Saturday, October 07, 2017

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.

No comments: