Friday, September 30, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Meliá plans a revolution for Magalluf

Meliá Hotels International have announced that their plans for redeveloping three hotels in Magalluf will go very much further. Seven hotels are included in a scheme that will see two or three converted for residential, condohotel use (one of them, the Sol Jamaica, will be demolished and rebuilt) as well as a new boulevard, a beach club and installations for cycling tourism. The company envisages an initial investment of 135 million euros in what is a highly ambitious scheme to regenerate one of Mallorca's main resorts.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 September 2011

A sunny morning in parts but with a fair amount of heavy cloud hovering over the Tramuntana mountains. A high at 09:00 of 21 degrees with the mid-twenties forecast for later. But the question will be where the rains falls - if it falls - given that a yellow alert has been put out. Saturday's general forecast had suggested it would be dry, but the rain chart shows the likelihood of heavy falls at some stage right across the island.

Warm again, up to 26 degrees, and sunny once the early cloud went. Still not entirely clear where this "weather" is supposed to be or supposed to be going. Locally, it all seems ok for the weekend.

MALLORCA TODAY - Luxury hotel complex for Capdepera

The Canyamel area of Capdepera, on the east coast of Mallorca, is to be the site of a luxury hotel complex, to be built entirely with Arab money, in the style of a Mallorcan village. The operator will be Hyatt International. The project, which has been on the cards for some time, envisages a complex of 142 rooms or apartments plus restaurants and other facilities and should be operating by 2014.

Kicking Off: Cuts, Catalan and Conflict

I know, I know. I should write about turquoise seas, dramatic mountain landscapes, quaint old Mallorcans acting traditionally. I should use the "beautiful" word. I should consult only my tourism brochure thesaurus, litter my every sentence with superlatives. I know, I know.

"What me? Write about politics?" "Yea, as if you don't". Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one who's interested. But then I know I am not, as I correspond with those who make it clear that I am not alone. "It's all going to kick off." "No, it won't kick off." I wish I could share such optimism. It was a pessimistic view that had made me suggest it would kick off. It had been half-joking, but only where one of the rescue agencies was concerned. "The Royal Navy and Ryanair repatriating us all." Pull the short straw and there would be O'Leary kicking you back down the steps if you dared to bring on excess baggage, your dearest possessions stashed inside a hurriedly-packed old suitcase.

Will it kick off? When will it kick off? What will be the starting-point for it to kick off? Or perhaps it already has in an as yet quiet way.

You can't blame Bauzá and his government for some of it. These government public companies, for example; what on earth were they all doing? Four or five of them with IT included in their titles. Was it possible that they were duplicating information technology effort? Very likely. The Balearics Tourism Agency is to be combined with the Foundation for Sustainable Development after all. What will become of the foundation's Jorge Campos? He'll probably be kept on. He and Bauzá are chums.

Ninety-two of these companies are to go, along with 800 jobs. Shame for the workers, but what was the point of them? The point seemed to be that it cost over 100 million euros a year to employ them.

The unions are making noises, but then unions always make noises. They are threatening "permanent conflict" if the government doesn't back down on its promise to get rid of the full-time union worker representatives in public administration. It won't back down. Permanent conflict. Will it come? Has it arrived? Has the kicking-off started?

The university hasn't got money to pay salaries. Its financial situation, poor anyway, has got worse. It's short of 20 million of government cash. Its budget had already been cut by 12%. How much more can it lose? Students, always students, gave Bauzá a hard time when he put in an appearance, not just about money but also about the attacks on the use of Catalan. The Obra Cultural Balear is going to take the attacks on Catalan to Europe. Cuts and the language thing. They are a powerful cocktail.

The cuts have only just begun though. There need to be more. Without them, the pharmacists, still owed millions, the constructors, still owed millions, will strike or close or do whatever it takes to get their money from a government with no money.

Because there isn't any money. Well, there's some. Some lurking somewhere. In the nick of time, Palma town hall has found some to put into the coffers of the city's transport service operator, so that wages can be paid. There had been a delay in payment. The workers protested at the town hall, as they have every right to. But what's to become of Palma town hall? It needs to find 42.6 million euros to pay banks by the end of December. If it doesn't, what then? It'll scrape by somehow, only to fight a losing battle later. And remember that thing about the Palacio de Congresos being a bottomless pit. When, if, it is finished next year and is meant to be under Palma's administration, there won't be any money in the bottom of the pit to maintain it.

Things are falling apart. The centre cannot hold. The centre holds only in that central office of the Partido Popular is instructing the Balearic Government. Former President Antich, remember him, and none of this is of course any of his doing, has described Bauzá as being on the radical right, and it's not a compliment. He has also said that the regional government is a subsidiary of central office. What's that? I think I've been saying this. For some time. Give me back my line, Antich.

Is that when it really kicks off? After the national elections? Or what about at the start of November? All those unemployment queues at the end of the season. All those people snaking along the street, demanding their winter payment from the government. From a government with no money. They should get a job. Where? All the hotels are closed. The airlines have stopped running. Does it all really kick off before Christmas? And what of Christmas? Will it be cancelled?

I know, I know. I should write about turquoise seas, dramatic mountain landscapes. Lose myself and lose you in a land where the sun always shines. It was nice while it lasted.

Any comments to please.

Index for September 2011

Alcúdia tourist day - 9 September 2011
August's tourists - 2 September 2011
Balearic Government, questions about spending by previous - 20 September 2011
Bellevue to be split in two - 4 September 2011
Bullfight in Barcelona, last - 23 September 2011
Burka ban in Sa Pobla - 3 September 2011
Celebrities - 19 September 2011
Constitution and budgetary stability - 13 September 2011
Cuts, public sector - 30 September 2011
Drinking and youth tourism - 16 September 2011
Drowning, weever fish and the sea - 14 September 2011
Fractional ownership and condohotels - 27 September 2011
GOB - 1 September 2011
Hundred days, Bauzá's first - 26 September 2011
Insult of President Bauzá by "L'Estel" magazine - 18 September 2011
Jorge Campos and Foundation for Sustainable Development - 25 September 2011
Madness at Mallorca Rocks - 11 September 2011
Melon fiesta, Vilafranca - 6 September 2011
Oktoberfests, Mallorca - 29 September 2011
Playa de Muro empty units - 21 September 2011
Playa de Palma survey - 28 September 2011
Political make believe in Mallorca and Spain - 24 September 2011
Return to school - 10 September 2011
Rugby World Cup - 7 September 2011
Smells of summer - 5 September 2011
Sports teams and tourism promotion - 22 September 2011
Tourism degree, Universitat de les Illes Balears - 8 September 2011
Tourism: necessity for change - 17 September 2011
Winter tourism - 12 September 2011
Worker representatives, elimination of - 15 September 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Aragonés in the frame at Real Mallorca

Luis Aragonés, former club coach and also the coach of Spain's 2008 World Cup-winning side, has been approached regarding the vacancy at Real Mallorca following the departure of Michael Laudrup. Meanwhile, ex-Spain centre back Miquel Angel Nadal, who is part of the club's set-up and is said to enjoy a good relationship with Aragonés, has taken temporary charge of the team for its away fixture against Osasuna on Saturday.

Update on this: Aragonés and assistants would apparently cost too much, so that's the end of him as a possible coach. Given Mallorca haven't got any money, strange they should have even thought he was a goer. Louis van Gaal is another one being mentioned, but he would be too expensive as well. Small club, ideas above its station.

MALLORCA TODAY - Drowning in Puerto Pollensa adds to a black season in Mallorca

A sixty-year-old German man drowned yesterday in Puerto Pollensa, one of three drownings in Mallorca on the same day; the others occurred in Porto Cristo and Playa de Palma. These added to what has become a bad season for drownings in Mallorca and the Balearics; the number is well up over last year. As with many of the drownings, the profile of the victims was similar in that they were all aged sixty or more.

Update on this: yet another drowning. A 78-year-old German woman in Can Picafort has drowned today. Advice: all people over the age of 60 stay out of the sea!

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 September 2011

The drops of rain yesterday amounted to little. Some haze this morning, but there will be plenty of sun. Early highs to 21 degrees and maximums again in the mid-twenties. The general outlook remains reasonable.

Pretty much a repeat of yesterday, with the high just under 26 degrees. Any bad weather that might have been on its way appears to have second thoughts. The forecast suggests that tomorrow and the weekend will be fine.

Further to this, it would seem that the met office issued a yellow alert for rain from 14:00 this afternoon in the Tramuntana mountains and that it expects rain in the mountains and in the south and interior of the island from 13:00 tomorrow. Well, there you go. It might rain, it might not.

Roll Out The Barrel: Mallorca's Oktoberfests

Drunken tourism. Scandalised though the tourism industry in parts of Mallorca is by buckets of booze and bingeing, it is still more than happy to sanction the intake of industrial quantities of beer in the form of "bierfests".

October is nearly upon us and so the Oktoberfests have already begun. And there will be not one, not two, but three: Peguera, Arenal and Palma. Drunken tourism is fine, so long as it has lager slopping over the veneer of tradition, albeit a German one.

Palma has joined the beer festival fray for the first time. It will be a gastronomic and cultural event, the town hall maintains, one that contributes to an ayuntamiento policy of leisure activities, 365 days a year, and so to a reduction of the impact of seasonality. Who are they kidding?

Shove the words "gastronomic" and "cultural" into a sentence and, bingo, you afford an event legitimacy in a peculiarly Mallorcan way, one which demands that events fall into on-message line with tourism of a gastronomic or cultural nature. Substitute the two words with drunken, and legitimacy is the last thing you get. But they amount to the same thing. The bierfest exists for one purpose and one purpose alone - to get absolutely slaughtered.

And what's with this reduction of the impact of seasonality business? The season is still with us, isn't it? Yes, but this outbreak of the rolling out of the Germanic beer barrel will mean more German tourists rolling in, thus ensuring the season does indeed extend beyond a September sell-by date.

Such optimism is based on a gargantuan German thirst for beer and hunger for schnitzel and wurst (which is what the gastronomy presumably refers to) and also on the fact that Mallorca, rather than either Bavaria or Baden-Württemberg, is the southerly most state of Germany. The Germans are as likely to gravitate to specific gravities in Mallorca as they are in Munich.

Well possibly. One great advantage of the Mallorca bierfests is that they go on beyond the Munich Oktoberfest. The Peguera fest, for example, doesn't start until a few days after Munich finishes, so it is definitely an Oktoberfest, whereas Munich's is a September-und-Oktoberfest. Palma's will last for a good week longer than Munich and Arenal's appears to go on forever. It's pretty much a case of being able to drink up in Munich, hop on an Air Berlin beer airbus and shuttle down to Palma in time to get the next round in; the timing of Mallorca's events allow for an entire month's worth of unbroken bierfesting.

But are tourists specifically attracted by the bierfests? In Peguera last year, 60% or so of the reservations in its 1,800 square metre tent (and they love to announce how big these tents are; Palma's is 1,125 square metres in case you're interested, which you almost certainly aren't) were from Spanish drinkers. And for the Spaniard, a bierfest is something of a drinking culture shock, presented as he or she would be by a vessel of a size more appropriate for putting flowers in rather than drinking from. Reporting of the Peguera event last year made a point of stressing that it wasn't possible to drink in a measure less than half a litre; the reporting had the hint of a warning for the average Spaniard schooled on the junior measures of the caña.

But then culture shock for the Spanish there should be, as the Oktoberfest is a cultural experience; Palma town hall says so. It is unlikely, though, that typical Bavarian culture will take hold among the locals. Don't expect the sale of dirndls to suddenly shoot up or for the local fiestas to dispense with pipers and whistlers and replace them with accordion and tuba players.

The Mallorca Oktoberfests aren't really to do with culture. They owe far more to an acknowledgement of the importance of the German market and, in the case of both Peguera and Arenal, that there are parts of Mallorca which will be forever and über alles Deutschland. In Palma, there is a further aspect. It's German culture that is costing the town hall barely a centimo.

One might be inclined to ask why it is that German culture can be exported and that of other countries, Britain for example, isn't. One might ask, but then one might also ask - "what culture"? The Germans have at least retained some. Moreover, there may be a lot of drinking involved in a bierfest, but when it comes to the real thing of drunken tourism, there is only one nation that does it properly. No prizes for guessing.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 September 2011

A largely cloudless start to the day with a high at 08:00 of 20 degrees. Some cloud is forecast to be around but otherwise sunny with the temperatures into the mid-twenties later on. Tomorrow and Friday seem ok, though Saturday still looks to hold more potential for a spot of rain.

Highs this afternoon have been just short of 26 degrees. Sunny, there isn't any obvious sign that the current pattern will change. The general forecast is pretty reasonable. (This just added, there are in fact a few drops of rain; so much for forecasts.)

The First And Last Resort

The resorts of Mallorca are not subject to detailed research into what visitors make of them. They should all be. Every year there should be surveys. What you get instead is a mass of anecdotes, snotty letters to an editor here or there, soundings-off on the internet and precious little, if anything, by way of a coherent response.

Of resorts that are put under the researchers' lens, only one (or, strictly speaking, three) is paid much attention to: Playa de Palma (along with Arenal and Can Pastilla). History decrees that it should be. This is where it pretty much all began; mass tourism, that is. The resort's antiquity affords it a special status, one that has meant to be bringing about its transformation.

The research organisation Gadeso was in Playa de Palma in 2009. It has been back again recently. The transformation of Playa de Palma can't come soon enough, it would appear. Excusing a touch of the dramatic, the introduction to Gadeso's 2011 survey states that "every day it becomes more urgent" to improve and modernise Mallorca's resorts, and Playa de Palma in particular.

It's not all bad news, unless you happen to run a hotel, tourist apartments or residential tourist accommodation. For each category, the level of satisfaction has gone down since 2009, and the all-inclusive rates lower than the other categories. It's not surprising: the restaurants are worse than regular hotels; the comfort is worse; the standards of cleanliness and facilities are lower. Customers may demand all-inclusives - the tour operators keep insisting that they do - but they also demand a reasonable level of service.

The satisfaction with Playa de Palma is lower than with the rest of Mallorca and so is the likelihood of people coming back again. The report's conclusion: could do better, see me!

This year's survey and that in 2009 are not the only ones that Gadeso has done in Playa de Palma. It hasn't gone into other resorts, or hadn't until it went to Cala Bona and Cala Millor last year. The survey there didn't report in the same way. Though the conclusions said that there was an excessive amount of all-inclusive, it didn't specifically offer information on hotel satisfaction.

The focus on this factor in Playa de Palma is understandable. Hotels are really at the heart of the whole project to transform Playa de Palma. And much as there is a desire for an overall upgrading of hotels across Mallorca, there has been not insignificant resistance from Playa de Palma hoteliers who argue that the bread-and-butter of the three-star should not be interfered with.

Gadeso has appended documents to its survey. One is a paper that emanates from the University of Barcelona which highlights the fact that, six years on from the creation of a consortium, political scraps, opposition (from hoteliers who should mainly welcome it and some residents who haven't welcomed it) and general inertia have failed to effect a process of transformation that would make the resort the model for subsequent redevelopments elsewhere and also a model of which Mallorca could be proud. The paper emphasises the fact that the resort is deteriorating, thus reinforcing what Gadeso says in its survey introduction and what the survey itself suggests.

A different document, a letter to the tourism minister, argues that to continue with a consortium that is hamstrung by a lack of government finance is a "nonsense and a waste". There is a plea that the project should be in the hands of the private sector, given the inability of the politicians to carry out such projects and to wrong priorities.

And one of those priorities, about the only public project that appears to have escaped President Bauzá's axe, is the Palacio de Congresos, described as a bottomless pit that will do nothing to alleviate seasonality. The Palacio can't be abandoned now, but it should never have been a priority. Its whole being, apart from the vanity of Palma and Mallorca being able to claim that it has a conference complex - as do many other cities in Spain as well as the Canaries - is predicated on a market, that of "meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE)", which is largely unknown.

The sun and beach of Playa de Palma is known. It's been known for years. Hopefully, it will be known for many more years to come, but its future has been placed in the balance by inadequate political supervision. Hand it over to the private sector, and just let them get on with it.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Laudrup quits as Real Mallorca coach

Michael Laudrup, Real Mallorca's Danish coach, has resigned. His departure, not unexpected, followed his right-hand man Erik Larsen's description of sporting director, Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, as a "bad person". The relationship between Laudrup and Serra Ferrer had deteriorated to the point at which it was untenable for Laudrup to continue. The Dane has said that "what Mallorca will be is what Serra Ferrer wants it to be", highlighting where the real power resides in the club: Serra Ferrer is a part shareholder and, as a former coach, may well take over the reins from Laudrup for the time being if not longer. Laudrup has previously been linked with the post of coach at German club Hamburg, where his former Danish team-mate, Frank Arnesen, is sporting director.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 September 2011

Quite a bit of early cloud but it is due to disappear. A warm morning with highs by 09:00 to 23 degrees that will rise to the higher twenties later in the day.

The cloud did break up and left another sunny and warm day with highs at 26 degrees. The forecast for the rest of the week still suggests some more cloud, with Saturday looking more likely to produce some rain.

At A Fraction Of The Cost

Amongst the proposals for the new tourism law due to be enacted next year is one to allow for fractional ownership of hotel accommodation. The concept is one that, at first glance, might raise alarm bells - oh, oh, timeshare. The alarms would, however, be rung falsely. Fractional does not mean timeshare as it involves actually owning part of the bricks and mortar as opposed to a block of time, though time is, nevertheless, a factor.

Fractional ownership has become well-established, especially in the US. The concept was initially used, as far as the property market was concerned, in Colorado's ski resorts. It is something normally for a high-net-worth upper market, rather than the great unwashed of the mass tourism market. But it doesn't have to be and can range from three to five-star style accommodation.

The diffusion of fractional ownership into the European property market has been relatively slow, but it has been gathering pace. What it offers is an opportunity to acquire a holiday home in the knowledge that shares in the property can be sold on.

Of fractional-ownership opportunities currently available in Europe, two give an example of the sort of money that they can command. A residence in a Tuscan hamlet will set you back a minimum of 63,000 pounds; a golf resort on the Algarve comes in at no less than 79,500 pounds (or only 79,500 pounds if you prefer). It depends how much use you want to make of the property, but typically four weeks per year are about what you would get for your money.

Where fractional ownership has been applied to hotels, it has generally been in the form of private residence clubs, i.e. exclusive five-star complexes with all the trimmings you could pretty much hope for. They certainly aren't cheap. If this model of exclusivity were to be followed, their sheer expense draws into question just how much impact they might have in Mallorca.

The tourism ministry would have us believe that within three years some form of revolution will have occurred in Mallorca's tourism, based on hotel conversions into fractionals or condos. As far as the condo is concerned, it is bought outright and used as and when the owner wishes (though this can be limited if the hotel closes), making it more flexible than a fractional. Whereas fractional properties tend to imply something grand, such as a suite with three or four bedrooms, a condo can be as small as a studio apartment.

Condos can be sold as private residences within existing hotel-apartment buildings, which is what Meliá Hotels International appear to be planning for one of the hotels in their projected Magalluf megacomplex (the Royal Beach in all likelihood). Such a mix of regular tourism accommodation and private ownership could also apply to fractionals, though at the more exclusive end of the market (the private residence club), the anticipation would probably be to have fractional owners only.

In wider terms, both fractionals and condos hint at benefits. They are not, for example, all-inclusives. Might they also help to break the cycle of seasonality? The suggestion is that they would be available in winter, especially at Christmas and New Year times. But would they be? It is unclear whether a hotel would actually stay open out of season (which it would have to, as it would be managing the property).

What is also unclear is how much demand there would actually be. The high-end fractional is said to attract considerable interest, partly because it offers a good investment opportunity and partly because of its exclusivity. But what of other levels of the market?

The impact of fractionals and condos will depend on a number of things: the costs, the constraints, the locations and the accommodation itself. To what extent either will amount to the sort of transformation the tourism ministry envisages, time will tell, and it will take longer than three years. In the meantime, though, everywhere else is gearing up for fractionals and condos. Where, for example, is there already a fabulous fractional complex? Egypt.

There is one other issue. Though the fractional is not the same as a timeshare, it is near enough to bear similarities. Which brings us to how fractionals might be sold. Timeshare has a dirty name in Mallorca, because of the past tactics of certain operators in certain resorts. If fractionals are to be part of the way forward for Mallorca's tourism, then their sale needs to be strictly controlled and regulated. If not: "Here, have a scratch card; oh look, you've won a prize, all you need to do is to come along to our office ... ."

Any comments to please.

Monday, September 26, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 September 2011

Eighteen to nineteen degrees at 08:00 on a clear and sunny morning with only some cloud over the mountains. Highs today around the mid-20s, the first part of the week looks good, though from Thursday there is a chance of things becoming cloudier.

Today's high has been 25.4. Pretty much sunny all day, as it will be tomorrow.

The First Hundred Days

Because of the drawn-out process after elections, one is never entirely sure when a new Balearic government takes office. As José Bauzá was officially "acclaimed" as president on 18 June, then this is as good a date as any. The flexibility of the true timing of the taking of office does, though, make it difficult to agree on when the first one hundred days of office have been achieved. If 18 June it is, then 26 September marks the one-hundredth day.

The fascination with the first hundred days of a presidency or a government can be traced back to Franklin D. Roosevelt and to the laws he introduced to tackle the Depression which formed the basis of the "New Deal". Ever since, it has been a benchmark period against which to judge new governments.

Generally, there isn't great urgency to act swiftly. However, things are currently not entirely dissimilar to what Roosevelt had to confront in the early 1930s. It would be idiotic, for all manner of reasons, to compare Bauzá with Roosevelt, but he came into the presidency needing to move quickly. But what, if anything, has he achieved since taking command?

Primarily, he has succeeded unsurprisingly in alienating the unions, the Catalanists, the teachers, the broadcasters and the town halls. He has also succeeded in putting the fear of God up everyone by constantly referring to the legacy left behind by the last administration, i.e. he has seemingly picked huge numbers out of the air and labelled them as debt. He may of course be right, but there is more than just a suspicion that it is expedient for him to be over-egging things.

The remnants of the former PSOE administration, namely Francina Armengol, the ex-president of the Council of Mallorca, and one PSOE-ite who hasn't jumped ship since the elections, have been berating Bauzá for doing a lot of talking and very little by way of initiating. This isn't entirely true, as he has been going around with his new toy, the presidential hatchet, and taking it to the likes of TV Mallorca, the town halls' funds and the unions' worker representatives. Slashing and cutting things isn't, however, the same as initiating things.

The little that has been positive has been coming out of the tourism ministry. One says positive, but behind the talk of hotel conversions, theme parks and some polo fields (for the all-important polo tourism), there is one thing missing: money, or government money at any rate.

When Carlos Delgado assumed the post of tourism minister, he said that the day of the grant was over. He has been saying this again. Private money is what will support the positive talk. And what positivity there is. Next year's tourism season, aided by a flexible new tourism law, will herald a total turnaround of the economies of Mallorca and the islands. Or so says the minister.

Unfortunately, it won't, as he went on to add that it will be three years before the new era of Balearics tourism starts. This also assumes that the various projects which are meant to be in the pipeline come to fruition. The necessary investment, largely by the main hotel chains, may indeed be forthcoming, but these chains are also investing elsewhere, in countries where there may be richer pickings and fewer obstacles to growth.

Even if this tourism positivity were to be realised and were there to be these new projects, what about the rest of Mallorca, other than hotel complexes (or indeed polo fields)? The town halls, starved of cash as it is, have now been told they won't be getting the 16 million euros from the so-called local co-operation fund. Brand new complexes but a crumbling infrastructure doesn't sound so positive.

Still, at least the tourism ministry is able to point to some action rather than the chop-chop of the cuts' axe. But even its action is slow.

The new tourism law may, by the end of this year, be able to start its process of getting parliamentary approval. It depends on how negotiations have gone with various interested parties in the tourism sector. So, it may or may not be that after around 200 days the law gets somewhere near to the statute books.

Roosevelt was able to push through fifteen major law changes within his first 100 days. In Mallorca it would be unthinkable to get fifteen changes passed within 100 weeks. The process is interminable. Bauzá can't really be blamed for this; it's a system he's lumbered with. His first 100 days may have achieved little, but it couldn't have achieved much more.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 2 : 1 Real Sociedad

After three defeats in a row, an important game for Mallorca against a promoted Sociedad side coming to the Iberostar stadium with a solid start to the season. A midday kick-off and not a great opening for Mallorca, having Cáceres booked after only three minutes, Vela having a header hit the bar after twelve and then, sure enough, a goal coming after 14 through Agirretxe. This, though, put some life into Mallorca, a goal attempt by Victor, crosses and centres coming in and then Victor equalising on 19 minutes. In what then became an even first half, it was perhaps no coincidence that the return of the the veteran Martí witnessed an improvement in Mallorca's midfield.

A switch which saw midfielder Tejera replace the defender Cáceres just before half-time worked wonders for Mallorca. Tejera was immediately in the thick of things and with only four minutes of the second period gone Castro put Mallorca ahead. Mallorca rode their luck, the Basque team hitting the woodwork twice more, but they survived to register a welcome win and some respite for under-pressure coach Michael Laudrup.

Aouate; Zuiverloon, Chico, Ramis, Cáceres (Tejera 42); Martí, Pina; Nsue, Alfaro (Tissone 80), Castro (Pereira 65); Victor
Yellows: Cáceres (3); Pina (59)
Goals: Victor (19); Castro (49)

Bravo; Carlos Martínez (Estrada 82), Demidov, Iñigo Martínez, De la Bella; Mariga (Ifrán 72), Illarramendi; Prieto, Zurutuza, Vela (Griezmann 58); Agirretxe
Goal: Agirretxe (14)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 September 2011

A better day, some cloud about and there was some overnight rain around Pollensa, but today should be mostly sunny and warm with highs in the mid-twenties from a morning maximum at 08:30 of 21 degrees.

And it was mostly sunny with a pleasant high of just under 25 degrees.

Flying The Flag

A brand new and large Spanish flag is flying near Can Picafort. It is bigger than a flag of the Balearics and bigger still than a European flag.

The Spanish flag now proudly flutters over the finca of Son Real in Santa Margalida. It probably should always have been there and had pride of place; law suggests that it should have, according to the director of the Balearics Foundation for Sustainable Development, Jorge Campos.

Who is Sr. Campos? He used to be director for climate in the Calvia town hall administration of the now tourism minister Carlos Delgado. As such, he can justifiably lay claim to environmental credentials. However, Campos was also, until recently, the president of the Círculo Balear, which he founded.

The Círculo, in terms of the great Castilian-Catalan argument, is firmly in the Castilian camp. Defender of the language, it is the opposite of the Obra Cultural Balear (OCB), the great defender of Catalan and all things Catalan lands. It has had a number of run-ins with the forces of Catalanism. Its building has been vandalised with graffiti, its presence at new year celebrations in Palma last year sparked off violence, and Sr. Campos has been in court to see members of the Maulets, the Catalan independence radicals, get slapped with fines for having chanted "Nazi", "fascist" and "terrorist" at him.

Campos was appointed to the post of director at the end of July. His was and is a political appointment in that the choice is that of the regional government. But it was an appointment with far greater political baggage. It has been like a red rag to the Catalanist, leftist bull.

The foundation, of which he is now in charge, has not been without its own controversies. Established in 2004 by the former president Jaume Matas, its main function was to oversee the promotion of the "tarjeta verde", the green discount card, which came into being as a way of generating revenue for environmental purposes once the short-lived eco-tax was scrapped.

The green card has been a spectacular flop, not helped by the fact, as revealed by an audit for 2008, that the foundation managed to bring in a mere 13,500 euros from its sales, a shortfall of around 400 grand. Last year, when all hell broke loose regarding corruption cases stemming from the tourism ministry, the foundation was implicated. Questions were being asked as to how, when costs were added to the lack of revenue, losses of over a million euros a year could have mounted up.

The foundation was meant to have been wrapped up, like the two agencies more at the centre of the tourism ministry corruption affair, and brought under the new Balearics Tourism Agency. However, it survives as a separate entity, linked to the new tourism ministry and therefore to Campos's old boss and anti-Catalanist soul mate, Carlos Delgado,

Other than the green card, what actually does the foundation do? It is charged with administering sites such as Son Real, the running of which it took over in July 2008, but the environmental group GOB has not had much that is positive to say for the foundation. It has argued that it should be scrapped and has criticised its operations in the Albufera nature park in Muro. It is likely that, with Campos as its head, GOB would be even more dismissive, as GOB is a fellow-traveller on the Catalanist left with the OCB. The Círculo Balear, for its part, has lumped both GOB and the OCB in with the Maulets, claiming that the Maulets have received the "adherence" of these two groups (and others) which have the "appearance of democracy".

And so we come back to the Spanish flag at Son Real. What might seem a relatively inconsequential issue is anything but. It was Campos who gave the instruction for the flag to be raised.

The environment is a political issue, but now it is being even more politicised within the context of the whole Castilian-Catalan argument. And just to reinforce this, between the time of his appointment and his stepping down from the Círculo three weeks later, Campos managed to cram in a meeting with President Bauzá to discuss language and cultural matters.

Why, though, has the foundation escaped the axe when others haven't and when it appears to have made a hash of things since it was formed? It is not solely reliant on government money, that's true, but might it be expedient for the government to maintain it, with Campos as its chief, as an additional counterpoint to the Catalan left? There are more to flags than simply running them up a flag-pole.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 September 2011

A cloudy morning following some overnight rain. Not much of a day in prospect with the threat of rain all day along with that of a storm. Tomorrow will see an improvement. Local high at 08:30 is 18 degrees, rising during the day but probably not to the 26s or 27s of yesterday.

The rain and the storm did come, but, as is sometimes the case, the intensity showed a great variation. 24mm of rain in Puerto Pollensa but only 4mm around Albufera; rumbles of thunder in parts, the whole crash-bang in others. Highs have ranged from 23 to 25, but the temperature tumbled in the afternoon to under 20. At 17:30, still grey but should clear this evening.

MALLORCA TODAY - Cloud Atlas in Formentor

Filming for Cloud Atlas moved to Formentor yesterday, forest near to the hotel being used for shooting. Meanwhile, Halle Berry, who broke a metatarsal when she slipped at the finca she has been staying at in Soller, has been to France to see a specialist. Here are some extremely uninteresting photos of people eating in the car park at Formentor, including Hanks, T.

The Land Of Make Believe

I'd like to take you back in time. It was a time of the three-day week, unworkable governments that changed every few months, virtual national bankruptcy and massive union unrest. It was also a time of extremely long hair and flared jeans.

It was during this time that I was at university. In common with some others, it was a self-contained community, a campus. Some miles from the city, it operated under its own rules, a mini-state not immune to the wider world, but one in which a government existed together with forces of agitation and institutions bound up in sub-governments, committees, constitutions and rigged elections.

The forces of agitation were led by the students union, generally a collective of the far and less far left. Collegiate in make-up, the university had, in addition to the main union, eight union-ettes: student bodies for each college.

The government comprised university administrative bureaucrats and academics of various political colours. The lecturers had their own set-ups: the senior common rooms attached to the colleges, the more strident among their number being those who were well-known to Moscow and others who would have considered Enoch Powell a liberal.

The government practised a system of democracy in which there were innumerable committees and a senate. To the colleges were devolved responsibilities for this and that, while the colleges' individual unions - the junior common rooms - mirrored precisely the make-up of the main union. There was a president, a vice-president for internal affairs, one for external affairs, a treasurer, and so on.

Union meetings were interminable gatherings often devoted to the minutiae of whether ultra vires payments for supporting the Shrewsbury 3 or the Iranian 91 were constitutional or not. They always were, because the union politburo would make sure that they were. The mini-me unions, the junior common rooms, would concern themselves less with matters of national or international agitprop and more with securing the compliance of the rank and file. Bread and circuses: free beer, rubbish music acts and weekly discos.

No one ever actually questioned whether this system was right or not. It just was. It existed within a make-believe world. The campus was like Patrick McGoohan's Prisoner island, with one major difference - dissent, if not actively encouraged, could not be repressed. The only time it was, on any scale, was at the end of a two-week occupation of the administration building. The university had the temerity to put up campus rents so that what were little more than peppercorn acquired some salt. In we all went, but after two weeks of less-than-hygienic conditions, it was a relief when plod crashed through a wall one night and carried us out. And plod were no doubt delighted at the overtime payments.

Quite what the occupation cost, heaven alone knows. But then money wasn't really much object. The university, its students, its staff existed thanks largely to UK government and taxpayer beneficence. It was its own world, one in which politics were entirely divorced from real life. It was a land of make believe, a play thing for the mid-70s' wizards of "Oz" magazine.

The point of all this is that Mallorcan and Spanish politics have a lot in common with those days. The make believe was that forged after Franco, a world of idealistic institutions, decentralisation, duplicated responsibilities, inhabited by all manner of political groups and parties, supported by the seemingly endless generosity of first Europe and then a Spanish state with little comprehension of control.

No one thought to really question this system. It was allowed to grow, but it has, despite some 36 years of being, not cast off the immaturities that were evident in university days. Now we have situations in which a union leader can insult a political party, as Lorenzo Bravo of the UGT has insulted the Partido Popular government, calling them pigs. Back in the day, plod were those, while anyone who wasn't a card-carrying Trot was a fascist, and this, the fascist insult, is hurled around in all directions as well by the competing elements in the Castilian-Catalan argument.

The system is akin to that of the university. Governments embroiled in issues of questionable payments, the town halls and the Council of Mallorca mirrors of government, dealing in the bread and circuses of the fiestas with their booze, rubbish music acts and discos.

The days of bread and circuses are over, however. The money's run out. Real life for Mallorca and Spain has started. The playing and the make believe have to stop. Whether they will, though, is questionable. Here come plod.

Any comments to please.

* Photo from 1975. God Bless Wilkins, otherwise known as ...

Friday, September 23, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorca Al Qaeda suspect on conditional release

The Cala Ratjada-based Cuban citizen, who was arrested on suspicion of being linked to Al Qaeda and of disseminating radical material via the internet on a tip-off from UK police, has been placed on conditional release. He has to report to the police on a daily basis until his appearance before a judge.

MALLORCA TODAY - Four more suspicious forest fires in Mallorca

In all yesterday there were five forest fires for the emergency services to contend with, four of them suspected of having been started deliberately and in an apparently coordinated fashion given their timing and locations. The fires were in Alaró, Palma and Llucmajor, the worst of them being in the latter town in the area of Las Palmeras where 3.25 hectares were affected.

MALLORCA TODAY - Eight per cent increase in Balearics tourism in August

Based on figures provided by Frontur (the survey of tourism movement), the Balearics received 8.5% more tourists during August than in the same month last year. This equated to some 1.8 million people.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 September 2011

A clear start to the day and a warmer one than the past few days, with 20 degrees being the local high at 08:00. Highs to 28 anticipated later in the day, but as for the weekend the risk of rain on Saturday has increased, though Sunday should be ok but with some cloud.

It has been a superb day, warm, with maximums just below 28, and a touch of pleasant freshness. The risk of rain and also storms for tomorrow extends from 3am tomorrow morning to 22:00, according to the met office.

The Last Bull In Barcelona

On Sunday evening the last bull in Barcelona, the last bull in Catalonia, will meet its maker, skewered on the matador's sword of truth. The final red cape will come down on bullfighting in Catalonia and on the bullring, the Monumental, bringing to an end almost one hundred years of the "corrida" in the arena. On 1 January next year the Catalonian ban on bullfighting comes into effect. The bull is dead; long live the bull.

The ban, a largely political manoeuvre of anti-Spanishness dressed up behind the cloak of animal rights, will be only the second such prohibition in Spain. Others may follow, and if they were to, they would genuinely be in the name of animal rights. Driven by popular petition, to which the Catalonian parliament was not obliged to accede, the ban is colossally hypocritical; the bull-runs (the "correbous"), which are a Catalan tradition, are unaffected, while the bullfight, never a particularly strong tradition in Catalonia and far more associated with "Spain", will be no more.

Or will it be no more? The politics of the bullfight are far more complex than the process that brought about the Catalonia ban, a process that allows for possible changes to laws on the basis of petitions (the so-called popular legislative initiatives). The national elections are looming, and Catalonia could yet find itself back to square one, and the bull, who might have looked forward to a long and happy life, could yet find itself back in the circle of the arena.

The national government has more or less abrogated any responsibility for decision-making regarding the bullfight. Despite it having effected a transfer of administrative oversight from the interior ministry to the culture ministry, and having also accepted that the bullfight is of cultural importance, it is left to regional governments to arbitrate on the bullfight's future, if they so wish.

However, the Partido Popular, set to win the elections in November and generally in favour of the bullfight (or at least not particularly against it), may choose to challenge the right of the regions to decide. Catalonian PP members, of which there are indeed some, suggest that a constitutional court could decree that the regions don't have the competency to decide. An opposite view is that the national constitutional court could not overturn Catalonian legislation.

The PP, justified in arguing that the ban lacks coherence given the non-ban on bull-runs, could make the bullfight an electoral issue, but it would be one of even greater irrelevance than fox-hunting was when Tony Blair was brandishing his animal-rights credentials; Spain has matters of far greater importance to worry about than bullfighting and than Labour had to.

It would be a political mistake in any event. Though support for the bullfight might play well in some parts of Spain, the Spanish no longer much care for the bullfight; overwhelmingly so, to the tune of about two to one. Moreover, the economics of bullfighting, for which there are conflicting views as to how much it contributes to national or local coffers, are such that it isn't cheap to stage. Allied to the costs of bullfighting, there is the fact that the number of events has slumped dramatically - by over a third between 2007 and 2010.

Geographical variance in terms of popular support or rejection of bullfighting tends to bolster the current situation of allowing the regions to decide as to its future. Catalonia is a special case, as it always is a special case, but the ban there does nevertheless reflect an indifference towards bullfighting.

In Mallorca, where politicians at the time of the announcement of the Catalonia ban were divided as to whether they would support or not a similar move in the Balearics, the indifference is of a different order. Protests against bullfights and indeed against the island's only correbou (that of Fornalutx, one that is not as disturbing as those in Catalonia where flames come from the end of the bulls' horns) are token. Indeed the Fornalutx correbou protest this year, shunted off into a sports arena and ignored by the locals at the request of the mayor, was a PR fiasco.

For many, the Catalonia ban looked as though it might spell the end of the bullfight in Spain as a whole. It was never likely to because of the peculiarities of Catalonian politics; from November it will be even less likely.

The bull is dead. Long live the bull? Maybe not, and in Catalonia maybe not. The sword of truth may stay only briefly in its sheath, to return one day to the Monumental.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Palm beetle destruction set to spread

The regional government environment ministry says that some 1,260 palm trees, almost all of them the spreading Phoenix variety, have been affected or destroyed by the palm beetle "plague" that has been centred on Pollensa but which has moved to Alcúdia and has a further centre in the south around Palma and Llucmajor. The ministry believes that the coming autumn could see a further spread of the beetle across the island.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 September 2011

A fair amount of cloud early on, though it should go away, early temperatures (07.30) between 16 and 19 degrees, with highs into the upper twenties later. Weekend forecast still shows Saturday as being potentially cloudier and with some threat of rain.

Highs up to 26 degrees this afternoon, the current warm weather will be replaced on Saturday by a fall of up to four degrees as autumn kicks in. The long-range forecast for the autumn is that it will be "normal" but that it will be wetter than usual. Nice to know that it will be normal; the prediction that it will be wetter is based on the fact that rainfall so far this year is down 14% (in Mallorca) compared with the norm.

Basket Case: Sport and tourism promotion

Wherever a successful sportsman or woman or successful sports team is to be found, someone from a Spanish tourism promotion authority will also be found, running behind, puffing and turning puce and brandishing an advertising contract.

If not the Mallorcans Nadal and Lorenzo, then it will be either the Real Madrid football team or the Spanish men's basketball side. Both Madrid and the basketball players are faces and bodies of tourism promotion.

The contracts are, however, different. Madrid are being paid a million euros. The basketball team is getting nothing. Nada. Not a centimo. European champions, they are worth zilch. How come Madrid can be paid and the basketball team can't be?

It seems to have to do with the fact that Madrid is a business and that the basketball team is a representative of the state, down to its red and yellow strip. The six players from the championship-winning side depicted in Turespaña's hastily cobbled-together advert are "ambassadors" for Spain. Does this mean, therefore, that the Madrid players aren't? No, as they too, according to Turespaña, are ambassadors. If you play in white, though, you get paid; just ask Nadal.

Whatever the ins and outs of the contractual agreement, why is the Spanish tourism promotion agency, Turespaña, so desperate to nail its promotional colours to the masts of successful sports teams? The answer seems pretty simple. Teams with high recognition as well as fame mean high awareness and, you would hope, high numbers of tourists. In Madrid's case this may be so, but as for the basketball team, the thinking is more questionable. Perhaps this explains why they're not getting paid.

The ad featuring the basketball players is all part of the Turespaña campaign under the slogan of "I Need Spain". Yes, that campaign, the one that demands you fill in the missing words. I need Spain like I need a massive budget deficit; this sort of thing. Apparently, the basketball guys not only themselves need Spain, they love it. The ad carries the legend: "There is only one thing they love more than basketball - Spain". We'll take their word for it.

Questionable as this ad is in terms of what it might actually achieve for tourism, there is a question mark over whether a national basketball team should be going anywhere near Spanish tourism promotion. The reason for this is that basketball and Spain have form.

There was the unfortunate matter of the Spanish team which won the Paralympics gold medal in Sydney in 2000, but which turned out to have contained some ringers, i.e. players (ten out of the twelve) who were fully mentally able. Then there was the slitty-eyed gesture advert the men and women's teams participated in during the Beijing Olympics, which might not have caused much of a fuss had Sid Lowe of "The Guardian" not brought it to the world's attention. Let's just say that Spanish basketball, in its 2011 incarnation, is more ambassadorial.

But what of Real Madrid? In June, a promotional video popped up with nine players. All good ambassadors for Spain? Only up to a point, as only two of them were Spanish. Otherwise it was a video that would have played well with the German tourism market (Özil and Khedira), the French (Benzema) and the all-important Brazilian (Kaká and Marcelo), Argentinian (Di María) and Portuguese (Ronaldo) markets.

There is a rather obvious question. Why Madrid and not Barcelona? Barça are after all European club champions. At the time of the announcement of the tie-up with Madrid, the minister for industry, tourism and commerce, Miguel Sebastián, said that it had not been possible to come to an agreement with the club that would have allowed the use of the team's image and that things were rather easier where Madrid was concerned. Barcelona, however, said that there had been no request from the government.

Things being easier with Madrid than Barcelona presumably had nothing to do with Barça being littered with Catalan players and also nothing to do with the fact that the club had an existing agreement with the Catalonia Tourism Agency. The club has said that it is open to an approach from Turespaña so long as it doesn't conflict with its arrangements with the agency, which it probably almost certainly would.

And so the age-old Madrid versus Barcelona, Spain versus Catalonia El Clásico national division persists and with it so tourism promotion becomes political. The basketball players love Spain and together with Real Madrid, the team with all its historical connotations of Spanishness, they form the faces of Spain. I need Spain. I need Spain like I need the eternal row between Castile and Catalonia.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 September 2011

A fine, bright and sunny morning with 18 or 19 the local highs at 08.30. The day should remain sunny with highs possibly of 28. The rest of the week looks similar, though the weekend could see some cloud build up.

And a warm and pleasant day, highs of 25 by the coast, so a cooling-down is underway.

Death Row: Empty units

What do you do with units that have been empty for ten years or so?

Playa de Muro has a number of such units (or "locales" to use the native). They are grouped together. A row of abandoned restaurants, shops and bars with forlorn for sale or for rent signs that have been in their windows for so long that they have pretty much acquired the status of being the units' names, except that they are all the same and therefore indistinguishable from each other, which is appropriate as none of the units is in any way distinguished.

Who was it who ever gave permission for the type of architectural abominations that were allowed to spring up in the name of commerce? The more contemporary units in resorts such as Playa de Muro are without any character, any atmosphere and any redeeming feature. It is small wonder that they are empty and have, in some instances, been so since the turn of the century.

These are not units that have been solely ravaged by the arrival of the all-inclusive. Some have, but many closed before the all-inclusive really took hold. They have been empty because they are hideous, because there are too many of them and because no one in their right minds would pay the traspasos being asked, let alone the rents.

So unattractive is this line of abandonment that you can understand why tourists might prefer not to go a-strolling at night. Despite the valiant efforts of the Boulevard group which demolished some units and stuck up a glass-faced office building replete with tex-mex, tabacs and a fashion store and which thus gives the impression of at least some life (and light at night), the ugliness of the dark, dingy and long-vacated units deprives this part of the resort of any hint of charm.

It is easy perhaps to suggest that this death row of units is a portend of the ghost-town cliché set to be used for other resorts as a consequence of all-inclusives. It is certainly true that the closure of units is gathering pace elsewhere, but this is only partially explained by the loss of business. The story is often the same. It is one of rents being too high and of irrational landlords being unprepared to lower them. But it is also one of units that are, at best, functional and, at worst, simply unappealing.

The tourism ministry of Carlos Delgado has spoken about the redevelopment of older resorts. Taking the lead from the transformation of Playa de Palma, if it ever happens, this would involve an upgrading of the likes of Magalluf and Alcúdia. Meliá Hotels International's announcement of its Magalluf megacomplex is perhaps the first stage in this. But the hotels are only one part of the story.

Playa de Muro is not as ancient as other resorts; part of it, yes, but not all of it. Indeed, the resort has been praised for the style in which its coastline was planned with what are modern hotels of a high standard, including three five-star hotels.

Because of the hotels, the resort would be unlikely to feature prominently on any list of resorts due for beautification. Were money no object, a solution would be to demolish the empty units and make green areas. But for different reasons, it wouldn't happen, one of them being because they are someone's assets.

And it's when you come to learn whose assets they are that you begin to understand how such units can be allowed to be left empty for so long. They ultimately belong to a hotel. When I found this out, initially I was shocked. Why would they just leave them like they are?

It's a good question. It doesn't, you would think, help any hotel in any resort to have the appearance of abandonment, but should we be surprised? Hotels, in general and increasingly, seem to show scant regard for what goes on outside their grounds, as evidenced by the all-inclusive. Though this particular hotel isn't all-inclusive, its publicity is almost as good as. What it packs inside its grounds allows it to say that everything is in one place "without leaving the hotel".

One concludes, therefore, that there is a take it or leave it attitude towards the units. They are assets on a balance sheet that one day might be sold or made productive. It doesn't really matter. And if there are no competitor restaurants or shops around the corner, then even better.

Take it or leave it. Yes, people have. They have left the units; they left them long ago. And now they are just left to rot.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Villarreal 2 : 0 Real Mallorca

Real Mallorca went away for one of La Liga's rare midweek games to Villarreal, with whom there are lingering antagonisms owing to last season's European qualification and to whom - horror for Mallorca fans - ex-Mallorca golden boy De Guzmán was sold before the end of the transfer window. Despite Villarreal's stuttering start to this season's La Liga, there was no surprise at all that Villarreal took the lead after seven minutes against the even more stuttering Mallorca. And after this, Villarreal held the ascendancy, a grip they weren't to relinquish against an uninspired Mallorca lacking midfield bite or upfront creativity, much as Mallorca came into the game more in the second half as Villarreal relaxed thanks to Nilmar's early strike to put the hosts two-nil ahead. Easy for Villarreal, distinctly uneasy for Mallorca with the lame-duck coach, Michael Laudrup, at loggerheads with the sporting director Serra Ferrer, and surely shortly to be on his way out of the club.

López; Mario, Zapata, Musacchio, Catalá; Borja Valero (Camuñas 71), Bruno, Cani (Senna 62), De Guzmán; Nilmar (Rubén 82), Rossi
Goals: Rossi (7); Nilmar (52)

Aouate; Cendrós, Chico, Ramis, Cáceres; Pina, Tissone (Alfaro 64); Nsue, Tejera, Aki (Castro 72); Victor
Yellows: Pina (42); Tissone (44); Chico (89)

MALLORCA TODAY - Suspected member of Al Qaeda arrested in Cala Ratjada

The Guardia Civil has arrested a Cuban citizen in the resort of Cala Ratjada who is suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda. He is accused of incitement to terrorism and is said to have administered channels on You Tube on which were distributed over one thousand videos of a radical nature.

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Calobra closed for Cloud Atlas filming

Tourists making their way to Sa Calobra, one of the main ports of call on trips to the Tramuntana mountains and the coastline, were unable yesterday to get anywhere near to the small coastal village. Access had been cut to allow filming for Cloud Atlas to proceed. Seven restaurants, denied their normal takings from visitors, have been indemnified to the tune of 3,000 euros each by the films' producers.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 September 2011

Very much cooler mornings have arrived, local temperatures between 07:00 and 08:00 ranging from 15 to 18 degrees. Some cloud around this morning which may persist into the afternoon. Highs of up to 28 expected but will probably be lower.

The cloud was quite heavy and threatening at times, but it remained dry and cleared up to be warm and sunny later with the local high being inland in Pollensa at 25.3.

PSOE And The Mallorcan Debt Mountain

Some serious questions need to be answered. The government of José Bauzá may be exaggerating the size of the Balearics debt and laying all the blame at the door of the previous administration, but there were clearly some pretty odd things going on during that administration.

Bauzá hasn't discounted the possibility of setting in motion legal processes if there were irregularities over and above mere inefficiencies at both regional government and Council of Mallorca levels between the springs of 2007 and this year. Recourse to the law does smack of possible vengeance by the Partido Popular. Voices in the party levelled accusations of a politicisation of the legal system in respect of the pursuit of officials dating to its 2003-2007 period of office. There is just a hint of payback.

The Balearics debt has accumulated over years, not just the four years of the PSOE administration. There has been a spend-spend mentality at all levels of government in the islands, including that of the Partido Popular from 2003 to 2007; a fair amount of which spend is still under scrutiny by anti-corruption prosecutors.

However, it was the case that the last administration did opt for a spend budget in 2008 at precisely the time when it could least be met. It may have been unfortunate that crisis took hold, but there is no getting away from the fact that PSOE helped to push the islands into ever deeper debt.

To an extent, doubly unfortunate therefore, the mounting debt was the consequence of a fall in tax revenues brought about by crisis, but fiscal explanations lack the appeal of being "sexy" when compared with the missing millions designed to take a headline-writer's fancy and flabbergast a public.

The International Monetary Fund, as well as barons in Brussels, who have been pressing Spain on the need to reduce the burden of regional debt, must have gasts as flabbered as the rest of us in trying to understand how the rotten borough that was (still is, to be honest) the Council of Mallorca could have spent some 100 million euros of state money, intended for road-building, on grants and paying salaries. Actually, it is quite easy to understand, as sound governance of public finance has long been only a chapter in a textbook and not something put into practice in Mallorca.

There was also the farce of the Manacor to Artà train, now effectively abandoned, into which vast sums were pumped despite heavily conflicting evidence as to how much traffic the railway line would generate. A delicious but sad irony of the work that has seen land ripped up and levelled is that it was the brief of a transport minister from the environmentally righteous PSM (Mallorcan socialists) who later also became environment minister in the PSOE-led regional government. The work on the line paralysed, the damage to the landscape has been environmental vandalism, predicated on a project with a questionable business rationale. How much will it cost to put the land right again, if it ever is?

Going back to the Council of Mallorca, we now have another intriguing example of public financial management. It relates to a consortium known as Eurolocal-Mallorca. What its precise purpose is, is not entirely clear. Ostensibly it is intended to support active European participation in local Mallorcan authorities, which means ... . Well, which means what?

The consortium was established in 2009 and was an initiative of the former president of the Council, Francina Armengol. In its two years of existence there is little evidence as to what it has achieved (perhaps unsurprising given the vagueness of its purpose). It has operated with a budget of 126,000 euros and its director has been trousering 70 grand a year.

Mainly, or so it would seem, the consortium people have spent their time heading off to Brussels. Why? Who knows. But mention Brussels, and who can forget the occasion, in February 2009, when some 40 mayors plus government politicians and others (150 of them in all) headed off to the Belgian capital for a spot of lobbying against the European pyrotechnics directive that Europe had no intention of using to try and ban demons' fire-runs. Ah, those were the days; when public money could be easily spent on a jolly with airline tickets and accommodation chucked in.

The new president of the Council, Maria Salom, is going to close the consortium down. Having also decided to shut another spectacular waste of money, the Council's tourism foundation, one wonders what other bodies are lurking that need disinterring and what other questions will emerge that need answering.

Any comments to please.

Monday, September 19, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Thousand evacuated in huge Ibiza fire

Despite the change to the weather, the fires keep raging. There were three more yesterday, by far the worst being in Ibiza where a thousand people had to be evacuated from the Roca Llisa urbanisation in Cala Llonga which broke out at around 20.00 last night and required fire-fighting assistance from the mainland. No injuries have been reported, but the seriousness of the fire required that it was put at level 2 on the scale of gravity, one notch lower than the most serious. The fire claimed some 115 hectares of largely pine forest.

In Mallorca, meanwhile, there were two more fires, one heading towards Puigpunyent from Palma and the other, the more serious, near to the Festival Park commercial and entertainment centre in Marratxí. Three homes had to be evacuated.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 September 2011

The storm didn't arrive yesterday, but there was plenty of rain, up to 16mm in some local areas. The temperature has dropped noticeably and the high at 08.00 is only 19 degrees. There is some cloud around but generally the sky is clear and the prospect is for a fine day and a fine week, with highs today climbing to 26 degrees.

A day of some cloud but mainly sun which has become more settled as the day has gone on; highs to just over 23 degrees this afternoon.

Celebrity Island

The Celebritarium has had its fair share of controversy. There was of course the small matter of levelling much of the Tramuntana mountain range in order to accommodate it. But let's face it, we've always been able to bank on the Partido Popular to side-step the odd environmental objection. More of a problem was the delay caused by the fact that the Tramuntana had been chosen as the location for the remake of "The Sound Of Music", the delay being even greater, thanks to the endless wrangle over whether Katie Price or Cheryl Cole would get the part of Maria.

The critics have, in the end, been generally and thankfully kind to the film. They haven't much cared for Barbara Windsor's Mother Abbess rendition of "Climb Every Mountain" next to some beer pumps in a re-created Queen Vic along Magalluf's strip. They have also been scathing of the intrusiveness of the Balearics Tourism Agency logo appearing in every shot along with its new website name - - but otherwise the film has been something of a box-office success and a triumph for Mallorca and for the tourism agency which handed over its entire promotional budget for ten years to the producers by way of an incentive to come and make the film.

We will be able to look forward to "The Sound Of Music" and its stars featuring in the Celebritarium. Personally, I fancy I might eschew the opportunity of partaking in the karaoke "Edelweiss", but then I wasn't convinced, and still am not, that Graham Norton was right for the role of Captain von Trapp; it should have been either Ant or Dec, or possibly both of them.

Other than the questionable attraction of singing along with your favourite celebrities in the Karaoke Pavilion, the Celebritarium does have much to commend it. Of merit is the chance to photograph celebrities in their natural habitats. Whole streets and landscapes of Mallorca have been created inside the Celebritarium and special viewing platforms built at least 200 metres away from them so that you can get the full effect of getting some lousy shots through a zoom lens of the celebs doing nothing in particular.

This is the great thing about the Celebritarium. You can watch as celebrities go for a walk, go shopping, blow their noses, drink a coffee. There are hours of amusement to be had, therefore. Plus, as most of the celebrities will be wearing caps and sunglasses and will be shielded by bodyguards - and this is where it gets really entertaining - you have to try and work out who they are. At the end of your trip to the Celebritarium, you can try your luck in a quiz to see how many celebrities you spotted and where. Fearne Cotton will be on hand to announce the winners.

One issue with the Celebritarium is which celebrities will be in it at any one time. There will, naturally enough, be those in permanent residence - the likes of Philip Schofield, Louise Redknapp and Lulu - but not yet resolved is how the celebrity rotation will work according to the high and low tourism seasons. There is a danger that you pitch up in February and have to make do with Lembit Öpik, Calum Best and the entire original cast of "Grange Hill" minus Todd Carty.

As for peak season, names being tossed around include Madonna and Brad Pitt. Madonna, so it is rumoured, will be reading a book and going for a jog, while Pitt is said to be planning to drive a car. The prospect is certainly enticing.

Critics of the Celebritarium argue that it panders to a vacuous obsession with celebrity and that it represents a dumbing-down of Mallorca. But how you can dumb-down the already dumbed-down isn't entirely clear. Those on the left wing in Mallorca have condemned it for including celebrities who don't speak Catalan and who will not be shown making pa amb oli. However, the Celebritarium is in line with the tourism agency's strategy of celebrity tourism, and for once the agency appears to have got its strategy right.

Moreover, the Celebritarium offers a genuine all-year tourism attraction (despite the possibility of Lembit Öpik). Yes, it may have necessitated much of the Tramuntana being blown up in order that it could be built, but then no one much would ever have taken any notice of all that World Heritage site stuff. Better to get rid of the mountains and forget all the nature and culture malarkey, as the real culture is celebrity. That's what the punter wants, and in the Celebritarium he can have it, 365 days of the year.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 September 2011

The change in the weather yesterday has given a morning of complete cloud cover. A local high of 22 at 07.30 with high levels of humidity. Rain is due and is most likely this afternoon. Tomorrow and the rest of the week seem fine, with temperatures going back up after a fall today and tomorrow.

And the rain has come, quite heavy at times but not persistent and no storm - as yet. The temperatures have tumbled - to between 19 and 22 depending on location locally.

We Can Be Together: The case of "L'Estel"

When it comes to insults, it doesn't get much worse than "hijo de puta". The literal translation is bad enough, but it also means something rather more unpleasant, a word I fancy I first became aware of when Grace Slick and Marty Balin were proudly proclaiming their anarchy in song at the end of the 1960s. "Up against the wall, motherfucker." It was astonishing that Jefferson Airplane could get away with such subversion (in that their record label did not censor the record, despite having censored other Airplane material), but they did, and the word has passed into subversion folklore, now revived - in a different language - in Mallorca.

Jefferson Airplane were reincarnated as Jefferson Starship (later, simply Starship). They acquired the stars and lost their subversiveness. There is a star in Mallorca that hasn't. "L'Estel" (the star) is a fortnightly magazine. It is the centre of a real old row, having called President Bauzá "hijo de puta". The government has instructed the legal authorities to take action against the magazine because of the insult.

Are the government and the president being over-sensitive? Yes. But the insult is only part of the story. The magazine also had a go at the Partido Popular in general and at "forasteros" (Spanish "foreigners") who don't speak Catalan. Furthermore, it suggested that the Obra Cultural Balear (OCB) should be the Balearics shadow government. You might, therefore, detect a bit of a theme here. Let's put it this way, had a magazine written in Castilian called Bauzá a "hijo de puta", chances are that it might have caused little more than a ripple.

To add fuel to the fury that is apparently steaming from the ears of the PP is the fact that the magazine has enjoyed government and Council of Mallorca funding; at least it did so during the four years of the previous administration. The magazine hasn't quite bitten off the hand that has fed it, given that it was most unlikely to still be on a government grant list, but the insult does show a bit of ingratitude to the taxpayer.

The row comes hard on the heels of the government's withdrawal of funding for union worker representatives. For the public, that part of it more inclined to be sympathetic to the PP, both the grants for the representatives and for the magazine have been indicative of a pandering to the left, to the unions and to Catalanism.

And the left and Catalanism are very much what you find in "L'Estel". One of its main contributors, for example, is a member of the Ibizan wing of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Catalonia Republican Left). Another, Miquel López Crespí, is one of the usual suspects to be found behind banners at gatherings in favour of independence and the "Catalan lands". Its publisher is Mateu Joan i Florit, one more to add to our growing list of spectacularly bearded lefties. He outdoes both the Solzhenitsyn of PSOE's Alfredo Rubalcaba and the prolific grey growth of the UGT union's Cándido Mendez. To get an impression, think Rowan Williams with a suntan or even Fidel Castro.

Despite the unpleasantness of the insult and despite the grant, this has all the feel of a political agenda. There is of course clearly an agenda on behalf of "L'Estel", certainly with its suggestion that the ostensibly independent but very much pro-Catalan and pro-the Catalan lands OCB should somehow be forming an opposition, but is the government right to go after a magazine in what might be construed as an attack on the freedom of speech? It runs the risk of creating a "cause célèbre" in seeking a prosecution - that could be made to be seen as a persecution - of a publication that claims to work "in favour of the independence of our nation" (by which one guesses that Florit, who uttered this, means the Catalan nation).

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the insult and of the government seeking recourse to the law, what we have here is a case of the tensions being ratcheted up. It was precisely this that concerned many, including myself, prior to the regional elections. It was a question of how long it would take for these tensions to start to surface. They now appear to be.

Jefferson Airplane's song was called "We Can Be Together", the "we" being those who opposed the American government. There is always another "we". And in Mallorca, we are all likely to become more and more aware of who the "we's" are. Because one thing is for sure; they aren't all together.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 0 : 1 Malaga

Oil-rich Malaga at Mallorca. A mismatch? The first half seemed so, Malaga being totally on top and confirming this with a headed goal by Demichelis on 39 minutes. It got better for Mallorca in the second half, and they pushed hard for an equaliser towards the end, but the lack of firepower, already exposed in the first two games of the season, was evident once more.

Aouate; Zuiverloon, Chico, Ramis, Cáceres; Pina, Tissone; Tejera (Pereira 71), Alfaro (Aki 45), Nsue; Hemed (Victor 57)

Yellows: Cáceres (44); Chico (55)


Caballero; Gámez, Demichelis, Mathijsen, Eliseu; Toulalan, Duda (Fernández 80); Joaquín, Julio Baptista (Maresca 65), Cazorla; Van Nistelrooy (Rondón 71)

Yellow: Toulalan (68)
Goal: Demichelis (39)

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia's recycled water system doesn't work

Work over the winter months that left roads dug up and dust accumulated and which was all in aid of a system for water recycling for use by hotels in Alcúdia (at a cost of 4.5 million euros) seems to have been totally in vain. The system, which should have come on-stream in June, isn't functioning. The reason is that the level of salt in the water exceeds the 3% permitted by law, a problem not helped by what is said to be the disastrous quality of the pipework.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 September 2011

A fine morning, with local highs of 22 degrees at 07.00, it should remain a sunny and warm day, but at some point it's going to go pear-shaped; probably tomorrow morning. The met office is due to issue a yellow alert for heavy rain (up to 20mm per hour) and for likely storms.

Cloud did build up, not heavy enough to suggest rain but enough, plus a stiffening breeze, to keep the beaches more lightly populated than of late. An afternoon high, nevertheless, of 28.3.

Necessity For Change: Tourism

Remarkable. Firstly, that I've got a good word for the Partido Popular; secondly, that it is displaying some uncommonly common sense. Where tourism is concerned, the PP have it over the other parties. They try not to obstruct where others do try. They make enemies along the way, and they are nowhere nearer striking a sensible balance between the needs of the established tourism industry (primarily the hotels) and those of the non-established, such as the holiday let business. But praise where praise is due.

A caveat. It was the hoteliers, in the form of the Mallorca hoteliers federation, that staged a conference entitled "Tourism, The Necessity For Change". Change, where the hotels are concerned, is change that's good for the hotels. Nevertheless, the outcomes of this conference are generally positive.

Amongst them is the likelihood that Meliá Hotels International will create a new "megacomplex" of four-star accommodation out of existing hotels (the Royal Beach, the Antillas Barbados and Mallorca Beach) and that this complex will be themed. The exact nature of this theming is not yet clear, but the wish to do so is one to be welcomed.

One hopes that the themes won't be of the Flintstones variety; please God, anything but this. What one does hope is that it might be of a "theme" that Mallorca is crying out for, an all-year, all-weather complex; the theme would be akin to the Center Parcs concept. One fears that it might not be, in which case it would be a huge missed opportunity, but we will see.

Another outcome is that the tourism minister Carlos Delgado is minded to go ahead in permitting hotels to stage concerts. He could hardly say that he wouldn't, having more or less single-handedly granted Mallorca Rocks its licences both as mayor of Calvia and now as tourism minister. He's made his concert hotel bed, and now he has to lie in it; in different hotels. But good for him.

A further move, and one well heralded, is that the time when the tourism law is changed to enable condohotels seems to be drawing ever nearer. But one detects the first rumblings of division and self-interest amongst different hoteliers. There needs to a minimum size for apartments that can be converted to residential use (90 square metres), or there needs to be a stipulation that they are from existing three to four-star stock, or there needs to be provision to make sure that condos aren't simply a "refuge for the obsolete".

One would have thought that a refuge from the obsolete was a very good reason for allowing condos, always assuming investment were forthcoming to make them of sufficiently good standard. If the condo does go ahead, and it seems unlikely that it won't, then this could be good news; residential apartments in hotels means that they won't be all-inclusive.

The other side to this is that the condo idea, around for some years, is being exposed as blatantly self-serving when you take into account the fierce opposition of the hotels to the holiday-let sector. Forget all the other spin, this is the real reason for that opposition; one that allows the hotels to have the cake of conversion and of a lucrative residential tourism market and eat it, too, to the point of their gorging themselves.

And then there is something else. The PP government's finance and business minister José Aguiló is flagging up an idea that is so sensible that is one that even ordinary Joe Soaps, who are neither members of governments nor anything in particular to do with the tourism industry, have thought up; and this is the idea of social-security breaks for businesses which lengthen the season, i.e. the likes of hotels which would stay open over winter.

The idea is such a no-brainer, one wonders why it has not been introduced and not even really discussed. One reason why it hasn't is because of the debilitating culture endemic among many Spaniards and Mallorcans (and indeed other nationalities that have come to live in Mallorca) that you work for six months and then live off the state for the other six. It's time for a cultural change and for an incentive for hotels to keep open, even on reduced staffs.

There is much to be positive about what the government has been saying these past few days. There is a "necessity for change". The necessity has existed for years, but complacency, lack of will, lack of strategic thought have all prevented it. We might just have reached a stage when everyone finally understands the necessity and will actually do something about it.

Any comments to please.

Friday, September 16, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 September 2011

A warm night, it cooled down sufficiently to mean a local high at 07.00 of only 21 degrees. But a warm and very sunny day in prospect. The forecast for Sunday has improved, but there is still a risk of showers, as is also the case on Monday.

It has been a fine day with maximums to 28 degrees. However, the threat of a breakdown in the weather this weekend looks more likely now. The met office is saying that temperatures will drop by up to seven degrees this weekend (Sunday probably) with rain and storms possible. By Tuesday, the temperatures will rise again but not to current levels.

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia bar controversy and Carme Garcia

The former PSM member Carme Garcia, who caused upset when she supported the Partido Popular during the local elections and has since become a member of the town hall administration, has found herself in the midst of a controversy related to a town hall decision to pave some garden in the market square. The garden happens to be next to the bar Sa Murada, which is owned by her father, and will enable extra terracing for the bar. The mayor, Coloma Terrasa, says that the decision was based on a report by local police. The opposition has challenged the ethics of the decision.

Drinking Mallorca By The Bucket

Once upon a time you took a bucket and spade to the beach. You still take a bucket to the beach, but you no longer fill it with sand. You fill it instead with the boys' bevvy. Booze. Booze by the bucketloads.

The season has witnessed a growth in the sale of buckets in Mallorca's resorts, mainly Magalluf, Palmanova, Arenal and Cala Ratjada. The attraction of the bucket is not restricted by culture. Both the Brits and the Germans are bucketheads. There is a whole in their buckets, dear Lisa and liebe Lisa, a whole load of beer in their buckets.

"Drunken tourism" is becoming such an accepted term in the tourism lexicon that the Balearics Tourism Agency should give serious consideration to its inclusion in its marketing strategy. Alongside the alternatives of culture and good scoff, there would also be the promotion of drunken tourism. Where alcohol is concerned, they might have more in mind the attractions of local vino, available from boutique bodegas at absurd prices per bottle and with designer labels. Instead, they've got buckets with a sticky bar code and cold drink at bucketshop prices.

The agency wouldn't of course promote any such thing. All bad for the image and what have you: British and German youths traipsing off to the nearest beach with their buckets, crates of cheap drink and a box of straws. Oh no, you can't have gatherings of public drinking. You wouldn't get the local lads and lasses doing this. Except of course, that's exactly what you do get. If the locals can stage a "botellón", why shouldn't tourists do something similar? And, moreover, do it during the day when the sun's shining.

Boozing has been around in Mallorca as long as mass tourism has been. It might have changed in its nature - the bucket did used to be reserved solely for its accompanying spade in the good old days - but it has always been an essential part of the holiday experience. It was not only essential, it would also have been a badly missed opportunity in those good old days. A handful of pesetas for a liberal measure, followed by another handful of pesetas ... and for the same cost as a couple of Double Diamonds back in the UK, you could get tanked up enough to require a stomach pump.

Resorts in Mallorca may not be the leading exponents of drunken tourism in Spain - Lloret de Mar, as I wrote about previously, lays claim to the number-one slot - they may not even be among the leaders in the Med (think the alternatives such as Zante and its industrial alcohol), but they are still prominent, as they always have been.

Nevertheless, the growth in the phenomenon of drinking by the bucketload is causing sufficient concern for the Mallorca hoteliers' federation to call for a commission to look into the matter. What do they think this will achieve? A ban on the sale of buckets perhaps?

They could always try and get the drinking of alcohol in public places banned. Except they've tried this with the botellón with usually no effect whatsoever. In Alcúdia, there was meant to have been such a ban. If there was (or indeed still is), no one has taken much notice. Moreover, how would you define such a ban? You couldn't stop a holdaymaker (or indeed a local) cracking open a can of Saint Mick on the beach.

What the hoteliers are really concerned about is the fact that there are too many young people pitching up and occupying rooms that the hoteliers would prefer were kept for families. They're never satisfied, are they. TUI, and for once TUI is not trying to skirt the issue, has said that the youth market is important. Of course it's important. It means bums on airline seats and hanging out of balconies in hotels. Hats off to TUI. It is reported as also saying that "golfers and five star hotels alone don't fill airplanes". Well, well, well.

Quite how the youth market with their buckets and beer equates to a TUI vision of sustainable tourism I'm not sure. But sales of holidays are sales of holidays; sustainability can go hang, along with any sense that a tour operator should discriminate in terms of who it actually sells a holiday to. Which it most certainly shouldn't.

Ultimately, there is a fear that the bucketheads will drive away the family tourist. But it is a vastly overstated fear. Mallorca's tourism has always been a mix, as has that of its resorts: a bucket and spade for the kids and a bucket and beer for the older kids.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Yet another drowning in Playa de Muro

Following the spate of drownings in the sea at Playa de Muro (three in ten days at the end of August), there was another fatality this morning. The emergency services were called just before eight this morning to attend a 76-year-old woman who unfortunately drowned, probably because of heart failure, the cause of the other recent drownings in the resort. The woman would also have been swimming when lifeguards were not on duty. The incident occurred near to the Balneario 1, i.e. in the Las Gaviotas part of Playa de Muro near to the Los Principes hotel. Sea conditions were perfectly normal.

MALLORCA TODAY - Brussels to be alerted over Muro golf course

Environmental watchdog GOB says that it intends to bring to the attention of the European Commission what it believes is the plan of the Balearic Government to unblock protection orders relating to the Son Bosc finca in Muro and so permit the development of the long-talked-about golf course.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 September 2011

Another rocking day to come, local highs 23plus early doors at 07.00. Sunshine all the way today. Looking increasingly dodgy for Sunday and Monday.

There turned out to be some cloud around, but only a small amount. Otherwise, another very warm day with a local high of 28 degrees. The forecast for Sunday and Monday seems to have improved now.

Union Bashing In A Balearics Style

Are the Balearics heading for a Thatcher moment? The enemy within given a sound man-bagging by the Iron Gentleman?

José Bauzá and his merry men are indulging in a spot of union bashing. This isn't the end of the brothers' power as we know it, but it might be the thin end of the industrial relations wedge. Where Bauzá leads (or is rather instructed by central office), so a Madrid newly coloured blue come November will follow.

It is becoming clearer why Bauzá has suddenly acquired an hirsute appearance. It is so he can look in the beard the likes of Cándido Mendez, the secretary-general of the UGT union. Mendez's fierce grey number makes Bauzá's designer accessory seem distinctly wimpish, but a man's got to do what a man's got to do, which is to not shave and look as hard as possible when confronting the ferocious Mendez.

The Thatcher moment, not that it actually is a Thatcher moment (yet), involves union worker representatives in the public sector. The Balearic Government is eliminating 89 of these representatives, 31 in the health sector, 34 in education and 24 in general services, along with a fund which pays for them. There are two classes of worker representatives, and the ones affected by the government's decision are those who, in effect, work full-time in their representative capacity.

As with much of anything of a political nature in the Balearics or Spain, there is a symbolic aspect to the worker representatives (found in both the public and private sectors), as they are an embodiment of workers' rights in law and under the constitution. The concept was taken from what was an established model in European countries such as Germany once democracy came to Spain. Prior to this, industrial relations didn't exist. There wasn't much industry to speak of and what relations there were tended to be somewhat one-sided; a snivelling waiter would be hauled out of a bar and a decree from the Generalísimo, announcing a 10% pay cut, would be nailed to his head.

The unions are none too impressed by the decision, and you would hardly expect them to react otherwise. The UGT (general workers) is threatening to break off relations with the government; the CCOO union believes the decision is the fore-runner of far wider cuts in the public service. Both unions accuse Bauzá and his boys of acting unilaterally and undemocratically.

A problem for the unions is that José Public might well not share their concerns. The representatives are known as "liberados sindicales", the liberado bit referring to the fact that they have been freed from their normal work. Yet the liberado tag has become something of a pejorative, as the function is seen as being a bit of a cushy number.

There is also a criticism that it observes a kind of Parkinson's Law. Work doesn't expand to fill available time, rather time expands to justify the work. And what is the work? This is another criticism, that the representative ends up indulging and supporting spurious worker grievances: Juan says that the new toilet paper in the factory loos has given him piles and so demands six months on the sick. This sort of thing.

This all said, the unions do have a legitimate beef. The government appears to have taken it upon itself to rip up an agreement dating back to 2006, and it did so at a meeting to which the unions were given a mere 24-hours notice. If Bauzá is wanting to appear to be playing the hard man, then he is succeeding, but at what price?

The government's action cannot be seen as one it has taken by itself. It may have ignored the unions, but it was a decision almost certainly taken for it elsewhere: in Madrid by the Partido Popular central office. Almost exactly a year ago, the idea of reducing (or scrapping) the worker representatives was getting a good airing. In Madrid. The president of the community of Madrid, the PP's Esperanza Aguirre, reckoned a reduction was a good idea, and so did the party's leader Mariano Rajoy. The idea has been bubbling away ever since, and, as mentioned previously, what the PP plans nationally it will try out, thanks to the compliant Bauzá, in the Balearics.

The government will argue it's all to do with saving money, but the actual saving is very small - a couple of hundred grand. The move is, therefore, political and political alone. It is also, in its own way, symbolic, and you don't need to be an expert in politics or industrial relations to appreciate what it symbolises.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - The new casino to finally open

Well, will it finally open? The new casino in Porto Pi has been subject to delays and announcements as to its opening on dates which have come and gone. It does now appear that it will open in less than three weeks.

MALLORCA TODAY - Another bad fire in Artà

The Artà area, which has suffered from other fires this summer, has been hit by another. 2.7 hectares of pine forest land have been affected by a fire that broke out around 13.00 this afternoon and which required the main road to Sant Llorenç to be closed for a time. There have been two other less serious fires today as well; one above Felanitx and the other, much smaller, near Llucmajor.