August, Monjo supplied a good deal of detail about this project. It would connect two historically important sites - the Talayotic settlement of Son Serra de Muro and the neo-Romanesque church of Son Serra de Marina. It would embrace other sites of high heritage significance - the dolmen of Son Baulo, the Son Real necropolis, the old Arab farmhouse of Santa Eulària, the Sa Nineta talayot. There would be secondary elements, such as the Punta del Patró and the coastal towers that were built in the 1940s for submarine target practice.

In addition to the actual route, the money being asked for would have gone towards promotion in different forms, including geolocation and audio guides. Moreover, it would also act as a cycling route. Monjo said of it that it was a project which encompasses the restoration of heritage, cultural enrichment and a contribution to reducing tourism seasonality. On every point, it was a project that conformed fairly and squarely with "purposes" for spending tourist tax revenue, and bear in mind that the amount was not that significant.

The annual plan for the spending of the tourist tax was published in the summer. Like all government documents it is convoluted to say the least, but it sets out criteria for justifying interventions to be made with tax revenue. These were assigned maximum points values. Therefore projects would be evaluated according to how they met these criteria and to their meeting specifications for all the documentation which has to be presented by those seeking funding. Under "project character", for instance, the plan refers to the acquisition and/or rehabilitation of emblematic places with high cultural and environmental value. This makes specific reference to the fact that 2018 is European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Given all this, why has it been turned down, especially when one considers that the Son Real finca was the stellar project in terms of spending for the old ecotax? The finca, much of it, was acquired by a government with similar political constituent parts to the current administration - PSOE and the PSM Mallorcan Socialists who are the main part of what is now Més.

Monjo seems to be in little doubt as to why: the political make-up of the committee. He explains that the government calls for projects to be submitted, establishes the bases for funding (the annual plan) but then it is "the government and its ministries which take the money". He adds that it is a "perversion of the system" and also notes that the government is having a laugh at municipalities such as Santa Margalida which are where the bulk of tourist tax revenue is raised.

Is he right in his assessment? Well, I don't know that he's entirely wrong, or at least that's the impression one has about this spending committee. It is weighted towards the government, each island council has representation and Palma town hall has representation separate to all other town halls, which are themselves represented by their federation. The government, the island councils and Palma reflect each other in terms of their political components - PSOE, Més, Podemos (or variants thereof)

The committee, and one can't help but feel this, is something of a charade. It includes environmentalists GOB who vote against the spending plans because they believe all the money should go towards the environment. Business representation, such as through the Confederation of Balearic Business Associations, can appear almost irrelevant. It goes along with the projects because it knows it can't do anything else. The town halls have the same representation as GOB: two members, one of whom abstained when it came to the spending decisions.

Where Santa Margalida is concerned, it is politically opposed to the government. It is a coalition of El Pi (Monjo) and the Partido Popular. Monjo, never short of a few words, has not exactly endeared himself to the government, while the internal workings of Santa Margalida town hall are such that there are regular buttings of heads with Més, in the form of ex-mayor Toni Reus, an influential figure in the party. Indeed, Suma pel Canvi, which is the coalition opposition grouping which includes Més, says that the route would go past an agrotourism property in Muro, which is managed by a company of which Monjo is the sole administrator. Which may be the case, but what real difference does this make?

Is the decision to exclude the project all down to politics then? Monjo seems to think so. Because of the rejection, he says that the town hall will withdraw the money it spends on archaeological excavations. Once more, therefore, Son Real is a political football between the government and the town hall, the latter having felt over the years since it was acquired that it has never been managed satisfactorily. And in this regard the town hall is right.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 October 2017

Morning high (7.47am): 19.7C
Forecast high: 22C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 23 October - Cloud, sun, 23C; 24 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 25 October - Sun, cloud, 26C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 easing North 3 in the afternoon.

Rain possible today, though the forecast is better than what it was. At present the outlook for the week is good. May start rainy tomorrow morning but then generally sunny and warm.

Evening update (19.15): Dull old day with some rain. High of 19.2C, so the temperature went down from the morning.

Things Just Got Més-ier: Independence And Tourism

The Banbury Boy, Mick of the Council, has had his say about the slight to-do that has been cracking off in Catalonia. Mick hasn't demanded immediate legal independence, installation as the next member state of the European Union, participation at the next football Euros, and an agreement to devote all the money raised by the Christmas El Gordo lottery to shore up an economy about to do its best to become the new Extremadura (which Catalonia with a bit of help from the Balearics has been keeping afloat for decades). No, none of that (with the possible exception of the first); Mick has instead been concerning himself with the last two presidents of the Balearics.

Frankie Antich and J.R. Bauzá have themselves reasonably remunerated sinecures as members of the Senate. These are courtesy of the Balearic parliament. Whereas the citizens elect five Balearic senators, parliament, through its benevolence, secures former presidents nice little earners in Madrid. In the case of Antich there wasn't much of a fuss about this. With J.R. it was a way of managing to get rid of him. This didn't of course stop J.R. attempting to make a comeback. It was believed that he was exploiting his presence in Madrid to drum up support to march triumphantly into the Balearic PP leadership once more. Which he might have believed, but no one else in the PP in Madrid did.

His one-man PR campaign (PR for himself) is, it seems, more or less all he does in Madrid. While Antich, in between having a heart attack, at least attempts to justify himself by asking questions in the Senate, J.R. remains silent, all the time plotting his next failed comeback. Recently, because he clearly wasn't needed in Madrid, he was seen among the Palma crowds demonstrating their support for Spanish unity. And it is this, rather than any under-performance in a Senate style, which has attracted Mick's interest.

The president of the Council of Mallorca, which is rapidly becoming its own independent state within the loose alliance known as the autonomous community of the Balearics, is insisting that J.R. - and Frankie Antich - vote against Rajoy's Article 155 nuclear option. Both of them owe the fact that they are senators to that parliamentary grace and favouring. And as the Balearic parliament has extended the fraternal hand of support to Carles Puigdemont and his pals, then they should both say "no" to Rajoy and 155.

The chances of J.R. doing this are about as slim as him finally abandoning his ambitions for political renaissance. Antich, cloistered in the Madrid halls of power, has gone native and is tagging along behind Pedro Sánchez in having said he'll say "yes" to 155. It is here where things get a tad awkward. Mick will know full well that J.R. is a hopeless case, but he and Més are determined that Antich remembers that he's from the Balearics, the mini-me homeland of independence (in a Més fashion), and not a political creation of Madrid.

The other Frankie, Armengol, has been hoping to persuade the former Frankie to be as sweet and friendly as she is and bow to the Més command. She has thus been engaged in dialogue with Frankie A Mark I in seeking to arrive at a 155 consensus, one that he clearly doesn't believe in. Will her intervention do the trick for Mick? We will find out, but the whole business has revealed the extent to which Més appear to be labouring under an impression that they are the true power in the Balearic land, when everyone of course knows that it is Podemos.

But Més are discovering that power grab comes at a cost, roughly valued at 80,000 euros in the case of the combined price for two contracts that the not-quite-yet-former director of the Balearic Tourism Agency sanctioned. Pere Muñoz is for some bizarre reason still acting director of the agency, and while he and Mrs. Doubtfire, the one-time minister for opacity, are the convenient fallpersons for the Més contracts mess, it now emerges that payment for at least one contract was allegedly being made even before it was signed.

Biel Barceló, meanwhile, rises above all this fuss and then comes out with the astonishing announcement that the agency is in any event going to be shut down. This is because Mick and the Council are about to take over all the promotion of tourism, i.e. cultural, gastronomic, natural tourism for the millions of tourists planning on coming to Mallorca in the winter.

So Pere would have been out of a job anyway. Can we conclude this? We probably can. Alternatively, he may have been switched to a new post as director for managing the spending of the tourist tax. Biel, in dismantling the agency, has hit upon a fabulous ruse for the use of public money. The agency will be turned into another agency - one to manage tourist tax revenue spending projects.

It will do what? Why in God's name is such an agency needed? Is it not the case that Biel decides how the revenue's going to be spent, then informs the rest of the committee before handing over large sums of tourist tax moolah to Palma town hall for it to get on and carry out the projects? What do you need an agency for? Aren't town halls (and others) competent enough at managing projects?

Erm, yes, maybe there is the need for an agency.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 October 2017

Morning high (6.57am): 18C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 22 October - Cloud, 22C; 23 October - Cloud, 21C; 24 October - Sun, 24C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00):  North 2 to 3.

Forecast as it was yesterday - fine for most of today but taking a tumble by evening. Tomorrow has a cloudy and rainy look.

Evening update (19.45): Excellent - high of 27.9C.

Barceló Adding To Tourism Industry Uncertainty

The storm clouds are gathering for Biel Barceló. The Més contracts affair, it needs stressing, is not in any way - allegedly or otherwise - on a scale of what once used to go on at the tourism ministry, but it nevertheless induces some uncertainty at the ministry at a time when it needs it the least.

In the bad old days of Unió Mallorquina control of the ministry, which lasted for much of the 2007-2011 administration until the party was kicked out of the ruling government pact, things got to such a pretty pass that the tourism industry barely knew from one day to the next who it was dealing with. Three ministers came and went until eventually PSOE took over and installed Joana Barceló for the final year or so of the administration. Along with the ministers, out also went various officials who were under suspicion.

The industry is used to the ministry's chopping and changing. It happens every four years. This turnaround can be dealt with because it's predictable. It's when things become unpredictable that the industry gets the jitters. And with the UM there was the specific issue of Mallorca and the Balearics being given a thoroughly bad name because of corruption. While the industry can carry on and does so regardless of politicians and political shenanigans, it - as with any other industry - prefers a state of calm and as much certainty as possible. Right now, there is too much uncertainty as it is, e.g. Brexit and any Catalonia effect, and heading towards the first major travel fair of the winter period - London's World Travel Market in November - there is the additional headache of the Més contracts.

Barceló can probably ride out the storm, despite calls for his head. President Armengol expressed her confidence in him earlier this week, which was probably more sincere than a football club chairman's vote of confidence in his manager, but there's no disguising the fact that his neck is potentially on the line. It also needs stressing that he personally hasn't been mentioned by the anti-corruption prosecution service, but the citing of the director of the Balearic Tourism Agency (Pere Muñoz) is too close to him for comfort. It starts to sound a bit like the UM revisited, and it starts to make Barceló appear like damaged goods.

The nub of the prosecutor's case against Muñoz is that a contract with a total value of 80,000 euros was split in such a way as to circumvent normal procedures for the awarding of a contract with that amount. There were two contracts for what was to have been a tourist survey. The argument presented by the ministry is that there was nothing untoward in this as the first contract (for a lower amount to Jaume Garau, the one-time Més campaign manager) was for the specification of the survey. The other contract was for the implementation, i.e. the conducting of the survey and its analysis. This was to a Madrid-based company. However, it is alleged that Garau exerted influence over Muñoz in order to ensure that this company got the contract, for which there was no public tender.

A peculiar aspect of this affair is that despite Muñoz having resigned, he hasn't actually gone. Apparently this is to be confirmed at a meeting of the tourism agency in London. Why? This makes no sense. Is Muñoz actually going to be in London? Whether he is or he isn't, Barceló needed to have distanced himself pronto and not let the matter drag on. As it is, the contracts case is hovering over him when he needs to be doing all he can to allay industry anxieties about a host of issues, only one of which is the doubling of the tourist tax, about which there is still a lack of clarity as to its application in the low season.

Friday, October 20, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 October 2017

Morning high (7.01am): 11.5C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 21 October - Cloud, sun, 25C; 22 October - Cloud, 22C; 23 October - Cloud, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00):  Northeast 4 easing 3 by the evening.

A much better day anticipated. Weekend looking ok to begin with but going downhill later on on Saturday.

Evening update (20.00): And it was much better. High of 23.8C.

All-Inclusive And Holiday Rentals Order

Earlier this week there were ministerial pronouncements which reinforced the direction in which government policy is heading. President Armengol said that order is to be put into rules for all-inclusive hotels. Principally, these will introduce some form of limit on the consumption of alcohol - the means of doing this has not been set out - as the government seeks a general raising of the quality of tourist. Through these rules, she hopes, there will be more business for bars and restaurants outside all-inclusive complexes and a reduction in "booze tourism". Will there be? Or will it be the case that some tourist elements merely head for the nearest supermarket and see what offers are available in order to top up on the limits imposed? And a note for Calvia town hall in this regard. Getting supermarkets to eliminate front-of-house displays of booze won't make any difference. Meanwhile, there are other tourism municipalities where there is no ban on displays.

On holiday rentals, Biel Barceló announced that the legislation will enable the possibility of renting out apartments in a legal and commercialised fashion, which was not the case under the Partido Popular's 2012 tourism law. He's right, it does raise the possibility. The problem is that there are all the strings that are attached. One of these is the principle of zoning. About this he remarked that "the most saturated zones will be protected" and rentals in apartments will be in municipalities where there is low tourism activity.

I have always believed that this would be the case. Indeed we already know that there are some coastal areas which have been classified as "saturated" and where there won't be any zoning - Playa de Palma, Cala Millor, Magalluf, for example. The Council of Mallorca, responsible for zoning, is now applying yet more principles for zoning to the nine broadly determined areas of Mallorca. These principles relate to the type of land and to the level of "saturation". The upshot is, in essence, that the interior will get the lion's share of apartment rentals.

I'd said that this would be the case, and it now seems certain that it will be the case. Consequently, what will it mean for coastal resorts, e.g. Puerto Pollensa or Colonia Sant Jordi, where there are more special cases to be made for apartment rentals? No new rentals? It could well be.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 October 2017

Morning high (5.40am): 18.2C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 3
Three-day forecast: 20 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 21 October - Cloud, sun, 25C; 22 October - Cloud, 21C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 4 to 5 easing 3 to 4 around midday and 2 by the evening.

Raining with some thunder in the distance. Looking like it'll be wet all day.

Evening update (20.00): Pretty miserable. Occasional bursts of sun but otherwise grey. Rain stopped in the morning, though. High of 19.6C.

The PR Of Consensus And Dialogue

I'm sure that it can't have escaped your attention that Francina Armengol has devoted her thus far 843 days as president of the Balearics to the pursuit of consensus and dialogue. Never before has there been so much consensus and so much dialogue. One imagines that the walls of Can Armengol (not that attic development in Palma that she had nothing to do with) are adorned with posters bearing large legends. "It's good to talk", "engage with your interlocutor", "consent to consensus" and other such motivational messages confront her before she steps out each sunny morn (mostly sunny), ever prepared to conjure up consensus and deliver dialogue in arriving at harmonious accords in the name of the citizens and coexistence. By the way, I have an increasing issue with coexistence as it sounds a somewhat contrived state of being, but whatever.

Such is the determination of the Armengol advocacy of what we can abbreviate to C&D that it can unfortunately rebound on her, not least when members of the Partido Popular are engaged as her parliamentary interlocutors and basically take the rip out of her. A note to the PP, however: perhaps some C&D of your own might not go amiss. And it is of course the mighty PP in Madrid which is charged with failing to follow the path of C&D with the hapless Carles Puigdemont, whose own consensus has obliged him to take a course that one suspects, in another life, he wouldn't have taken. Such are the duties of governmental coalitions and support bases that you plunge your region (some say nation) into total crisis.

Puigdemont should really serve as a model and as a warning to Armengol about the inherent risks of C but with a D that is a one-way form of dialogue and communication. A hole is dug deeper while a form of groupthink swirls around, made more dogmatic as the pots and pans are beaten with ever greater ferocity and the more extreme elements within coalition plot a path towards what, quite frankly, looms with an ever larger D, that of destruction.

The Armengol C&D, for internal Balearic consumption as opposed to her calling on Rajoy and Puigdemont to try it out, necessitates keeping an open ear to partners in government. When a president is thrust into power with the dubious level of mandate that PSOE was at the 2015 regional election, she cannot wield any great power because she and PSOE don't have it. They are endlessly subject to the exigencies of others and to bending to their will because they have no other choice, short of abandoning so-called progressive politics and policies (meaning left-wing) and attempting C&D with the PP or others with a less progressive attitude.

So, all this C&D stuff is essentially a PR ruse to justify the nature of a pact with competing objectives, one of which is an aspiration for independence, be it that of Catalonia or the Balearics. The Més proposition in favour of Balearic sovereignty is plainly preposterous in terms of a PSOE global vision. As a party it wants as little to do with Catalonia's demands as the PP (and Ciudadanos) wish. Armengol might attempt a touch of D with David Abril and chums on the question of Balearic independence, but you can rest assured that there is no C - consensus does not exist.

The president will thus have been taken aback when the PP launched into her by accusing her of holding independence sympathies. This was done in part because she hasn't said anything about the Més independence statement. If and when she does, we can be reasonably sure that she'll crack out the C&D line and say absolutely nothing.

The constant recourse to reminding the citizens that her government is one predicated on the principles of consensus and dialogue has more than a hint of desperation and delusion about it. Here is an administration attempting to act in a manner that culturally doesn't come naturally. It's like a football team adopting three at the back when it's always been used to 4-4-2. The system is awkward, the players aren't adept because they've been brought up another way. This is not the German system, where they've stuck to a method of consensus and consistently delivered Angela Merkel.

The greatest charade of all lies with Podemos. They are not about consensus, they are about Podemos. While there is much to admire about Podemos - confronting corruption, for instance - there is also much which is unnerving, and Armengol and PSOE know this full well, and PSOE have demonstrated this concern in the past, as with Pedro Sánchez and a refusal to give Pablo Iglesias governmental houseroom.

But you can't blame her for persistence, and so today as with every other day those legends on the wall will be her reminders. What'll be the theme today?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 October 2017

Morning high (7.02am): 14.7C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 19 October - Rain, 22C; 20 October - Sun, cloud, 24C; 21 October - Sun, cloud, 27C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South 3 to 4.

Cloud set to dominate today. Stormy weather on the cards for tomorrow as the southerly air at present collides with a strong northerly.

Evening update (19.45): Pretty warm, high of 28.4C. Not looking good overnight.

Are Tourist Friends Electric?

For those of you who have ever paid the tourist tax, are you delighted at the results of the deliberations of the judging committee for the impulse of sustainable tourism? Sixty-two finalists had been hewn from hopefuls twice that number and with shopping lists worth more than four times the revenue on offer - for new projects, that is. And when the sixty-two aspirants were paraded before the judging panel, they were all given a prize. There are no losers in the tourist tax competition, except for the sixty who had been given the heave-ho in the prelims.

So, if you have, for instance, spent 49.50 euros (plus VAT) for fourteen nights at a three-star superior for a family of four (one child over sixteen, the other younger) in the past few months, are you satisfied that you may have contributed 0.001% to the cost of "electric mobility", otherwise known as charging-points for electric vehicles? You are satisfied? Well, good for you, and some time in the future you'll be able to use these charging-points when hire cars are all electric or you'll be safe in the knowledge that the bus taking you to your resort from the airport is fully powered by electricity. Gosh, isn't this impulse for sustainable tourism a great thing and a wonder to behold, if you can actually behold it.

All this electric mobility, thanks to the nature of its funding, should require charging-points across the isles (and I suppose we are talking plural because it's only Mallorca that is ever referred to) to have legends emblazoned on them which read "Electric mobility: POWERED BY ECOTAX". Thataway, just in case you have failed to be satisfied, you will become so. "Heavens, so that's where my money goes. Well done, Balearic government, God bless you and thank you. The world is being saved. If only it weren't for all that permafrost being defrosted."

It isn't only you, as tourists, who will be thanking the government. So also will be all those who have been agitating for a dismantling of the tourism economic monoculture. Most curiously, this is a purpose for the tourist tax. Not about tourism but about something else, the Holy Grail of economic diversification. The 4.6 million euros that the judges have decided to lavish on electric mobility will, we are assured, be instrumental in diversifying the economy. Will it be?

To me, this sounds suspiciously like replacing one thing with another. Replacement isn't diversification. The ministers for tourism, innovation and research, land, energy and transport (aka mobility), and industry, trade and employment all suggest that it is diversification. Well, they must know something that you and I don't. Are there to be thousands of jobs created to enable drivers to plug their cars in and which will allow restaurant waiters to abandon the terraces and earn five grand a month, thereby contributing to quality employment?

It's not, I hasten to add, that I am against electric mobility. Quite the contrary. Anything that provides green, clean energy is to be welcomed. But it comes with its own plug-in of spin, which is the case with much of the bull, righteousness, virtuousness and cliché attached in cable form to the sustainable tourism tax. The eco-credentials of the ecotax were being sounded long into the ozone of autumn air as the judges and recipients explained the tourist tax spending verdicts. And there is no greater credential than when "footprints" can be referred to.

Més compatriots, Barceló and Noguera, were both on the footprint trail. The numerous (62 plus eight ongoing from last year) projects, opined the tourism minister, will help to alleviate the eco-unfriendly footprint of tourism (or words to that effect). Quite right. For far too long tourists have been getting away with using petrol for hire cars and relying on coal to power their hotel (and private apartment) air-con systems. Not any more. Our tourist friends are electric, and solar, to boot. 

Palma's mayor, continuing with the narrative of indignation that had endured from the fact that the chief judge - Barceló - had failed to last year give the city any direct tax funding, appeared moderately satisfied. But he was engaged in a battle of the footprints. Palma's tourism footprint is bigger than anyone else's. It's still only getting around five million, some of it to be shared with the neighbours (Llucmajor), but it's better than the 2016 spending zero. How, though, is this giant tourism footprint to be addressed? The odd track in Bellver forest does, I suppose, involve some footprints, but another way is to restore the Torres del Temple. And what, pray, has that got to do with footprints? The place has been crumbling for decades because no one has bothered to spend any money on it.

Still, the restoration will doubtless be welcomed by tourists because of its heritage value. Assuming, that is, they can find anywhere to park having arrived in Palma powered by ecotax.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 October 2017

Morning high (6.45am): 15C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 18 October - Cloud, 27C; 19 October - Cloud, 21C; 20 October - Sun, cloud, 24C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 3 to 4.

Expect another fine day and make the most. Tomorrow and Thursday looking cloudy with the chance of rain.

Evening update (20.00): Not bad. High of 26.1C.

It's Time For GOB To Shut Up

Four years ago, in marking the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Grup Ornitològic de Balears, I concluded that GOB had "moved a long way from its original remit but that its relevance (was) stronger than ever". This was a conclusion drawn partly from the fact that tourism and population growth had been placing ever greater strains on Mallorca. There were reasons to praise GOB, such as its historical involvement with preventing development on the island of Dragonera or the work over the decades at the La Trapa biological reserve in the Tramuntana. There is a great deal to admire about GOB; it is an organisation that represents the environmental conscience of Mallorca and has been the island's environmental soul since the 1970s. I'm not a paid-up member of GOB but I often voice my support. However ... .

Two years before that article, I had spoken about issues in which GOB had involved itself but which had little to do with its stated objectives of the "conservation, dissemination and study of nature and the environment of the Balearic Islands". One issue was having leapt to the defence of the TV Mallorca radio and television station. A further was having been part of an anti-corruption platform established in 2010. Broadcasting can be valuable in conveying messages about the environment. Corruption can lead to development that is destructive of the environment. Neither issue was totally divorced from the GOB objectives but then neither was directly associated with them.

A bus station is to be built in Puerto Pollensa. It will make use of an existing development: a small plot owned by the municipality that was tarmacked in the recent past and made into a proper car park. The bus station is necessary, and one of its purposes will be to act as the terminal for a shuttle service to Formentor. The shuttle has been deemed to be a requirement to counteract the "saturation" of vehicles that go along the promontory's twisty road to the lighthouse. It is a sort of environmental solution.

GOB disagrees with this bus station. It doesn't disagree with the principle of the bus station, just its location. It would prefer it to be sited close to what has been described as the "green heart" of Puerto Pollensa, the small park of La Gola, with a lake that is the confluence of the torrent and of the sea. GOB's proposed site wouldn't be environmentally detrimental but it would nevertheless be in an area of greater environmental sensitivity than the site where the bus station will be built.

GOB's objection has to do with the Pollensa town hall general urban plan. The site for the bus station, the organisation says, can only be used for sociocultural, sporting or health care reasons or as an open public space. A bus station is therefore contrary to this plan. The town hall, and here one encounters semantics, says that it isn't a bus station, only bus stops. However it is defined is largely immaterial; GOB has been raising an objection that has nothing whatsoever to do with its objectives. The bus station is an urban planning matter, pure and simple.

Here is an example of where the organisation stretches the limits of its remit and indeed exceeds them, as was the case with TV Mallorca. There are other entities whose roles are to challenge matters such as a bus station: political parties, for instance. But it is here where the problem with GOB lies. It acts like a political party without having any of the responsibility. Its power base has grown enormously since it started life as a bird conservation organisation. It has become inherent to the political process to the extent that its representation on the tourist tax revenue spending committee equates to that of the federation for all the town halls in the Balearics (except Palma).

When GOB fired off a statement attacking the farmers and hunters ("the defenders of the rural world") for their recent protest over government environmental policies, it was seeking to make sure that the government didn't back track; a government it would hope to be highly receptive to its wishes. It is engaged in a battle for who owns the environment, when in fact it belongs to everyone, and that includes those who adhere to a rural way of life, such as the farmers.

But more than this are the politics. There is a GOB youth wing. It has been intimately linked with the highly radical Arran and Endavant groups in attacking tourism. GOB itself was the main organiser of the "massification" demo last month. Its political nature has now become almost indistinguishable from a left-wing, Catalanist, nationalist or independence agenda.

In so doing it can alienate. The environment crosses the spectrum of political views. It is to be defended but not in such a partisan way. GOB's constant interference generates just this sort of alienation. It needs to know when to shut up.

Monday, October 16, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 October 2017

Morning high (6.56am): 16.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 17 October - Sun, cloud, 27C; 18 October - Cloud, 27C; 19 October - Cloud, 24C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southeast 3 to 4 backing East.

Mainly sunny again. Outlook for the week - possible showers Wednesday and Thursday, improving into the weekend.

Evening update (19.45): Like yesterday. Cloudy and then the sun appeared and was very pleasant. High of 25.8C.

Rentals In Pollensa: Legality Full Stop

You do come across some strange snippets of suspect information. A recent example, in the form of a comment, said that a business owner with a large-scale apartment block (fully tourist) had told the person who left the comment that "responsibility for defining who can/cannot rent has been passed to the local mayor".

Firstly I wondered what this large-scale (fully tourist) apartment block could mean. One has to suppose that it is one of those buildings with a tourism ministry licence with an activity as tourist apartments - the AT designation. If so, then the rentals' legislation is irrelevant. But more importantly was the bit about the local mayor. Where does this stuff come from? A mayor, a town hall is in no position to make this definition. A mayor may be, will be consulted about provisions stemming from the holiday rentals' law, but it is the Council of Mallorca which defines where rentals will be (the zoning) and it is the tourism ministry which grants licences (or not).

If mayors really were in this position, then this week's meeting in Pollensa with Miquel Àngel March would have had a quite different outcome. The mayor and Tomeu Cifre Bennàsar (urban planning) met with the Puerto Pollensa and Cala San Vicente residents' associations, the Pollensa trade association, the Pollensa restaurants' association and the association for holiday villa businesses. The result of the meeting was a lemon. The mayor said that he believed that there will be few restrictions on holiday rentals in Pollensa, suggesting that Mercedes Garrido, the Council of Mallorca councillor with ultimate responsibility for zoning decisions, has intimated this. The mayor may be right, but he was making it clear - as if this were needed - that it isn't he who makes these decisions.

They got together presumably so they could lobby the mayor in making the strongest possible representations to the Council. The mayor, one assumes, is already fully aware that Pollensa's tourism economy has a high dependency on rentals. He would probably already have known, as the Cala San Vicente people pointed out, that this part of the municipality is particularly reliant. Rentals, the Cala San Vicente association said, are a question of "survival" for what is the "most depressed" area of Pollensa.

The mayor, it shouldn't be forgotten, is a former spokesperson for GOB, the environmentalists. They were the ones leading the "massification" demo in Palma last month. They are the ones who are agitating for limits. Rentals are intimately linked to the issues of massification and limits. But the mayor represents the whole of Pollensa, he is a guardian of municipal welfare, well-being and wealth. I wonder what he really thinks about rentals.

There won't be much zoning in Pollensa, said the mayor. Does he know this for certain? And the point with zoning is that even if there little of it, there is still the issue of the allocation of rentals' places. These have to be decided - almost 43,000 are available - for the whole of Mallorca: private accommodation and hotels. The amount is not great, if there is to be anything like some equality in distribution, while Pollensa - as we know - already has an exceptionally high number of legal rentals: the proportion is much greater than anywhere else.

It isn't just a fear that apartments won't be legalised in Pollensa. There is a further fear. It is raised by the following clause in the legislation: "It will not be possible to commercialise tourist stays in any dwelling for which a sanction has been imposed for a serious or very serious infraction of urban legality, so long as this legality remains unrestored." Has been imposed or could be imposed.

Pollensa, as well as being known for its high number or rental properties, is now just as well known for its urban planning infractions. The anti-corruption prosecution service demanded documentation from the town hall. It has been handed over. The Council of Mallorca's Agency for the Defence of Territory will be interested. We are talking here about villas, and it is a question not of holiday rental legality but of legality full stop. The tourism minister, Biel Barceló, when explaining that existing rentals will be unaffected by the legislation did provide a caveat: so long as the properties are themselves fully legal. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 October 2017

Morning high (6.25am): 15.2C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 16 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 17 October - Sun, cloud, 27C; 18 October - Cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 3 to 4.

And continuing in the same way ... . May be that there's some chance of showers on Wednesday and Thursday.

Evening update (19.30): Rather cloudier than expected early on. Got better - high of 27C.

Absolutely Fabulous: Parliamentary Fashion

You really can tell so much from fashion or someone's dress sense, can't you. Or you can be left entirely nonplussed by sudden transformations. What did we make, for instance, of our very good friend, Balti of the Balearic Parliament Presidency, having donned what looked suspiciously like a suit? Admittedly it was denim, but there was that rarest of sights in a Balti-style: matching top and bottom. Was this a sign of Balti edging towards establishment respectability? Can we anticipate him getting a haircut some time over the remaining period of the current administration? Or was it simply that the Felanitx charity shop had got some updated stock in?

The new Balti look was given an airing at the do for the Guardia Civil on Wednesday evening, when the atmosphere was so frosty between Sweet and Friendly Francina and the Witch of Salom that they should have all been togged up in scarves and mittens. The reason for this, what with Maria looking straight at Francina when accusing the government of undermining national identity, had something to do with a bit of a carry-on in Catalonia, whatever that was all about.

Balti wasn't alone in mystifying or intriguing keen political fashion observers. Earlier in the week there was a line-up of various parliamentarians who had gathered for a photo opp to publicise a highly worthy initiative, which is that next year will be the year of mental health in the Balearics. One stresses that this is a most laudable idea, but what sort of statements were some of our dear parliamentarians making in order to honour it? I mean, why was Marga Prohens dressed in some kind of Baby Doll frock and looking as though she was sweet sixteen? The contrast with the Podemos Boot Girl, Laura Camargo, couldn't have been greater. Laura was in a power black dress. She might have failed in her bid to become the Podemos Coordinator, but she was leaving the victor - Granny Mae - in no doubt as to who still wears the trousers, the boots and the black dress around Podemos. She has, after all, spent the past couple of years letting Alberto Jarabo know this.

But there was more. The Earth Mother, Patricia Gómez, had traded in the kaftan for a full-length black gown and white jacket. The health ministry must have been having a cocktail party to celebrate having reduced consultant waiting times by 0.47% this month. It was hard to think what other explanation there could possibly have been.

And then, ah yes then, there was Xe-Lo. Removed from the public eye for some months since having been dispatched to the Valley of the Fallen behind the PP in the parliament arena, Balti's predecessor was clearly determined to make a real statement and to confirm one's suspicions that she had indeed spent much of her time as parliament president developing the Xe-Lo range for the fuller feminist.

What a statement it was too. Black t-shirt on which was emblazoned in a sparkly silver on two rows - FABU LOUS. Well, you go for it, girlfriend. It must indeed be absolutely fabulous to still be picking up the parliamentary pay cheque, despite having been banished by Podemos. But while we're at it, what actually was it with the use of English? Does the government's linguistic "normalisation" police know about this? Maybe there should in fact be a government fashion normalisation department. No, forget that, they might actually think it's a good idea and put Balti in charge.

* Photo comes from the Partido Popular.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 October 2017

Morning high (7.06am): 13.7C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 15 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 16 October - Sun, cloud, 26C; 17 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southeast 3 to 4.

More of the same. Sunny.

Evening update (20.30): High of 27.5C.

Tourism Ministry's Work: Good Or Bad?

How does one assess the performance of a government minister? Who does the assessment? What is it that is being assessed?

I'll leave these questions hanging, so that you can mull them over while considering that the tourism minister Biel Barceló has said that he has been doing "good work" at the ministry. Another question is raised therefore. What constitutes "good"?

He was saying this while at the same time deflecting typical reproaches from the Partido Popular - these ones to do with the Més contracts affair and the PP's consequent demand that he resigns. To define how well he and the ministry have been doing, he drew attention to having gone beyond the "agreements for change" with Podemos (which underpin the current government). These agreements hadn't included establishing a limit on the number of tourist places or having a moratorium on new holiday rental licences (until the zoning for rentals has been determined).

So, it would seem that the Barceló self-appraisal of achievement hangs on these policies, both of which might be characterised as being de-tourism (and he didn't specifically mention the tourist tax). It is an oddity of government - this one anyway - that its ministerial aims include more medical professionals (especially if they speak Catalan), more jobs, more teachers, more finance, and more innovation and research (which is also a Barceló responsibility). Tourism, on the other hand, appears to be about less, notwithstanding the more tourists that the government believes it can shunt from the summer to the winter. Only the tourist tax is a clear policy for more.

The Balearic approach is really what some commentators mean when criticising radical tourism politics in Spain; Barcelona falls into the same bag. One recent article spoke about a "totalitarian" attitude. It highlighted in particular the attack on Gabriel Escarrer Julià of Meliá after he had taken issue with the tourist tax during his speech at the opening of the Palacio de Congresos. Seeking to deny Escarrer the freedom of speech was an example of this totalitarianism. I don't think it was. The row was completely pointless and the freedom of speech angle was frankly blown out of all proportion. If this was radical tourism politics displaying totalitarianism, then a better example was needed.

Some of what this government has been doing in terms of tourism is justified. The tourist tax doubling no, but then I disagree with the tax anyway, especially the way in which it has been manipulated to disguise a general revenue-raising purpose. The rentals issue has not been that well handled - it's too complicated and it is too restrictive - but the government was left with little choice. And it isn't the only government which has been faced with such a dilemma and felt the need to legislate. As a hypothesis, I wonder what the Partido Popular would have done had it been in government. Given its track record on rentals, it's highly unlikely that it would have been any more liberal. And despite what the PP say now, Carlos Delgado, when he first became tourism minister in 2011, did speak about the possible need to reduce numbers and he was mainly referring to hotels. Limits can make sense.

So are Barceló and the government particularly radical? I'm not sure that they are. They do admittedly have Podemos firmly in a de-tourism camp as well as some members of Més, but overall ... ? The problem perhaps is one of perception and one of tone. We can be sure that had it been the PP they wouldn't have appeared to equivocate over condemnation of anti-tourism sentiment.

But to come back to the question of who does the assessing, ultimately it's the voters. And surveys suggest that on issues such as the tourist tax and limits there is support. Good? Bad? I leave it you to decide.

Friday, October 13, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 October 2017

Morning high (6.16am): 14C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 14 October - Sun, 27C; 15 October - Sun, 25C; 16 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): South-Southwest 2 to 4, temporarily East 3 in the afternoon.

Still all very calm, clear and sunny.

Evening update (19.45): High of 28.7C.

Everyone Forgets Menorca

In the eighteenth century it was of significant enough strategic importance that it meant a British admiral being executed for failing to "do his utmost" to prevent the French taking it. A three-nation tussle, with Spain the third, ensured that control was periodically passed. Ultimately though, the importance was not so great. The bargaining chip of Menorca was minor compared with the jackpot of Gibraltar. Spain was allowed to have it: Menorca, the minor island.

For a time Menorca had been flagged up on the Mediterranean geopolitical map. With the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 it obtained a sense of comparative normality, marked with a legacy of European powers' ambitions in the form of infrastructure and borrowed language: English lurks within the Menorquín tongue. Its burden, in a way, lies with toponymy. It has been saddled with the title of being minor. Geographically it obviously is. But culturally it has been made aware of its place. The major island to its south has always dominated.

They say that it is the oldest island in the Balearics, with a geological history starting some 410 million years ago. Some also say it is the oldest in civilisation terms. Maybe, maybe not. Archaeologists and anthropologists will argue that case until the final herd of autochthonous cows is brought home and provides the raw material of its famous cheese, though the cows are arguably less famed than the hens. Menorca's capital has (perhaps) given the world a generic product: mayonnaise. Not even Palma can boast that.

The minor island naturally attracts fewer tourists than the major island. And the stress is very much on the fewer. According to numbers in the Balearic Tourism Agency's yearbook, the total number of tourists in 2016 was 1,440,036; Mallorca received just under eleven million. This total shows a very different profile in terms of country of origin. The Spanish and the British accounted for very similar proportions of the tourist total - both around the 36% mark (523,216 in the case of the British, fewer than a thousand more than the Spanish). British representation in Mallorca was 21%; Spanish only 11%. By way of further comparison, Menorca's total visitor number in 2016 was only 48% of that of Ibiza and Formentera combined.

Menorca doesn't shout its existence or have it shouted on its behalf. There are no salacious headlines. There is no Magalluf or Playa de Palma. There are no tribes of international DJs flocking to its shores as they do to Ibiza's. Menorca is easy to overlook, which will be why many of the 1.44 million like it, one imagines. But being overlooked can mean being forgotten.

Towards the end of January 2012, Spanair ceased operations. By April of that year the president of the island's hoteliers association, Ashome, was holding talks with the Balearic government about the airline's "disappearance". He said at the time that Menorca had been all but cut off from Madrid because of Spanair's collapse. Other airlines were to take up the slack but they were attracted mostly by that 36% of Spanish tourism, mostly all of it crammed into three to four months in the summer. Did the talks with the government achieve anything? Well, no.

In percentage if not real terms, Menorca has higher hotel occupancy than Mallorca in October. The island's small-scale tourism does quite well from its October trade trade. So the collapse of Monarch is going to make a significant difference. The airline was more important to Menorca than it was to Mallorca: the second highest carrier from the UK and the seventh highest in all. Ashome reckons that the collapse will leave an economic hole of at least 800,000 euros, to which some more will be added because hotels haven't yet quantified the losses.

This may not sound like a vast amount, but for the island's October business it is still something of a disaster. An airline going bust isn't a natural phenomenon, but an airline - one as important as Monarch was to Menorca - is a source of general economic well-being. When Mallorca's potato fields are flooded, the calls for aid go out and there are worries about exports and Mallorca's balance of trade. Does Menorca not deserve a slight consideration because of manmade wreckage? All that one hears from the Balearic government is "concern" at the Monarch demise, and this is despite the transport minister, Marc Pons, being Menorcan.

The government hasn't as yet come to a definitive decision on the doubling of the tourist tax in winter. Més in Menorca has called for a freezing because the island can do with all the help it can get in the off-season. There should be a decision to freeze the tax, even if it is just for Menorca alone. Were there to be, then it might demonstrate more than just the easily expressed "concern". Menorca is too easily forgotten.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 October 2017

Morning high (6.53am): 13.4C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 13 October - Sun, 26C; 14 October - Sun, 26C; 15 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3, occasionally Northeast.

Happy National Day. Sun all the way, quite possibly also in Catalonia.

Evening update (20.15): High of 27.6C.

Flying Flags: National Day

Today, 12 October, is a national holiday. It is Spain's National Day, a celebration rooted, oddly enough, not in Spain but in Argentina. In 1913, there was the first Fiesta de la Raza - the festival of the race, the Spanish race. This fiesta grew out of what was already a celebration in Buenos Aires for Columbus. Today is symbolic in different ways - National Day, Columbus's discovery of an island that he thought must have been near China, the day of the Virgen del Pilar (Spain's female patron saint) and the day of the Guardia Civil. Given events in Catalonia, you couldn't conceive of a day that is more symbolic.

The old festival of the race became the Día de la Hispanidad - a global event in honour of Spanishness, with all its faded imperial glory. The 1913 fiesta was fifteen years after the terminal blows to Spanish imperialism that were inflicted by the Americans. The Caribbean and The Philippines would never be the same. One hundred and four years on from that first fiesta, it might be argued that this imperialism is once more faltering - Catalonia (some of it) wants away.

Amidst all the angst, posturing and navel-gazing surrounding Catalonia and its desire to leave the Spanish Empire, there is a subtext of a race nature. The Catalans, and it isn't the other way round, have been characterised by some commentators as racists. One should qualify this by saying that some Catalans have been characterised in this fashion, those who seemingly - so the argument goes - consider themselves superior to the Spanish. Racism and xenophobia have been allowed to consume the secessionist tendency: racism and xenophobia directed at an inferior race, the Spanish.

Where do such notions spring from? To an extent they are manifestations of a moral superiority founded on centuries of victimhood. Yet curiously, the same victimhood does not reveal itself in demands for independence in the likes of Aragon or the Balearics (despite what Més might think). If any region really has a claim, then it is Aragon, which did after all hold the crown of which Catalonia was once a part.

It also comes from perceptions of greater culture, greater sophistication, greater entrepreneurialism. Catalonia was fundamental to Spain's emergence as an economic power. It was not a region lumbered with idleness. It is not an Andalusia, with which there has long been an antagonism and one which, for a good period of the twentieth century, had strong racist connotations.

The Catalans, those who identify squarely with Catalonia as opposed to those who do not, are therefore a race apart: the un-Spanish Spanish. The Fiesta de la Raza is someone else's national day, someone else's race.

Yet really it's all about regional rivalries that extend way back when. History, to be honest, can at times get extraordinarily tiresome. But Catalonia and the Catalans aren't the only ones to perceive themselves as different. What is this Spanishness within Spain that is celebrated? Like other countries, it is a combination of old cultures, such as the Basques (who've been doing a reasonable job at keeping their heads down just lately) and the Galicians. Spain and Spanishness are thus historical accidents, conveniences, contrivances. But the same can be said for most countries.

While most of Spain will wave its flag today and line up against the treacherous Catalans, in the Balearics there is the mini-me of Catalonia. Independence-driven Catalans look upon the Balearics with a patronising and wonky Oriol Junqueras eye. The Balearics are good Catalans, when of course the great majority are no such thing. But the Balearics are cousins (inferior? cousins) for the fomenting. Division with Spain needs an outlet beyond the borders of Catalonia. The Balearics provide an outlet. Or at least a small minority might believe so.

There is of course division. We've witnessed it on the streets. On Saturday there was the unedifying but somewhat bizarre sight of a one-time Partido Popular president of the Balearics defending his stall with Mallorcan sovereignty literature. Cristòfol Soler is now a supporter of independence. The stall was attacked by Joan Font of Sa Fundació Jaume III: "We are Mallorcans, we are not Catalans." Mallorcans but also Spaniards.

Font has caused a bit of embarrassment for the university because he's a teacher there. The university wishes to declare its neutrality, which was why the dean of the philosophy and letters faculty, Miquel Deyá (a one-time director of universities for the PP), took down two independence flags, only to then be branded a fascist. Deyá was part of the education ministry when schools placed Catalan flags on buildings in defiance of José Ramón Bauzá. And now, Ciudadanos, whose leader has been willing Rajoy to adopt Article 155, are denouncing indoctrination of an independence nature in Balearic schools.

Division, but in truth only small. Which flags will fly in Mallorca today?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 11 October 2017

Morning high (6.24am): 14.1C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 4
Three-day forecast: 12 October - Sun, 25C; 13 October - Sun, 26C; 14 October - Sun, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 2 to 3, at times Variable.

Today and up to the weekend an at present settled outlook of sun with occasional cloud.

Evening update (20.15): Nice. High of 27.4C.

Victory Into Defeat: Economic Ingratitude

While the world, some of it, waits with trepidation to see if Mariano Rajoy pushes the Article 155 nuclear button and constitutionally annexes Catalonia, a far smaller part of the world may have been unaware of Rajoy imperialist intervention in the Balearics. This didn't cause ripples to turn into independence-affirming tidal waves washing across from Barcelona, as it was all on account of this imperialism having been confined to the singularly dull political hold exerted over the Balearic accounts. Yes, in the political world, even one as insane as Spain's, accounting is as yawn-inducing as it is in the real world.

The Balearic government had been in the process of edging towards its own Article 155 - the average number of days to pay suppliers. The halfway mark was breached in July last year: 83 days and going up. It was at this point that the Rajoy imperialist finance legion marched on the regional accounts and occupied them. Did anyone really notice? Well no, because no one was remotely bothered, with the exception of suppliers suffering serious cash flow crises thanks to the Balearic administration.

The quest for budgetary stability, an issue of mind-numbing tedium equal to anything that accounting can offer, was the reason. Stability included the hitherto alien concept of paying people with something approaching reasonable alacrity. So persuasive was the finance legion that within twelve months of its occupation, the accounts revealed that average payment time was more than a quarter of what it had been. The transformation has been such that there has to be more of an explanation than that the government's purchase ledger clerks had been roused from their comas. Might one therefore offer the prospect of a better financing deal from Madrid as the real reason? One might well do so.

Tough though it currently is to love anything Rajoyist hovering above the Balearic administration, there is the realpolitik of finally securing this damn financing deal. If it were to be obtained, we should all be extremely grateful. We wouldn't have to listen to the government going on about it on every available occasion. Or would we? Well we would, because triumphalism and an upcoming election would mean it being shouted from here until May 2019.

For those who believe that the Partido Popular will simply just have to show up at the next election and expect to be able to move into the Consolat del Mar government HQ electorally unmolested, I would advise some caution. On the principle that the voter is mainly interested in the economy alone, then quite remarkably the PSOE-led pact has achieved the seemingly impossible. It hasn't made a total pig's ear of things.

The irony is that it has little or nothing to do with the government as such. It can thank Madrid for being able to now boast that it takes three weeks to pay up when it used to take three months. A control of public finances, notwithstanding the massive debt of course, is due to exigencies from Madrid. And if Madrid goes all soft and delivers that Holy Grail of a better financing deal, then the Rajoy administration will truly have helped Armengol to a second term. Having itself done virtually nothing, the pact can claim economic responsibility and economic success.

There are other ironies, none more obvious than the fact that Balearic economic growth and improved employment stats owe virtually everything to what the government now considers a curse - a tourism boom that put the boom in the economic boom. It wasn't anything else and it wasn't anything that the government had any part in. It just happened.

Given all this, what could possibly go wrong and mean a clutching of 2019 electoral defeat from the jaws of victory? Well, there is that growth. There may just be more of a slowdown than forecasters suggest. Why? Because of government policy to attempt to turn boom into bust. Showing its total lack of gratitude for something it wasn't responsible for, by instituting certain tourism policies - and we all know which ones - the government may well just signal its own downfall.

And then there are the realities of growth and economic recovery on the streets and in the households. The latest Gadeso survey of the public's confidence in the economy reveals only marginal gains in some aspects. A mere 17% of households classify their financial status as good. Three-quarters of respondents say that salaries are not good enough. More still point to the proliferation of temporary jobs.

The government might hope that the wage deal for the hotel sector will provide a brighter outlook, but the fact is that the government in itself has had minimal impact on citizen well-being. And that wage deal may prove to be less of a winner next year than the government might wish, thanks to the only real influence it is now exerting on the economy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 10 October 2017

Morning high (6.28am): 14.1C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 11 October - Cloud, sun, 26C; 12 October - Sun, 25C; 13 October - Sun, cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3.

Chilly start. Sunny with cloudy spells. All is normal.

Evening update (20.30): Pretty good - high of 26.6C.

Article Of Faith: Climate Change Law

Joan Groizard Payeras is a departmental director-general with the Balearic government. His brief CV on the government's website tells us that he received a masters in energy engineering and the environment from Cambridge and that he has been a consultant to and engineer with energy companies, with a particular emphasis on renewables. It's pretty impressive and one cannot therefore quibble with his credentials for being the director-general for energy and climate change within the ministry for land, energy and transport.

The government has informed us that it will be introducing pioneering legislation on climate change. We already know a direction in which the government is going on this. The increased use of renewables (solar) is a key policy. As to most other aspects, we will need to wait until the draft legislation is presented in order to gain an appreciation of this pioneering initiative. It will need to demonstrate greater originality than a shift to renewables to fall into the pioneering category, albeit that placing solar at the centre of the energy agenda will represent a pioneering move in the Balearics. It has taken a stupidly long time to get around to the exploitation of a natural resource we have in abundance glaring down on these islands and one, moreover, that isn't in any immediate danger of disappearing.

The irony with solar energy is that ever more of it is going to be required over the next decades. That's because the source of the energy is going to make everywhere that much hotter. Climate change policy can therefore take a positive from the sun being a supplier of energy for air-conditioning in order to offset the negative of the sun being so damned hot and reducing the islands to an almost permanent state of drought, or at least the victims of prolonged heat waves.

Groizard was last week presenting some conclusions from the first study to be made of climate change vulnerability. The Balearics, it has been noted in various reports of a scientific variety, are going to be particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change; if they aren't already. Studying this vulnerability seems like a good start, but what did he have to tell us? In truth, nothing that we don't already know or would have guessed. More violent storms, greater risks of flooding and landslides, drought, heat waves, rising sea level, impact on infrastructure and buildings.

What is this legislation likely to be? It is tempting to think that its pioneering quality will be confined to the fact that nowhere else has actually passed a law which specifically states climate change in its title. For a government as virtuous as the current one, it would be a feather in an already environmentally plumed cap to lay claim to such legislative innovation. This assessment, however, does rather dilute the role that Groizard has and is presumably playing. He isn't a civil servant, he's an expert; that's why he's director-general.

The problem, though, is the political nature of climate change. I think by now we are familiar enough with the arguments, so for a government such as the one we have at the moment, having a department bearing the title climate change, enacting legislation called climate change are indications of its political view of the issue. But not everyone of course agrees.

Rod Liddle is someone who can typically be relied upon to stoke an argument. Writing in The Times recently, he wasn't denying climate change - "I can see (the climate) doing its stuff outside my window" - but he made a point, as if it was really again needed, that "climate change proponents are required to hype up the rhetoric, to provide politicians with suitably scary predictions". He was referring in particular to scientific experts and to, for example, university departments being dubbed climate change. Once you have these, climate change becomes an article of faith and spawns what it does - policy initiatives, taxes and a lucrative industry.

In a similar fashion, if you have a government department with the title, it's highly unlikely that its expert director-general is going to tell ministers that climate change needn't cause sleepless nights. And I say this with the greatest respect for Groizard.

With certain policies, like solar, they just seem common sense. Exploit the sun, and stop polluting everywhere with contaminants and emissions. Likewise with stopping anchorage on posidonia and preventing harm to the marine environment. Posidonia's benefits in terms of preventing erosion and lessening the impact of CO2 are a bonus. One can and should accept this, but in other respects there are doubts. Will this pioneering legislation, as an example, set in motion an ultimate process of urban relocation away from more vulnerable areas? It has to be a possibility. But at what cost? To whom and to where? Yet uncertainty would determine such a policy. Wouldn't it?

Monday, October 09, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 9 October 2017

Morning high (7.03am): 14.3C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 10 October - Cloud, sun, 25C; 11 October - Sun, 26C; 12 October - Sun, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 2 to 3.

Some cloud today but mainly sunny. Tomorrow may see the odd shower. Rest of the week looking pretty good.

Evening update (20.00): High of 24.8C. Decent day until clouding over in the afternoon.

Computing And Helicopters: Mallorcan Science

Researchers at the University of the Balearic Islands were able to take pride last week in their having contributed to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physics. The Ligo project for the detection of gravitational waves and therefore an understanding of the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang is an example of pure scientific research. Ligo wasn't an invention. It was a massive scientific endeavour conceived over decades that was aimed at testing an element of Einstein's theory of relativity - the existence of gravitational waves. The principal source of funding was the US National Science Foundation.

Societies and cultures play a vital role in the extent to which scientific and technological research and the application of science in the form of inventions or theories that may have practical outcomes can flourish or not. The history of the past eight hundred years or so demonstrates how science can be enabled or disabled by its societies.

The programme for the current series of autumn fairs in Llucmajor features as its key image a drawing of a cometagiroavion, a comet-giro-plane. At the Sant Bonaventura Culture Centre in Llucmajor is a full-scale re-creation of this machine. People in Llucmajor, people in Mallorca will insist that it was the first helicopter, the visionary idea of Pere Sastre Obrador that dates from 1923.

Argument has raged for many years about the apparent plagiarism of Sastre's invention. Juan de la Cierva y Cordorníu is attributed with the invention of the "autogiro". He was the son of the Spanish minister for development, who had decided that Sastre's flying machine lacked "public interest". Argument or not, Sastre provided a rare case of Mallorcan invention. As a society, Mallorca doesn't have much of a past in this respect. Only recently has it embraced a genuinely scientific perspective, and the university's Relativity and Gravitation Group is absolute proof of that.

But if one goes back into the mists of time to mediaeval days, Mallorca did have an inventor. Ramon Llull is known for many things, and among them was what he developed, largely theoretically, in his Arte Luliano. Llull came up with the notion of the combination of symbols to enable knowledge and understanding of more complex concepts. As such, Llull was a very early mover in the development of computing and of notions that were to be elaborated in the seventeenth century by Gottfried Wilhem Leibniz.

At a much higher level of argument than that surrounding Sastre's helicopter has been the one about the development of differential and integral calculus. Leibniz is said to have come to his theories entirely independently of Isaac Newton. Some will say that he didn't. Regardless of this debate, Leibniz, like Newton, was very much a precursor of Einstein and therefore the Ligo project in arguing principles of relativity. He also invented the Leibniz wheel which was to eventually spawn the arithmometer, the first mass-produced mechanical calculator. Moreover, he refined the binary system, the basis of computing.

The Leibniz wheel has distinct echoes of Llull, who had come up with the Llullian circle of truths. In this regard, it is not unreasonable to grant Llull an important place in the history of scientific development that has brought us to the current-day digital world. But Llull remains a largely obscure figure in global terms. His science has not commanded any great acknowledgement for a variety of reasons. One is that he was also a purveyor of scientific charlatanism, i.e. alchemy. A second is that within the Catholic tradition he did not always enjoy unanimous support and continued not to for several centuries. Indeed, he was denounced as a heretic by some because of his dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He was able to flourish largely thanks to the patronage of the early Catalan kings rather than because of any favouritism among the papal hierarchy.

Catholicism explains more about Llull in that it was to fundamentally inhibit rational scientific thought and advance. Newton and Leibniz were of a similar vintage to Galileo, who spent the last ten years of his life under house arrest after the Inquisition had condemned him for heresy. The contrasting societies of the times in England, Germany and Italy say a great deal. An earlier free thinker, Leonardo da Vinci (who of course had his own idea for a flying machine), had powerful friends and patrons, e.g. the Medici family. He might have had far more problems than he did, had it not been for who he knew.

It wasn't as though Spain didn't have its centres of great learning, but the contribution to science was restricted by societal attitudes based on a conservative religion. Mallorca, a backwater anyway, offered no great claim on science or on invention. But then Pere Sastre came along, and - subject to an interpretation of events - he was a victim of a form of corruption and nepotism: his idea for a helicopter was stolen by a political elite in Madrid.

* Photo of the re-created cometagiroavion via Ajuntament de Llucmajor.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 8 October 2017

Morning high (7.00am): 12.4C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 9 October - Cloud, sun, 24C; 10 October - Cloud, sun, 25C; 11 October - Sun, cloud, 26C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 2.

Autumn's here. First real chilly morning. Sunny spells later.

Evening update (20.00): High of 27.1C. Not bad. Cloud and sun mix.

Khaleesi Of Podemos

Now, it is just conceivable that, because of the spot of bother there's been in Catalonia, you were unaware of a referendum closer to home; if you are one of those who chooses to call Mallorca and the Balearics home, that is. This was the citizens' referendum for Podemos. The faithful were called upon to select the successor to Alberto Jarabo as gen-sec in the Balearics.

Prior to the fateful deed being done, The Four Feminists Of The Apparatchik (i.e. the candidates) communed with the citizens in a room at Palma's CineCiutat. I know I've suggested that Laura Camargo could get a part in a David Lynch film, but this hardly inspired confidence. I mean, it's not as though the cinema's that big in the first place. One room? How few citizens could there have been?

Anyway, they were presented one by one: María Asunción Jacoba Pía de la Concha García-Mauriño (and yes, she is just one); our good friend The Boot Girl, Laura; Cristina Gómez; and, erm, a bloke called Jorge Sans. I think you can probably guess that Jorge was on to a bit of a loser, which proved to be the case (3.1% of the vote). Still, he tried manfully, or should one say, womanfully, in insisting that he represented the candidacy of "the bases", which is the arcane term they use for meaning supporters. Jorge added that a new stage was starting for Podemos: one of union to win the 2019 elections, of recovering "visibility" on the streets" and of being "well feminised".

In this regard, Jorge was unlikely to have ever really made it off the starting blocks. He did have one very slight disadvantage - being a he. Therefore, he was somewhat out of place when the foursome had a "femi-café" (whatever that is) prior to their presentations to the citizens. As to visibility, it's reasonable to assume that Jorge will remain largely invisible, which is not what can be said for Granny Mae. Yes, María Asunción Jacoba Pía de la Concha García-Mauriño (for she is Granny Mae) limped to victory: 47.6% of the vote. Jorge had been put firmly in his feminist place, but The Boot Girl was a mere six per cent behind as Granny crossed the finishing line.

The result will have had capitalists breathing a sigh of relief. Granny is from the Jarabo wing of not being entirely anti-capitalist, unlike Laura, who is - and 101 per cent so. The spectre of leading hoteliers being shackled by the wrists and ankles  and frogshuffled off to re-education camps in fields in the general vicinity of Sineu was thus averted.

And what did Laura make of it all? Well, prior to the vote, she had said that they should all go forward side by side. "The collective is greater than the individual (she must have known something) and let's not elbow each other." Quite. Stick the boot in instead. Which is rather what Granny Mae achieved - just about.

Granny's victory does require some explaining. Laura is, after all, very much better known. She spends every breathing parliamentary moment berating anyone she claps eyes on, a terrifying experience that turns all pro-capitalist anti-feminists into gibbering wrecks. With such credentials, surely she should have cleaned up the vote. Ah yes, but we shouldn't perhaps have underestimated the wise summary of The Judge.

Juan Pedro Yllanes, you may have forgotten, was a senior judge. So senior was he, that he was originally going to have been the presiding judge at the Princess Cristina-Iñaki trial. He opted instead to get elected to Congress for Podemos, and his views come with the forensic insight one might expect of his profession. He delivered his verdict. Laura's project was one integrated with the United Left (communists) and anti-capitalists: it was one of "pure extremism". Ouch. Moreover, said The Judge, Laura has no intention of actually formally joining and being a part of the Balearic government. Granny, on the other hand, does have such an intention, which will either sound like good or bad news: the latter, if you happen to be President Armengol. 

Meanwhile, it would seem that we are going to have to get used to Granny Mae adopting an alternative moniker. I give you, in all seriousness, Khaleesi. Yes, according to her support base, she is "our Khaleesi". For any of you unfamiliar with this reference, it is to Daenerys Targaryen ­Khaleesi, the character played by Emilia Clarke in Game Of Thrones. And if you are also therefore unfamiliar with what Emilia looks like, then I recommend that you Google her.

Why is Granny Mae their Khaleesi? Well, notwithstanding the fact that she bears absolutely no resemblance to Emilia, there is the small matter of Khaleesi being the Mother of Dragons. Respect does prevent me from making any comment about old dragons or Peggy Mount, but let us therefore assume that fire will be breathed. Oh dear, Francina, consensus and dialogue won't be much defence when that happens.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 7 October 2017

Morning high (6.15am): 19.6C
Forecast high: 23C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 8 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 9 October - Cloud, 24C; 10 October - Cloud, sun, 24C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 6 to 7 easing 3 to 4 during the morning.

Windy to start with. Dropping off later. Sunny day expected. Sunday looks decent.

Always The Tourism Ministry

During the PSOE-led government between 2007 and 2011, there were four tourism ministers. Three of them were with the now defunct Unió Mallorquina, which was brought down by corruption scandals. Two of the three - Francesc Buils and Miquel Nadal - were sent to prison. They are still there.

The tourism ministry was at the heart of much the corruption that engulfed that government. The UM was ultimately thrown out of the coalition by PSOE. Two agencies within the ministry - Ibatur (tourism promotion) and Inestur (tourism research) - were wound up as a result of the corruption. They were replaced by one new body - the Balearic Tourism Agency. Its current director, Pere Muñoz, now faces criminal proceedings. He is one of five people to be cited in the case of the Més contracts that were awarded to Jaume Garau, the party's campaign manager and "guru" for the 2015 elections. The tourism ministry is not the only one affected, as the other three officials (Garau is the fifth person to be cited) were from the transparency and culture ministry. But in the case of Muñoz, he is the only one still holding his position. He may not be for much longer.

The contracts affair, in terms of the money involved, is not in the same league as what the UM used to get up to. One has felt that rather too much has been made of it, but the political climate being as it is, any whiff of corruption is now pounced upon. And that brings the tourism minister and government vice-president, Biel Barceló, firmly into the equation. He hasn't been cited. Had he been, then all hell would have been let loose. But there are those who will now be gunning for him again - Podemos and the Partido Popular in particular.

To make matters worse, there are the accusations that the tourism director-general, Pilar Carbonell, acted in a favourable manner towards the Cursach Group. The versions of events differ. The tourism ministry offers one, the judge investigating Cursach and police corruption suggests that there is another. The ministry, and to therefore be fair to Carbonell, is right when it says that there are typically communications with businesses over the winter months regarding the expediting of building work. In this respect, it would have been no particular surprise that Carbonell was in contact with Tolo Sbert from Cursach. 

As Cursach is involved, the case has inevitably been blown up, especially as the court account appears to suggest that a processing on behalf of Cursach (work at MegaPark) took only two weeks over a Christmas period from the time of contact between Sbert and Carbonell. The conversation between the two, reproduced in the media, is also somewhat damning insofar as it suggests how compliant Carbonell was. Més are themselves investigating what happened. And then there is also the fact that Carbonell has been summoned to appear in court later this month in a case involving a petrol station on the Son Bugadelles industrial estate in Santa Ponsa. This refers to a time when she didn't have any public office.

All of this is now circling around Biel Barceló. Muñoz is an old friend and political sparring partner. Carbonell wasn't his first choice as director-general; Garau was. He needs all of this like a hole in the head, given what he has on his plate in tourism policy terms and that he is due to be in London next month for the World Travel Market. Meanwhile, the knives are being sharpened.

Friday, October 06, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 6 October 2017

Morning high (5.45am): 14.4C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 7 October - Sun, cloud, wind, 23C; 8 October - Sun, cloud, 25C; 9 October - Cloud, 22C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3 veering Northeast 4 to 5 during the morning.

Rain quite possible today and getting windy by the evening. An alert for high winds increasing to amber overnight, then easing. Tomorrow due to be sunny though.

Evening update (20.00): No rain. Much better than forecast until clouding over late in the afternoon. High of 28.1C.

In A Crisis Way

There have always been crises. Suez had its crisis, Cuban missiles had their crisis. Oil had a crisis. But in a less media frenetic age crises seemed to somehow stand out more. They really were crises. They could command attention as single events. Crisis wasn't all around. It was in one place at one time.

Crisis, to borrow a phrase of the moment, is the new normal. In truth, it's the old normal. It's just that crisis wasn't as all pervading as it can appear to be now. Welcome to the world of crisis. Nothing is secure. Nothing is as you would like it to be. Nothing is normal. And, to paraphrase another maxim (one originated, probably, by The Firesign Theatre), nothing you know is right. Everything you know is wrong, primarily because what you thought you knew is fake - fake news.

Perhaps current crises are themselves fake. There is a collective imagination that perceives them like they are simulations. They don't really exist. Crisis is a requirement of political power. Big Brother invents crises as means of consolidating power, but then Big Brother may not himself have existed. We are not all Winston Smith.

The crises are not inventions. They are a question of degree. They require adjectival modification. Are they major, are they minor? Regardless of scale, however, place them side by side and they surpass the major league. They enter mega territory. A collision of crises; crises of critical mass. Yet while they revolve around us, acquiring ever greater force, we carry on as normal, assuming we know what this normal is. In a crisis way, in a constant crisis way, it's hard to know for sure. Everything we know is not quite as it should be.

Economic crisis - the most recent one, that is - was not at one place at one time. Crises rarely do in fact occupy one time or place. They endure and they are diverse. That most recent economic crisis, despite greatly improved circumstance, still endures and it engulfs most territory and people along with it. Spain's economic crisis provided the context for political convulsion. We are experiencing the fallout from the explosion, or rather implosion. Podemos is a legacy of crisis and of heads being beaten in the squares occupied by the "indignados". The disruption of the political status quo was as much if not more a consequence of economic crisis as it was the abhorrence of corruption.

Nationally and regionally, the evidence is there to be seen and to be experienced. A Madrid government is inherently feeble thanks to that political convulsion. In the Balearics, the government hangs together with a constant whistling to keep up spirits to the tune of "consensus and dialogue". Crisis defines political administration, but even in its enfeebled state, this administration can broker greater crisis. It wills it upon itself in acts of securing power - the power of the state, the power of the nation.

In a Gladstone Irish way, Catalonia was a "question". A question, depending on escalation or de-escalation, can become a crisis or a solution. While still a question, economic crisis was a context for Catalonian demands for greater financial autonomy. The region, beset by debt and racking up ever more, sought a way out. It would be bought out with a higher slice of tax revenues. All the while, though, there lurked the possibility of independence crisis in the shadow of this Catalonian question. Escalation finally came. And it was a joker to be played by both sides. Now, the King has become embroiled. A crisis, which might have de-escalated had it not been for heads being broken with batons, has been permitted to escalate, to consume, to overtake. There's no faking the Catalonia crisis. There's no avoiding a sense that one side - Madrid - fabricated a crisis while lacking a popular mandate. That political convulsion had determined this. A crisis in the name of some of Spain but by no means all of it.

Practicalities can be neglected at such times. But for Catalonia there are significant ones. Its tourism stands to lose out to a far greater degree than because of an act of terror. International sympathy might lie with Barcelona and the Catalans, but sympathy can look the other way. There are so many options for the traveller. Yet he or she observes options being reduced. There is an unnerving sense of at least a "question" in the Balearics, the ultimate product of economic crisis, allied with the crisis of terrorism. The islands' government was moulded and shaped by that economic crisis. Its component parts are not equals. One part, PSOE, is as enfeebled as the PP in Madrid. It bows to the shadows in the dark of parliament's corridors and facilitates an incoherence of tourism policy that might just escalate.

Crisis is normal. And crisis is a continuum, the product of the controllable and of the out of control.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 5 October 2017

Morning high (5.58am): 15.3C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 6 October - Cloud, rain, 25C; 7 October - Sun, cloud, wind, 22C; 8 October - Cloud, 25C

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northwest 2 to 3 occasionally 4.

Should be in for another fine and sunny day. Tomorrow not.

Evening update (20.15): High of 28.9C. Good.

The Balearic Independence Myth

The gross domestic product of the Balearic Islands is around 27 billion euros - 27,000 million. This is roughly 12% the size of Catalonia's economy, which creates more than one-fifth of Spain's total GDP. If one wants other comparisons, Balearic GDP is lower than that of Sicily, of Sardinia and of the Canary Islands. By contrast, it is greater (by more than two times) than Malta.

In hypothetical terms, the Balearics could stand alone, but then one can say this for many regions in Europe. GDP reveals only so much. The nature of the economy is as important. The Balearics, and we are being constantly reminded of this, has an economic monoculture - tourism. Catalonia most definitely does not. Nor does Malta, what with, for example, its financial services; tourism's direct contribution to the Maltese economy is roughly a third of what it is in the Balearics.

Apart from a shared language, Catalonia and the Balearics form a fraternity based on perceived fiscal and financial injustice. Catalonia had wanted a different arrangement. It had wanted to be like the Basque Country (and Navarre). It had sought a system whereby it would keep all tax revenues - income tax and VAT - and then pay an agreed percentage to the state. Instead, it had to maintain the arrangement that exists for all Spain's regions, with the exception of the Basque Country and Navarre. Tax revenue is remitted to Madrid and is then paid back under the regional distribution system. The Balearics and Catalonia (and the Madrid region) lose out under this - they put more in than they receive. In other words, they help to subsidise the rest of Spain.

Setting aside all other considerations, Catalonia, in economic terms, is a viable state: very much a viable state. The same cannot be said for the Balearics. The numbers might look reasonable by comparison to, say, Malta, but they fail to hide the underlying weakness of the economy - it's that monoculture.

We have at present a collision of forces in the Balearics. One of these is the demand for diversification, a demand so old that it reinforces the questionability of how there can ever be meaningful diversification. The agitators provide absolutely no prescription. They argue in favour of a mostly blank sheet of paper. They offer no model to replace the apparently discredited model which obtains at present, save for vague allusions to new and information technologies.

The second force is sovereignty, or at least a force emanating from certain quarters - Més most obviously. David Abril, the chief promoter of a referendum of independence by 2030, says that 2030 is not far away. He's right, it isn't far away. He might hope that over this comparatively short timeframe the monoculture can be meaningfully diversified. Because if it isn't, any referendum would be predicated on dangerous economic grounds.

The third force is what has been happening in Catalonia, which has helped to motivate Més into issuing its clarion call for independence. Here is further fraternity, that of sovereignty of the components of the Catalan Lands, even if this fraternity is more mythical than real.

The last time that the Gadeso research foundation conducted a survey into identity was in September 2015. It discovered that 38% of respondents were in favour of the current system of autonomous government in the Balearics. This was the highest percentage of six options. Only four per cent were in favour of being given the chance to opt for independence. When asked whether they felt more Spanish or more Balearic, 51% rated this equally. Only Més and El Pi voters said they felt more Balearic than Spanish or just Balearic: El Pi is a sort of centre-right version of Més in terms of nationalist leanings. Neither party can point to high levels of popular support: Més 13.8% of the vote for the regional government in 2015; El Pi 7.96%.

The next question was island-specific. Do you identify most with the Balearics, your own island or with the Catalan Lands? Overwhelmingly, and in each case, it was with the individual island. Identity with the Catalan Lands was no more than two per cent.

These findings invalidate the Més proposition. Independence is not wished for. Being somehow beholden to Catalonia is most certainly rejected. The concept of the Balearics as a social entity is also highly questionable. The individual islands have long had their own identity. Even the granting of autonomy in 1983 didn't produce wild scenes of joy on the streets. Regional government is an administrative function as much if not more than any expression of identity.

A colossal change in attitude would be needed in the space of seventeen years if Més were to achieve its ambition. Just as significantly, there would need to be a major restructuring of the economic base by 2030 in order to make an independent Balearics even vaguely sensible as a separate economic entity. It's not going to happen.