Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Highest and lowest temperatures ever on Mallorca

As an aside to the usual daily weather report, there is an interesting interview in today's "Diario de Mallorca" with the head of AEMET (the national meteorology agency) in the Balearics. He was asked what have been the highest and lowest temperatures ever recorded on Mallorca. The answers ... 44.2 degrees in Muro on 3 July 1994 and minus 13.5 degrees in Lluc in February 1956.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 November 2011

A sunny, clear morning, the dew heavy and giving an appearance almost of frost, though the temperatures would have to go down significantly for that to be the case. Currently (at 08:30) they range between 10 and 12 degrees. The outlook for the next few days and heading towards the two holidays (6 and 8 December) is generally good, though getting cooler.

Afternoon update: Another very reasonable day. Inevitably feeling a bit damp, as it always is through the late autumn and into winter even when there is no rain, but also quite warm with a pretty sunny 20 degrees in mid-afternoon.

The Biggest Wave: Tourism and climate

Periodically the issue of climate change and its impact on Mallorca's tourism raises its head. And when it does, it is usually accompanied by the sight of an entire industry and a host of politicians preferring to bury their own heads in the sand. They should be careful and not tarry long or they might be washed away by the rising seas.

Even if one is a disbeliever in the human element in climate change, a great deal of evidence has been cobbled together over the past few years that should make the tourism industry (and not just the tourism industry) stop and think for a moment. Unfortunately, there has been an absence of any sort of long-term thinking, and some of this thinking doesn't even have to project that far into the future.

It is just conceivable - actually, more than just conceivable - that plans for tourism and indeed much else on Mallorca could be rendered irrelevant, if more extreme predictions of the consequences of climate change were to manifest themselves.

A problem, though, lies with a not unreasonable scepticism when questionable predictions are made. I'll give you just one. In 2007, a Nobel Prize winner, Professor Martin Beniston, argued that south-west Europe (to include Mallorca) would experience average temperature rises of six degrees over the following six years. Well, it's now 2011 and the prediction has some way to go yet.

Far less dramatic and far less speculative are what are said to be the actual increases in temperature. Playa de Palma, for example, has experienced an each-decade increase of 0.6 of a degree compared with a global 0.7 average each century. So says Professor Sergio Alonso from the Universitat de les Illes Balears. What time frame he refers to isn't totally clear, but he considers human intervention to be the main cause of climate change since the eighteenth century and, in particular, since the middle of the last century.

The relatively far greater increase in Mallorca's temperature may well be evidence of what is said about the island, which is that its location at just about 40 degrees latitude makes it particularly susceptible to the impact of climate change. Whether it is or not, Professor Alonso is one of those who is trying to address this impact on tourism, and today there is a conference in Palma which does just that.

One of the more obvious impacts is likely to be beneficial. Alonso isn't the only one to have suggested that it could be positive in reducing seasonality. Warmer off-seasons would bring more off-season tourism. The same point was made by another Mallorca-based professor, Carlos Duarte of the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies, a couple of years ago.

However, there is the issue of just how hot it might get in summer. Current heatwaves which push the temperature up to a point where the heat becomes dangerous will begin to become the norm. It's a question of when rather than if and also of whether this would deter summer tourism. It probably would to an extent, but if there were benefits for the off-season, the sooner the higher temperatures really kick in the better.

The negatives, though, are potentially far more profound. The loss of 20 metres of beach and a 20 centimetre increase in sea levels will cause a fundamental alteration of the coastlines, and they are on the cards by the middle of this century. It is the effect on the coastlines which, more than other aspects of climate change, threatens to undermine both current and future plans for resorts, but it is an effect which seems to be studiously ignored.

More damaging, though, is the potential for extreme natural events, tsunamis especially. Last year, the university issued a report warning of greater tsunami risk and a few days ago another report, by the Institute of Environmental Hydraulics in Cantabria, gave its own warning - that of a potentially devastating tsunami, one worsened in its effects by the lack of adequate alert and emergency systems in Spain as a whole.

In addition to the tsunami threat, there is also that of drought. A marked decline in rainfall, added to the greater heat, would place a burden on resources that Mallorca couldn't cope with. Plans for the supply of water and for energy for ever more air-conditioning are just one element of where long-term thinking should be taking local industry and politicians. Are they thinking, though?

Get your heads out of the sand, fellas, because here comes a damn great wave.

Any comments to please.

Index for November 2011

Basil D'Oliveira - 20 November 2011
Climate change and tourism - 30 November 2011
Cruise tourism - 7 November 2011
Day of the dead - 1 November 2011
Day of reflection - 19 November 2011
Duke of Palma and Matas corruption case - 10 November 2011
Education, languages and - 4 November 2011
English, mayors and town halls - 11 November 2011
Euro crisis - 3 November 2011
Formula One in Mallorca - 27 November 2011
General election, Spanish - 8 November 2011, 15 November 2011
Industrial estates - 12 November 2011
Lidl and supermarkets - 13 November 2011
Manacor to Artà rail line - 9 November 2011
Mariano Rajoy and tourism - 5 November 2011
Palma, naming - 18 November 2011
Residencias (old people's homes) - 29 November 2011
Restaurants ignored in tourism promotion - 17 November 2011
Son Real, problems at - 28 November 2011
Sports facilities' grants scrapped, towns' - 26 November 2011
Technocrats, Rajoy and - 20 November 2011
Thomas Cook's troubles - 24 November 2011
Tourism promotion budget - 2 November 2011, 14 November 2011, 16 November 2011
Tourism strategy, independent thought and - 21 November 2011
Unemployment, credit and economy - 22 November 2011, 23 November 2011
Waste treatment and town hall non-payments - 25 November 2011
World Travel Market - 6 November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Old Folks At Home

I went to the old folks home in Alcúdia yesterday. They had rung me up and asked me to come by. There was a surprise on entering the "residencia". I remembered it when it was the Alcúdia hospital. The place has been completely transformed. They describe it as not really a hotel and not really a hospital, but it looked and felt more like a hotel.

I said to them that a perception of a residencia, among many Brits at any rate, is probably that of the "old folks home", one of elderly people sitting around in stiff-backed chairs, staring aimlessly at a television screen, not always smelling of lavender, and waiting for the next trolley of tea to come by. The residencia really isn't like that.

They wanted to do something about increasing awareness of what the place is really like, but that's for elsewhere, as there is - along with every other part of Mallorca's economy - a crisis in the residencia sector.

Workers at residencias across Mallorca have added their voices to the growing number of personnel that is either not being paid or is being paid late. Though the regional government or town halls don't operate residencias, the companies which do are paid by government and the companies in turn pay staff salaries. Or don't, as the government is in debt to them, as it is in debt to all manner of providers.

A protest planned for today outside the regional parliament by workers from different residencias adds to one staged by a hundred workers at the residencia in Marratxí on Saturday. It had been announced that November salaries for the staff in Marratxí would not be paid, this coming on top of delays in the past few months.

The residencia workers are far from being the only ones who have suffered because of the inability of government (or town halls) to pay suppliers, but problems with payment at this time of the year are particularly acute, given the proximity of Christmas.

The system of payment for those in the public sector isn't collapsing, but it is on foundations that seem to be becoming ever more shaky, as is the edifice of the Mallorcan and indeed Spanish welfare state.

The residencias, in addition to their permanent residents, provide an important service through their day centres. These are important especially for the elderly who live alone and/or in conditions that are not much better than destitution.

A misconception that surrounds local society, in addition to one that the welfare state is particularly generous, which it isn't, is that the family always takes care of its own, the elderly included. The family does of course provide, but not quite to the same extent that it once might have.

The Economic and Social Council for the Balearics has released information regarding the number of people aged 65 or older who live on their own. The percentage in the islands as a whole is just under a third, and one half of these either have no or very little by way of contact with family, while some 22% also have no obvious friends to call upon. Pensions, which Mariano Rajoy says he will safeguard, can be as low as 250 euros a month.

Demands placed on agencies outside the established welfare state have rocketed in the past few years, and not only for help for the elderly. The Cruz Roja and the Catholic charity, Caritas, are just two that have had to step in as a combination of economic crisis and a societal shift that has lessened the strength of the family has left an increasing number of people with little or no safety net; and crisis has itself contributed to undermining the wherewithal of some families to go some way to providing this safety net.

Crisis is not just damaging economically but also socially, and the strain of crisis is such that opposition parties accuse the regional government of stripping away nearly 250 million euros from that part of the budget that includes welfare and the family; a budget described as the "most anti-social" that the Balearics have experienced.

It is against this background, therefore, that the services of the residencias, more important than ever, find themselves also subject to the virus that is crisis and to a cycle of crisis that is vicious and seemingly never-ending.

Alcúdia's old folks home, and more than just an old folks home, is mightily impressive. Whether the agencies of government are taking much notice of how impressive, however, is another matter entirely.

Any comments to please.

MALLORCA TODAY - Military base in Puerto Pollensa faces council charges

The military base in Puerto Pollensa is one target of Pollensa town hall that is intent on increasing the council's income. The base, which doubles as a holiday destination for Spanish and NATO service personnel, does not currently pay for the collection of rubbish, yet it registers up to 40,000 overnight stays per annum by military visitors.

MALLORCA TODAY - Palm trees being eliminated in Pollensa

Drastic action by Pollensa town hall to stem the actions of the "picudo rojo" red beetle that has devastated certain palm tree species in Puerto Pollensa and which has now spread to other parts of the island involves the cutting down of 80 palms that had not been affected by the beetle. The move, with the agreement and assistance of the environment ministry, is to be accompanied by orders for owners with palms on private land that are affected to eliminate the trees within ten days of receiving such an order, or face a fine of up to 2,500 euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 November 2011

After the deluge yesterday and into the early morning, things have calmed down. At 08:00 it is a mix of clear skies and some banks of cloud with temperatures of 14 degrees in the area. It should be generally fine today with a possible maximum of 18 degrees. Tomorrow looks to be cloudy but the later part of the week sunnier.

Afternoon update: A decent day it has been with a good deal of sun, temperature topping out at 19 degrees. There is due to be a fall in temperature later this week and the first forecasts of snow suggest that over 1200 metres there will be a dusting from Friday.

MALLORCA TODAY - Minor earthquake in Sant Joan, Mallorca

An earthquake measuring 2.1 on the Richter scale has been registered in the vicinity of Sant Joan in the centre of Mallorca. It is described as being nothing exceptional and in keeping with seismic events which occur two or three times a year on the island. One of the main causes for tremors on Mallorca is the existence of the Sencelles fault. Sant Joan is close to Sencelles.

Monday, November 28, 2011

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 November 2011

Seriously tempting fate, but as the internet problems do now seem resolved, so the weather and the other stuff are coming back. So ... there has been some weather today. An awful lot of it. Chucked it down much of the day, 50 mm by 18:00 for Alcúdia, somewhat less for Pollensa. Temperatures down to 14 degrees. Getting better tomorrow.

A Real Farce

Put the words "real" and "farce" together and the potential references are all but endless. What's today's real farce? Iñaki Urdangarín perhaps. A real, as in royal(ish), Brian Rix character, and now presumably, thanks to the farcical goings-on at Palma town hall, referred to as the Duke of Palma de Mallorca, where he had been merely "of Palma" until a few days ago.

If not dukey, then what about Real Mallorca? So committed to farce, it's the only thing the club's any good at. They can't even manage to find themselves caught up in a decent bit of old-fashioned fan hooliganism; only an accident.

Real and farce could apply to a host of things in Mallorca. Every day of every year. Not all, though, have real inscribed onto the farce. But there is one other which does. Just what on earth is going on at Son Real near Can Picafort? Or maybe we should call it Son Unreal.

If you have never been to Son Unreal, and the chances are that you haven't, as I'm none too sure many people actually go there, you may be unaware of the fact that it is arguably the single most important historic site in Mallorca. It isn't just any old bit of finca, and at getting on for 400 hectares you probably wouldn't expect it to be.

Its provenance either is or almost prehistoric. And just part of this prehistory, the necropolis burial site, is under threat from nature, i.e. the sea, and from man, who tramples over it (those men who do in fact go there), because there is a lack of preservation and a lack of control.

The necropolis isn't the only part of Son Real that is suffering. With the exception of the restoration of old houses and the creation of a visitors' centre, the story of Son Real has been one of neglect for years.

The finca was acquired by the then government nine years ago. Prior to the acquisition and then for some time afterwards, Son Real was paid scant attention to. So little did it seem to register that there was a serious proposal to turn the finca into a golf course. Yes, really, a golf course. When common sense prevailed and the proposal was ditched, leaving Santa Margalida town hall making somewhat ambiguous statements, as it seemed to be in favour of the course, some attention was finally paid. And it cost three million euros.

This was the price tag put on the restoration and the visitors' centre. A whole bunch of dignitaries turned up at the start of September 2008 to celebrate the spending of three million, partook of the tapas and wine and, like any freeloader who goes to a restaurant inauguration, promptly forgot about the place, along with everyone else.

Among those who forgot about it, or so the town hall reckons, are the local hotels, which do precious little or nothing to publicise Son Real. The town hall isn't much impressed by the efforts of the tourism ministry either, though the ministry is finally putting the Foundation for Sustainable Development, which supposedly runs the place, out of its misery and scrapping it.

The town hall wants to knock heads together in making improvements to the maintenance, management and promotion of Son Real. It represents something of an about turn for an administration, admittedly of a different make-up, that not so long ago quite fancied the necropolis being turned into a series of bunkers.

Its enthusiasm in wanting to see something being done may not be completely without some other motivation. For sure, it would like there to be more tourists coming into Can Picafort in order to visit Son Real, but it has had its spats with the foundation and so may see the opportunity to join in with kicking it while it is down and on its way out, to say nothing of perhaps eyeing up a possible involvement in running the finca, despite the fact that it is meant to now come under the environment ministry.

Whatever the motivation, the town hall isn't wrong to highlight the problems at Son Real, and these aren't simply confined to deterioration to the historic remains; rubbish, broken signs, these are just other examples of the lack of care.

The real story of Son Real and its neglect, though, is one of questions arising as to quite how serious are the desires to preserve Mallorca's heritage and to promote it to tourists. Tourism bodies bang on about heritage and culture, everyone bangs on about it, but at Son Real no one does much about it. Farce? Really, it is.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mallorca's Political Formula One

While sport for all may be being brought into question because of the lack of financing of Mallorca's sports facilities, sport for an elite poses its own question: is Mallorca really going to get a Formula One circuit?

Long in the suggestion, the regional government is, as it said it would, giving the proposal a serious once-over. The seriousness of this once-over has to do with the financing of a circuit, the government hoping that, were it a real goer, the money would be mainly or totally private.

When the idea for the circuit was doing the rounds last year, the cost of the project was put at some 90 million euros. A plan has in fact been drawn up, one that would pretty much completely re-develop the Rennarena in Llucmajor, which currently is totally inadequate for F1.

The plan would, for example, require a lengthening of the circuit by almost three kilometres plus creating grandstands capable of holding way more than the existing 1500 spectators. As with any plan for a building project, there are the inevitable procedures. The government says it will look at how this bureaucracy can be tackled, which probably means ignoring any planning issues. Already, one can hear the sound of GOB and other environmental protectors revving up their engines (with bio-fuel) in the protest pit lanes.

But talk of finance and procedures are only partially relevant. The chances of Mallorca's F1 circuit ever even getting onto the starting-grid of potential grand prix, let alone being shown the green lights, have to be slim.

Bernie Ecclestone has been courted and Bernie has made some encouraging remarks, but then Bernie says all sorts of things. One of them is that he is against there being more than one grand prix per country. This hasn't stopped Spain from currently having two - the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona and the European Grand Prix around Valencia's street circuit - but Rome has pretty much given up on staging a street race from 2013 since a letter from Ecclestone in an Italian newspaper said that "no one" wanted two races per country (Italy already has Monza).

It also hasn't stopped the USA being awarded two grand prix from 2013 - the revived US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas and a so-called Grand Prix of America in New Jersey. However, and despite F1 not being particularly popular in the USA, Ecclestone is largely motivated by commercial opportunities and by a desire to develop F1 geographically.

With these motivations in mind, where does a grand prix in Mallorca fit in? What is being hoped for in Mallorca is that it would replace Valencia as the location for the European Grand Prix. Valencia's contract lasts until the 2013 race, though it has been rumoured it might be dropped after next year. So there may well be some substance to the Mallorcan hope. But it is one based on an assumption that there will still be a European Grand Prix. Rome probably saw this as its chance, but, and notwithstanding the American contradiction, Ecclestone is opposed to another race in Italy and may well see the end of Valencia as a reason to scrap the European Grand Prix.

There is significant competition from across the globe for circuits to be included in the F1 calendar, some of it from other countries in Europe. Croatia, for example, has its eyes on a grand prix. This competition merely adds to F1's commercial and global ambitions in raising serious doubts as to whether Mallorca is a realistic option.

Given all this, therefore, should the government really be giving the proposal a serious once-over? The investment, were it to be private, wouldn't be an issue, although the environmental objections are bound to be. But why would there be investment without any guarantee of success in securing a grand prix? It might be that, were the circuit designed appropriately or flexibly enough, it could also stage MotoGP, which is Spanish-dominated in terms of who runs it and the number of races - four in Spain for next year's calendar. MotoGP isn't F1, however; either its cachet or its cash.

The proposal isn't particularly realistic, and one has the impression that its discussion both before the regional elections and now has been for political consumption. Former president Matas wanted a grand prix as well; one to be held on a Palma street circuit. That was an absurdity. Llucmajor isn't, but the stewards flags should nevertheless be being waved furiously and warning that all the talk may just be PR and a raising of expectations that cannot be fulfilled.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sport For All

If you are a government minister, let's say for tourism and sport in the Balearics, you would hope that you would have both some tourism and sport to be in charge of and both some tourism and sport on which you could lavish your ministerial munificence.

Tourism there is, but it has to scrape by on only a few quid for promotion, though when your ministry is in fact 32 million euros in the red, it's surprising that there is a ministry at all.

Then there's sport. Or rather, then there isn't any sport.

Linked to the ministry is one agency from within the Balearic Government's tourism organisation that has been allowed to escape the axe for being either pointless or up to its neck in misappropriation of funds, or both.

The Fundación Illesport came to public notice recently, as it was invoices to this foundation that first alerted the world to the inconvenience with which the Duke of Palma now has to contend. The foundation was handing over great wads of cash in return for what would appear, allegedly, to have been very little.

But the foundation has long been there, doing something about sport, which mainly seems to have involved spending the tourism ministry's money, of which there now isn't any. It's a reasonable question to ask why a foundation has been needed when presumably they could just as easily have got some secretary in the ministry to prepare cheques, so one has to assume that the foundation has some altogether greater function.

It does, or did. It was still really only a case of doling out ministry money, but the foundation is (was) responsible, among other things, for sorting out financial assistance to town halls for their sports facilities. An agreement of May this year should have realised the release of 24 million euros to different municipalities, only eight million, therefore, short of the ministry's total debt for this year.

Should have, because now the foundation says that it hasn't got any money to meet these grants. A town hall that stands to suffer most from the lack of funding for sports facilities' improvements is Sa Pobla; to the tune of 338 thousand euros. The mayor is threatening legal action.

There had already been an indication that money for sport was not going to be forthcoming, as a couple of weeks ago Santa Margalida had been told that it was not going to get the quarter of a million it had been promised.

As a consequence, sport, in the case of sport to support the health and welfare of the island, is being allowed to trail in well down the list of all the runners and riders that the government has to feed and nurture.

There are, though, two types of sport: that for the people of Mallorca and that for tourists. The tourism and sport minister, Carlos Delgado, took office with a brief that included giving a new impulse to sport in Mallorca and the Balearics. If there is an impulse, it appears to be directed at sport for tourism. When announcing recently that there was going to be only a negligible amount for tourism promotion, he did also refer to initiatives to further develop three "puertos deportivos", one being that of Alcúdia.

What this would entail wasn't made clear, and even though only three "sport ports" are being targeted, the priority for sport, where the ministry is concerned, seems clear enough, and it isn't sport for the locals.

Sport usually finds itself losing out when governments come to having to make tough decisions. Perhaps we should be grateful that there aren't proposals to sell off the playing fields and sports areas and hand them over to developers. Yet.

But sport plays a central role in the life of the island's communities. One only has to scan through pages of the Spanish press on a Monday to get an appreciation of the scale of sport and its organisation in Mallorca. Pages of results, reports and photos of teams for football, basketball, athletics, whatever; men and women, boys and girls.

Sports tourism is one of the Big White Hopes of tourism diversification. It deserves to be prioritised. But for every development of a resort's watersports, for every possible new golf course or - the new vogue - polo field, and for every route set aside for German oldsters to clack along with Nordic walking poles, sport at the local level should not be neglected.

The tourism ministry and its foundation will know that sport will just carry on without the injection of new money. But nothing lasts without investment. As a slogan once had it, "sport for all". And not just for tourism.

Any comments to please.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Never-Ending Story ...

The never-ending story of the technical problems. One moment it seemed as things were fixed and then they weren't. The chaps from Telefonica were about for hours today trying to put the wires together. It has all been a problem with the line and something specifically to do with cables to neighbouring properties. Don't ask me to explain, as I have no idea.

What might tomorrow bring? Pass. I assume Telefonica work on Saturdays, but for now, connection is slow and sporadic; just as it has been. The joys of technology.

Going To Waste

Between the two town halls of Alcúdia and Sa Pobla, the company Tirme, which provides rubbish-treatment services on Mallorca, is owed in the region of 4.6 million euros. The amount is divided roughly evenly between the two administrations, a difference lying with how much interest they both owe (Alcúdia more than Sa Pobla).

This is not the first time that Tirme has gone in pursuit of outstanding debts from town halls. At the end of May, Inca got a demand for not far off two million. Just one strange aspect of the non-payments is that they relate to the period from 2008, in the case of Alcúdia, and from 2009 where Sa Pobla is concerned. How many other town halls are similarly in debt to Tirme? And if there are others, but even if not, how does a company operate when it is not being paid such vast sums?

Alcúdia and Sa Pobla are both negotiating payment terms, and the respective administrations are of course blaming the previous administrations. Which seems fair enough, but, just as one wonders how Tirme copes with not being paid, one wonders how it is that town halls can apparently just not bother paying. Sa Pobla is also in for about 1.35 million to three other service providers, including the rubbish collectors.

One gets the impression that the whole business world in Mallorca - that which has anything to do with the town halls or other public bodies - is surviving on the promise that they might one day actually get paid. But promises don't amount to a great deal and they certainly don't amount to cash flow or reassurances to lenders, if they are applicable.

Tirme, though, isn't quite like other businesses. Most would find 4.6 million plus the couple of million from Inca and whatever else might be outstanding rather too much debt to bear. Tirme doesn't. Or doesn't appear to. This may be because of who owns it - Endesa, Iberdrola, Urbaser and FCC. Tirme is also a monopoly, and its concession for waste treatment lasts until 2041.

Tirme's monopoly position is understandable in that its operations do demand heavy investment, so it has every right to be able to expect to have a period in which it can make a return on its investment. But not everyone is happy with this monopoly nor with how Tirme prioritises its investment and its operations.

A key part of Tirme's remit is recycling. Mention the R word and you can be sure that one organisation will prick its ears up: GOB, the environmental pressure group. In August, GOB issued a statement attacking Tirme for what it claimed was the company's concentration on incineration as opposed to recycling. GOB maintained that recycling plants were operating well below capacity, while the ovens were going full pelt in optimising as swiftly as possible the investment on incinerators at the Son Reus plant in Palma. Moreover, reckoned GOB, the incineration was allowing for the generation of electricity that was being commercialised.

GOB has accused Tirme of engaging in misleading marketing where its operations are concerned and has accused the Council of Mallorca, which, and truly bizarrely, has managed to extract a reduction in the cost of waste treatment for 2012 of slightly less than two centimos, of complicity.

But then, the story of waste management and treatment is far from straightforward; you wouldn't expect it to be, because nothing ever is in Mallorca.

In January this year, the anti-corruption prosecutors embarked upon the so-called "Operación Cloaca". This had to with allegations of false accounting centred on waste management operations sanctioned by the Council of Mallorca. Of those detained at the time, and I would make it perfectly clear that Tirme was not implicated in the Cloaca investigation, was an executive with FCC-Lumsa, one of the companies with a concession for recycling collection; FCC, which is a shareholder in Tirme.

Cloaca highlighted the dual system of waste collection (door to door as well as from green points) which had resulted in effect in payment for recycling doubling. Cloaca also revealed that town halls had been pressurised by an individual at the Council of Mallorca into adopting this dual system.

What Cloaca also highlighted was the sheer complexity of arrangements for waste management on Mallorca. Perhaps town halls simply don't understand what it is they are meant to be paying for. Now, though, Alcúdia and Sa Pobla accept that they have to pay Tirme. But you wonder how many other town halls owe the company and whether the reason for non-payment has been more than just an inability to pay.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Don't Just Book It ...

Mr. Thomas Cook does not quite fit with the image of the current-day tourism industry. A follower of the Victorian temperance movement, Mr. Cook organised trips for fellow abstainers (or those who did in strict moderation). His first excursion was from Leicester to Loughborough, which must have been exciting.

Mr. Cook will probably have long been turning in his grave. Though by no means all the tourist descendants of the Loughborough excursionists are on the extreme binge-drinking wing of the tourism market, some are and are therefore very much not adherents to the concept of temperance, even if they knew the term or understood it; for example, Club 18-30 is part of Thomas Cook.

More than just the devils of drink, Mr. Cook would doubtless be alarmed to learn that his name is associated with a company that finds itself in dire financial straits. Moderation in everything, money matters included, would have been the Cook mantra.

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, as a prominent Victorian didn't say in that he didn't first come up with the expression but most likely did declare it, repeatedly, from a pulpit of the times. And money has been the root of Thomas Cook's contemporary problems. It owes a mere one billion quid to lenders. Remarkably, only four years ago, the company could brag that it had nearly four hundred million sitting in the bank.

The tour operator has had a number of issues to confront, so its problems are not solely down to financial imprudence, but a lot of them are. A share buy-back and a series of acquisitions have helped to push the company to the brink. It is hanging on through the largesse of banks, which it hopes will continue to stump up around a hundred million a month, if current financing requirements persist.

One of Thomas Cook's more recent ventures into expansion was the protracted merger with Co-Operative Travel. Finally agreed to earlier this year by UK competition commissioners, the combined operation now finds itself having to plan the likely closure of some 200 travel agency shops.

The name which regularly crops up in discussions of Thomas Cook's troubles is that of its former chief executive who left in August: "Super Nova", Manny Fontenla-Novoa, often described as "colourful", which is shorthand for all sorts of things. Super Nova had raked in only 14.5 million quids worth of salary and shares in the four years prior to his somewhat sudden disappearance.

There is no small amount of schadenfreude among some elements of the Mallorcan tourism industry at both Thomas Cook's woes and the downfall of Super Nova. This stems, in part, from a dislike of the power that one of the Big Two tour operators wields, which can manifest itself in different ways, such as the way in which Thomas Cook decided that it would apply a so-called discount to hotels' invoices in late summer 2010; the discount was in fact a reduction by 5% on what was due.

The schadenfreude is misplaced, however. The power of the Big Two may not be liked by all, but the local tourism industry would be in a fine mess without them. So if the Big Two became the Big One, and Thomas Cook went under, where would the industry be then?

It's unlikely that this would happen. Thomas Cook does operate profitably. Special financing arrangements are normal in the winter period for tour operators, so there is nothing unusual in Thomas Cook seeking loans. The problem is the accumulated debt.

It is the uncertainty that its financial woes arouse that is troubling. Despite its operating profit and reassurances from the company, holidaymakers are likely to think twice about committing themselves to booking with a tour operator whose troubles are being given such a public airing. This may just slow down bookings to Mallorca for next season, while it might also be noted that a loss of consumer confidence caused by the Euro crisis has been one of the very recent and uncontrollable factors that have affected Thomas Cook.

In the circumstances, therefore, it wouldn't be surprising were holidaymakers disinclined to "book it " with Thomas Cook. Not just yet anyway. This might be good news for other tour operators, but, and schadenfreude notwithstanding, it isn't particularly good news for Mallorca.

* As a footnote to this. Here is another article that has failed to get through the Bulletin sensitivity test. "Manny" is a mate apparently.

** But as a second footnote. Having been apparently rejected, it then appeared, as it was all right after all. Most odd.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mariano And The Mess

Who on earth would want to be a Spanish prime minister? Well, Mariano Rajoy for one, though why is anyone's guess. It says much for political ambition that you would willingly enter the lions' den unprotected and smelling of dinner. Deficit, highest unemployment rate in Europe, virtually no growth. Presumably, in the words of the election song of a certain former prime minister, things can only get better. Actually, they can't; they can only get worse, and they already have.

Surprise has been expressed that the markets have reacted with a massive thumbs-down. That's not how it's meant to work. Good, right-wing, slash-and-burn politico takes over, and the markets are supposed to cheer at the fall of the squandering, bumbling incompetents from the left. They might have done were it not for the fact that Rajoy has to wait a few weeks before getting his backside onto the prime ministerial seat. There are procedures, you know, post-electoral ones, and the markets are being blamed for not understanding that it takes weeks for the Spanish to sort these procedures out. Perhaps Spanish politicians should try understanding how markets work, though they have shown little evidence that they do.

The hiatus following the election is just one reason why the markets have reacted so negatively. Another is that they really don't have much confidence in Rajoy and the Partido Popular as they know full well that there is precious little that Rajoy can actually do. Yep, it's a great time to be taking over as prime minister, knowing that you are totally emasculated and are dead meat even before you start.

If he were allowed into the prime ministerial office now, he would be flashing into the night sky over the Gotham City of Spain the distress image of the Euro and getting Angela and Nicolas racing from the ECB Batcave. "There are only 24 hours to save Spain, Robin." Which isn't too far from the truth, as each day brings with it ever more woe. Or perhaps he would be sending out an SOS and hoping that Thunderbird 5 picks it up. "Brains, any ideas as to how we can rescue Spain?" "Er, er, well, er, Mr. Tracy, we'll have to dig very deep. Cut very deep." "Right, Brains. Virgil, take Thunderbird 2's austerity mole pod." "F.A.B., father."

Oh that it was as simple as sending out a distress signal and International Rescue comes and makes everything all right. What am I saying? This is pretty much how it is. The IMF or the European Central Bank buying up Spanish debt as quickly as it can be issued in order to give Rajoy some breathing space to stutter his words of reforms before they cart him off to the Papandreou Home For Distressed European Leaders.

There's the deficit and then there's employment creation. It's not going to happen, because JP Morgan says so. Yes you can always rely on what banks say - they got everyone into the mess and now they can gloat at everyone's misfortune; JP Morgan reckons unemployment in Spain will rise to 27% next year. Rajoy, if and when he can get his scissors out, is going to have to cut so deep that unemployment will continue its upward march and growth its downward slump. Here comes another recession. Not that the first one ever really went away.

In an ideal world, and you may have noticed that the world currently isn't ideal, Rajoy would set in motion much-needed plans to restructure Spain's economy and not just its finances. Investment in new industries to break the dependence, certainly in some regions of Spain, on construction and tourism has been demanded for years. But where would the investment come from now? Even if the banks weren't suffering liquidity problems or weren't applying a squeeze and even if the government had spare pots of cash lying around, the results would take years to bear fruit. And Rajoy hasn't got years. He's barely got days.

Some proposals like tax cuts for smaller businesses could help with stimulating the economy, but what really might would be lowering the burden on social security payments. A reduction in IVA for the tourism industry, however, would be senseless. Tax receipts have gone up this year, thanks in part to the rise in IVA, and they are likely to be up again next year.

Rajoy has inherited a God awful mess. He should demand our sympathy, but then he wanted to be prime minister. So he should get on and sort it. But he can't, not yet, because procedures don't allow it. Incredible.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Going Benalup: Unemployment and easy credit

There is a town in the province of Cádiz in Andalusia that has the worst unemployment rate in Europe. It is called Benalup (or Benalup-Casas Viejas, to give it its full name). In an article by Giles Tremlett in "The Observer" on Sunday, the collapse of what, for a brief time, had become a boom town is chronicled, and the story of Benalup tells you mostly all you need to know about why Spain is in such a mess and is going to have one hell of a struggle getting out of it.

Benalup is by no means unique, even if it can lay claim to that unwanted unemployment crown. Spain is full of Benalups, and Mallorca shares its problems. To summarise Tremlett's main points, the Benalup belly-up effect was founded on excessive credit and on a glut of construction jobs that paid well and took teenagers out of education.

It won't sit well with the La Caixa bank, known also for its Obra Social good works programmes, that it gets fingered as having triggered a lending war among the banks that flooded into the town in search of mortgage customers, many of them young and having turned their backs on school in the knowledge that they could earn handsome wages in the construction industry.

Construction was the first and most obvious victim of economic crisis, and it took its labour force down with it. In Benalup, those who had left school at sixteen and who had embarked on a side career of avaricious material grab are just part of the almost 50% of Spain's under-25s that are unemployed. This material grab has left Benalup, as Tremlett remarks, "plastered with 'for sale' signs", those of La Caixa's estate-agency arm, which has been forced to repossess.

Much of the construction was centred on the coastal area. The Benalup story, therefore, is a not unfamiliar one of the two heads of construction and tourism that is the economy of much of Spain, Mallorca included. But Benalup, some kilometres inland, doesn't have the luxury of the fallback position of tourism. Without the construction on the coast, it doesn't really have anything.

The dependence on construction and tourism in different parts of Spain is just one factor that has undermined Spain’s economy. Subject to the vagaries of economic cycles, both industries also contribute to a devaluing of the general skills base and of the education system. Easy money can be had, or could, and the state would provide some assistance in the winter for those less inclined to slog around a building site.

The education system is not that great anyway, and in Mallorca it is particularly poor. But through a combination of the system’s inadequacies, a lack of incentive to stay in education and the promise of riches from humping bricks about (now gone), general competitiveness is also undermined.

One solution to the unemployment in Benalup is a state­-funded training course, assuming you can get on it. Not that it necessarily opens up subsequent employment opportunities, as the course is for graphic design. In Mallorca, there are any number of young graphic designers. They are two a penny. Many are good, but where’s the work? Economies do not generate wealth or growth through graphic design. It is a pitiable non-­solution.

The Zapatero administration presided over the end-game of the great Spanish boom. It deserves to be criticised, but it is not alone. Successive governments have perpetuated an aspirational dream for a country that was in the economic dark ages only half a century ago. One mistake, aided by the banks, was to break with a traditional cash­-based society and replace it with one based on credit, and very easy and loose credit at that. The country’s richness, as evident from a lofty position in the IMF GDP league table, obscures a reality of over­dependence on certain industries and a lack of competitiveness.

There is fortunately some realism coming from the newly elected government, an acceptance that Spain isn’t that rich and that the mechanisms for granting the population the trappings of aspirational wealth were largely built on sand. Within a framework of this new realism, how, though, can Rajoy set about realising his election promises, such as that to reduce unemployment?

I’ll have a look at that in a further article. But for now, and notwithstanding the fact that the Spanish electorate does appear to “get it” where the country’s parlous position is concerned, I’ll leave you with a piece of history. In 1933, Benalup was the centre of an anarchist uprising and a police massacre.

Thank God it's not 1933.

The original "Observer" article:

Any comments to please.

Back To Normal?

After a fortnight of either no or impossibly slow internet connection, it came back - just like that - this afternoon. Hopefully, things now get back to normal, which means the additional blog material, and just one thing I missed was the umbrella incident at Real Mallorca's match at Granada on Sunday. Apparently it was just a very strange accident. But, just shows you what can not be blogged about when a certain internet service provider would appear not to have put the cables in the right place. Or something like that.

Monday, November 21, 2011

State Of Independence: Tourism strategy

There was one revealing quote from the interview with Esteve Bardolet* (“The Bulletin”, 20 November). Well, two, but I’ll come to the second later. Bardolet, one of the rare people it is worth listening to regarding Mallorca’s tourism, said, in the context of working with the Mallorcan Tourist Board: “I was totally independent. Neither I nor anyone in my family had any business interests in the world of tourism, so I was able to be totally impartial”.

Totally independent, totally impartial. This is not how you would normally describe different players in Mallorca’s tourism industry. The Mallorcan Tourist Board would claim to be independent, but it isn’t, given that it comprises representatives with their own specific interests, and this, pretty much, was what Bardolet was implying.

An independent and impartial perspective on the tourism industry is almost impossible to achieve. In theory, the government should have such a perspective, but it is beholden to powerful voices from within the industry. Think for a moment about how, before the regional elections in May, the hotels were saying that they didn’t want Carlos Delgado as tourism minister. He might just have proven to be a bit too independent of mind. Now, however, all is sweetness and light, and the hotels are having the industry served up to them on a plate. “A word in your shell-­like, Carlos,” might well have been words whispered in a quiet corner of the tourism ministry, along with “side”, “knowing”, “bread” and “buttered”.

The government, perhaps recognising the impossibility of being immune to influences from the industry, is trying instead to involve all sectors of the industry, bringing the various associations as well as airlines and tour operators into the tourism agency. It’s a bold move and one that makes a lot of sense, as a collective is formed of those who understand the tourism industry. The trouble is that they understand it in their terms. Whatever good words airlines or tour operators may utter, they do not consider Mallorca in isolation. They ultimately do what is good for them. If that includes Mallorca, then fine. If not, well, that’s business.

Bringing together the great and good of the tourism business world does not automatically mean that everyone sings from the same hymn sheet or that noses aren’t put out of joint. Palma town hall, in doing something similar to the tourism agency, has managed to dislocate restaurant snouts, but what the restaurants are really upset about by being excluded is the fact that they can’t voice their own interests.

Meanwhile, there is the government’s inter­departmental tourism committee. I have long advocated that, in the government’s organisational structure, tourism should be at the top of the pyramid, if only notionally, and that other departments function in a support capacity. This committee goes some way to achieving this. While it may not result in independence or impartiality, it may just prevent the sort of governmental turf wars breaking out that have been detrimental to the interests of the tourism industry.

There was no better example of this than during the last administration. Faced with his government collapsing, Antich handed out key posts to the Mallorcan socialists. One of them, environment, resulted straightaway and with total predictability in the paralysing of the Muro golf course. It wasn’t the government as such which stopped the development, it was one department. But Antich was in no position to argue.

Not having coalition partners that require pandering to does help, but government departments have a tendency to work to their own agendas, neglecting the common good. The government’s committee will not eradicate this and nor will it remove the influences that specific departments are subject to from outside government, but it’s a start.

What would really make a difference would be were tourism given a true dose of independent thought, a meeting of minds with the sort of impartiality that Bardolet has displayed. A tourism technocracy, if you like. And more than just impartiality, there might also be some realism, which is where that second quote comes in. Though Bardolet suggested that the north European market needed to be looked to in the winter (though isn’t it already?), he said: “the winters, I fear, will never work”.

Is this just defeatism? Possibly, but possibly it is an understanding, which is what Bardolet has in abundance. Facile prescriptions for Mallorca’s winter tourism that emanate from all quarters, issued through a myopic insularity and parochialism and through constant reinforcement of a groupthink style, often fail to take realism into account. It’s a painful truth, but Bardolet may just be right. We could do with more such independent thought.

* Bardolet is a former vice-president of the Mallorcan Tourist Board and was awarded a gold medal last week in recognition of his contribution to tourism.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Death Of A Sporting Hero

A rare thing for this blog, but for once something that has nothing to do with Spain or Mallorca.

Basil D'Oliveira has died.

Why, among other deaths, should D'Oliveira's passing demand that I indulge in a spot of obituary writing? He wasn't, after all, that great a cricketer. He was a good one but no more than that. The reason lies in his story and in the way it affected me.

A South African Cape coloured, D'Oliveira was denied the opportunity under South Africa's apartheid system to play cricket at the highest levels. He came to England, took British citizenship and qualified for the test team. His inclusion in the England side set off two momentums - one was the later selection of other South Africans but without the same moral justification; the second was the eventual abandonment of apartheid.

As a nine-year-old, I didn't appreciate what apartheid meant, but it was as a nine-year-old that I first saw D'Oliveira play. It was the Hastings festival match against the touring Australians, and he was in a team - A.E.R. Gilligan's XI - with another South African (Eddie Barlow, who was to become a fierce critic of apartheid) as well as a Pakistani, Mushtaq Mohammad.

What stood out from this match was the fact that, in the days when six-hitting was a rarity, D'Oliveira hit two, both out of the ground. For a nine-year-old, he was an exciting and unusual player; only Gary Sobers or Colin Milburn hit sixes.

It was my great uncle, who took me to the match, who explained the situation with D'Oliveira. I'm not sure he particularly approved of "Dolly" possibly playing for England, but for me it was hard to get my head around why he couldn't play for South Africa. But when he first appeared for England, two years later, I was ecstatic. I had, in my own small way, discovered D'Oliveira at the Hastings match; he was "my" player.

It was a further two years on when the full implications of D'Oliveira's England test place were to surface. He hadn't had a particularly good season, but he was chosen for the final test of the summer when Roger Prideaux was declared unfit. I was at that Oval match, one famous for its storm and Derek Underwood bowling England to victory against Australia on a badly rain-affected wicket.

D'Oliveira scored a hundred. 158 to be precise. There seemed to me no reason why he wouldn't now be selected for the winter tour. To South Africa.

I recall my shock when listening eagerly to the radio as the tour squad was announced. D'Oliveira wasn't in it. Tom Cartwright, a better bowler but not in D'Oliveira's league as a batsman, was chosen ahead of him. There could only have been one explanation, as far as I was concerned: politics.

What happened next was either fortunate or unfortunate, depending on your point of view. Cartwright developed an injury, couldn't tour and so D'Oliveira replaced him. It was then that all hell broke out. The South African government claimed it was a political selection, which was a bit rich, the tour was called off, South Africa's own tour of England in 1970 was cancelled, and eventually sporting sanctions were imposed which did have a profound impact on finally ending apartheid.

What wasn't known, but now is, was the part that the English cricketing establishment had played in seeking to keep D'Oliveira out of the squad. The journalist and commentator E.W. Swanton was to the fore in doing so, as was Colin Cowdrey, the England captain at the time. On purely cricketing grounds, Cowdrey might have had a reasonable argument, while it also came to be known that Dolly did like a drink. But the politics had initially overriden both D'Oliveira's credentials as a player and any question as to his fitness.

A further two years on, I sat my English O Level. The exam included the option to write an essay on a sporting hero. Afterwards, I asked a friend, who I knew would have taken the sporting option, who his subject had been: Tommie Smith, the American sprinter who had given the black-gloved fist salute at the 1968 Olympics. I had written about D'Oliveira.

From different sports, we had both come to write about similar things. Through sport, in addition to music of the time as well as the not infrequent news of race issues in America, we had been exposed to the injustice and absurdity of racism. Our education was not that of the classroom but of the sports arena. It was the lesson as to the grotesqueness of racism and apartheid and the effect it could have on one man, not a great cricketer but a good cricketer, that affected me, and one I have never forgotten.

Any comments to please.

The Secret Technocrats

These are good times to be a technocrat. It is the one job that currently offers good employment prospects, and not any old employment. Not that a technocrat is technically a job. You don’t apply for a position as a technocrat, you become one because someone says you are and because you have whatever the technical ability required at the time might be.

There is something alarming about all the technocrats who, like meerkats looking out for impending economic catastrophe, have been poking their heads up from under university desks and elsewhere. The new European government of Frankfurt has appointed them. In Italy, they have become the Full Monti, a whole puppet government of their own, Angela’s economic angels; Merkel and the Meerkats.

What is alarming is that the mere mention of technocrat has come to be accompanied by a contemptuous spit, the title uttered in the same breath as the names of European leaders most of us would rather forget.

Technocrats are not politicians, but they have fulfilled political functions and have also filled political positions. But strictly speaking, a technocrat has no interest in politics; all that concerns him are the number­-crunching of economics or the plans of production and productivity. Technocrats are of an age that we thought had long gone. They are the political incarnation of the one-­time mass producers; Henry Fords, and each one uniformly the same shade of black.

They are of the old scientific management era before the softer and more humane principles of management kicked in. They are from a dark age and are something of the dark. Stalin did not devise economic and production plans, nor did Hitler and nor did Franco. Technocrats did.

Though not ostensibly political, the technocrats of Europe’s dictatorships would never have got where they did without being as one with the prevailing political philosophy. Technocrats bend to the rules of politics, those set by others, such as the Frankfurt Group, while apparently seeming to make the rules.

As Mariano Rajoy contemplates the trophy that is his, might he just have a concern that he might find himself surplus to requirements? It’s not impossible. There is a difference, though. Greece had a lame­-duck premier and Italy had Berlusconi. Rajoy is neither.

There is also a hint that he might just pre­-empt any technocratically­-driven putsch. Gone largely uncommented upon prior to the election was his statement that he was considering bringing “independent” figures into his government. In itself, this is not unusual. Blair had independents. One of them, a former journo, more or less ran the Labour government. Alastair Campbell wasn’t a technocrat, though, unlike Sir Alan Walters, Thatcher’s own mini­-Milton Friedman. Neither, however, was formally a member of the government.

Independent has become a more acceptable description than technocrat, but technocrats, in a contemporary guise, is what many independents brought into assist governments are. Which brings us to Rajoy, his independents and whoever they might be.

Spain’s economy after the Civil War and before Franco’s death can be divided into two periods: the catastrophic era of post­-war autarky; and the boom from the start of the sixties, inspired in part by the Stabilisation Plan of 1959 and by technocrats who were brought into to oversee the modernisation of the Spanish economy.

The technocrats took much credit for Spain’s transformation, though it has been widely argued that they just got lucky and cashed in on a period of rapid growth in Europe as a whole.

Whether or not the technocrats really were that instrumental in Spain’s subsequent success, they were always sure of Franco’s support, and that is because the technocrats shared a common background: Opus Dei.

The Opus comprised an elite from business and industry and one with the same rigid Catholicism that Franco adhered to. But it is the shadowy nature of Opus Dei, questions as to what influence it may have, its technocratic past and also its potential political links that make Rajoy’s mention of “independents” intriguing at best.

The Partido Popular, transformed as it has been from its unsuccessful origins as a party created by Franco’s former tourism minister (albeit with a different name), has nevertheless failed to totally shake off these origins and all the baggage that goes with them, which includes Opus Dei.

As Rajoy is considering introducing independents to his government and as there are lingering suspicions as to what and who lurks within the recesses of the Partido Popular, he needs to be clear as to who it is he plans to appoint. And as importantly, what associations they might have.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reflections Of ...

"The way life used to be." Ah, those were the days. Diana Ross and the Supremes and all that 1960s malarkey. Happy times. Not that back in the '60s they had to worry too much in Mallorca or Spain about having a day off for reflection prior to an election. Old Franco knew a thing or two. In addition to being a dictator, he reckoned the Spanish population was either too thick or too apathetic to bother with things like democracy and voting.

If they were apathetic then, they still are today, if predictions as to abstentions in tomorrow's elections are anything to go by. But, I should hush my mouth. I'm not meant to talk about the elections today, as today is the day of reflection. Well, sort of. What is really means is that campaigning cannot take place, but there are certain limits also as to what can be said journalistically. Theoretically, no one is meant to pronounce on the day of reflection one way or the other or to be seen to be somehow influencing voting.

I don't for one moment imagine that anyone would be the slightest bit influenced by what I might or might not say on this blog when it comes to the elections, and that's for the simple reason that I imagine no one who reads it is in fact entitled to vote. But, as one is meant to remain silent on such matters, I shall do, which is why an article that I had written for today will be held over until tomorrow - it has to do with technocrats, but with a particularly Spanish angle; I'm sure you can't wait.

The day of reflection is reasonably well adhered to. Spanish TV was following yesterday's campaigning until the very last moment, just before midnight, and then promptly put on a ridiculous Jean-Claude Van Damme film; time for bed. The press today does report the campaigning but stops short of editorialising.

I know that had I editorialised and sent something off for today's "Bulletin", it wouldn't have been included. Fair enough. But I wonder why, therefore, there is a different column in which there are references to the election. I won't, for fear of the day of reflection police coming down on me, repeat what was said, but I fancy - know for sure - that had I written such things for today's paper, they wouldn't have gone in.

I suspect I know the reason why this other column was acceptable, and that's probably because had the "offending" part of it had to be removed there would have been a ruddy great white space. Or maybe it wasn't paid overly much attention to.

It is revealing that certain of my articles get vetoed by the paper. A recent one about Lidl was. I don't think it was critical; in fact I'm sure it wasn't. But no, too sensitive; might upset the commercial department. And too sensitive was one about the Bishop of Mallorca. Way too controversial and likely to offend staunch Catholics. There have been others. I am compiling a list of off-limits subjects.

There are tensions between editorial and marketing/sales. They occur in all areas of the media to differing degrees, but there is, or appears to me, a hyper-sensitivity locally. And this isn't solely down to tensions caused by commercial realities. There really are only two subjects that are off-limits in terms of expressing criticism or disrespect, and those are the royal family (quite unlike Britain therefore) and the Guardia. But a certain censorship does apply, as in, for instance, why the former employment of a particular local mayor is never spelt out. You do wonder why.

There is too much sensitivity and it occurs at what is seemingly the most trivial levels. One only needs to go back to the fuss that the "John Nelson" column in "Talk Of The North" caused to know how something written without any apparent wish to offend can be blown completely out of proportion.

The local communities and indeed the island are small, so there is a perhaps not unreasonable restraint shown, but this hyper-sensitivity does also place a restraint on vibrant and at times important discourse. The day of reflection is a rather different case, but it is nevertheless indicative of an understated tendency to censorship or self-censorship that has never been quite forgotten from the days of when Diana Ross was topping the charts.

Any comments to please.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Taking The Pi: Mallorca’s capital

You really would think there were more important things to worry about, like making sure the bus drivers get paid or having enough spare cash lying around to meet repayments to banks. But no, Palma town hall has found something infinitely more pressing with which to concern itself. It wants the city to be officially called Palma de Mallorca (and, by the way, this would be Mallorca and not Madge-orca).

The town hall says that the name was shortened by the last government which didn't follow the right procedures in doing so. It also believes that the previous town hall admin should have engaged in a spot of denouncing as a result. It hopes to be able to negotiate and thus avoid taking the whole matter to a tribunal.

The naming of Palma is by no means an isolated case. And it is certainly not unknown for high legal authorities to have to adjudicate. The Balearics Supreme Court, no less, once came down on the side of Porto Cristo as opposed to Portocristo and other contenders for the name of the resort. And over in Menorca there is another carry-on.

The lady mayor of the capital there wants it known officially by its Castilian name of Mahón but also wants to reactivate a Catalan spelling of Mahó, rather than the current Maó. Why? No idea. She might just end looking a bit foolish and with egg mayonnaise all over her face. Perhaps she should go further and insist on Mahón or Mahó de Menorca. There are currently no noises emanating from Ibiza that Ibiza Town will become Ibiza de Ibiza or, just to confuse the tourists, Eivissa de Eivissa.

But to come back to Palma. Why is the town hall in such a flap over whether there is officially a "de Mallorca" or not, especially as there is disagreement among the scholarly fraternity and those of a more pedantic bent as to whether it ever officially had been "de Mallorca" in the past?

It wouldn't be an argument over a city's name or indeed anything in Mallorca if there wasn't some political colour to it. The "de Mallorca" bit, or so it is said, is all a tad "foreign", as in Palma de Mallorca is how the city is known abroad. We'll have to take the word of those who say it is, but I'm not sure that in Britain, for instance, it is. However, it is fair to say that, in addition to the local post office, "de Mallorca" is used by the likes of airlines in their drop-down menus for airport departures and arrivals. It's designed to eliminate confusion.

More than this, though, the argument appears to be based on little more than a desire among the left (anti-"de Mallorca") and the right (pro-"de Mallorca") to have a bit of a barney. And because the last government, and Palma town hall administration, was of the left and because the last government didn't follow the correct procedures, the current administration, of the right, wants to do something about it.

One line of argument against the adoption, or is it re-adoption, of "de Mallorca" that might just have some credibility is that, by doing so, everywhere else on the island is made out to be merely satellites of the sun that is the capital city. It's a reasonable point, but only up to a point. There is unquestionably a Palma-centricity and a Palma civic arrogance, but this is pretty normal for a capital, and in Mallorca everything does revolve around the sun that is Palma, whether people in other towns like it or not.

Though the anti-"de Mallorca" camp seems to equate the town hall's wishes with some form of imperialism through nomenclature, Palma de Mallorca does have a fair bit going for it; a greater gravitas that Palma on its own doesn't. When all said and done, it is a capital city named after a tree.

But as tree it is, then Palma faces a potential crisis. The palm-­consuming beetle that is on the rampage could leave Palma minus any palms. Where would it be then? Not so arrogant, I would suggest.

The town hall should be thinking longer-term. When the last palm in Palma succumbs to the beetle and has its head chopped off and is left as a grotesque and impotent phallic symbol, a completely new name will be needed. And there would be one prime alternative. The pine. The city already has Portopí, so why not go the whole arboreal hog now. The new capital of Mallorca. Pi.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Not Being Paid A Complement

The title of this article contains a deliberate mistake. Complement is wrong; it should be compliment.

The so-called complementary offer, by which one normally means bars, restaurants and clubs, is a complement to the primary element of the tourism industry, the hotels. It completes the industry, but by perception, if not by definition, it comes down the industry food chain and is considered subordinate. As a consequence, it fails to be paid a proper compliment, or so it claims.

Palma town hall's efforts to up its tourism game by bringing together different bodies from the industry haven't gone down well with the restaurant associations of either CAEB, the Balearics business confederation, or PIMEM, the small to medium-sized businesses association. They feel as though have been ignored.

The fact is that they probably have been ignored. And ignored for different reasons. One is that they don't sing with anything like a unified or co-operative voice, and not just in Palma. Two, and following on from this, they don't have a collective organisation with the clout that demands to be paid attention to and which can command some lobbying space of the type that the hotel sector can. Three is that other parts of the industry, the hotels in other words, look upon the restaurants, to put it bluntly, as parasitic and incapable of or unwilling to actively involve themselves in promotion efforts. Four is that, as a group, they simply lack the financial muscle to make themselves important players in helping to drive the tourism industry.

CAEB and PIMEM are doing something about the first two, combining their respective associations for restaurants, bars and entertainment in order to try and give themselves a voice which will be listened to. But why haven't they done this before?

Firstly, because the different associations themselves have their own agendas. CAEB and PIMEM aren't the only ones. There is also, for example, Acotur, the tourism businesses association. These organisations occupy similar territory, duplicating or contradicting each other as the case may be. Secondly, restaurants in mostly any town or resort you care to mention function with their own interests to the fore. Co-operation has generally been absent, except where powerful and small groups of owners work together for their own benefit. Thirdly, and this is the unpalatable truth, the hotels have a point; the restaurants have been parasitic. They have done well simply by being there, but now, thanks to all-inclusives, heightened competition, economic crisis, the rules have changed, and the restaurants have been marginalised.

This sounds like a damning indictment of the complementary sector, but the lack of compliment paid to them stems also from a peculiar ambivalence shown to the restaurants.

The Spanish hotel confederation wants the new national government to make changes to help the tourism industry. One of these is a reduction in IVA, and the example is cited of how such a reduction in France has helped the restaurant sector. Not the hotels, the restaurants.

So, what has this to do with attitudes towards Mallorca's restaurants? Something very significant, and that is that the French tourism industry is very different to Spain's. France doesn't have anything like the concentration of resorts that Spain and Mallorca have. It has resorts, but there is little that is comparable. It does have all-inclusive hotels but not like Spain or Mallorca do.

A reduction in value added tax to boost French restaurants was not simply a case of being helpful. It was a recognition of the central role of restaurants within the tourism industry. France's restaurants are not complementary. It's the other way round; the hotels are. The French don't need to bang on about gastronomy, because everyone knows about the cuisine, and given the nature of the French tourism industry, the restaurants are absolutely essential.

A reduction in IVA might make some difference to Mallorca's restaurants, but not much. What would make a difference would be were they not treated as the tourism industry's doormats. But because they have never had that position of centrality, as they do in France, they are in a position of weakness, which is why they get ignored and why there is an ambivalence towards them.

Yet, gastronomy is meant to be one of Mallorca's strengths. Maybe it is, but without an attitudinal shift on behalf of other players in the tourism industry, it won't be. The restaurants have brought much of this ambivalence on themselves, but while the hotels continue to dominate the industry, a situation that will not change, they can't expect to ever be more than complementary or to be paid their rightful compliments.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Going, Going, Gone: Tourism promotion budget

Is there such a thing as an auction in reverse? Because if not, then the Balearics tourism ministry appears to have invented it. Do I hear nine million for tourism promotion? Any reduction on nine million? Mr. Delgado, 3.6 million. Any reduction on 3.6? Going, going … . At this rate and by this time next week, the tourism promotion budget will have gone; not because it has been spent but because there won't be one. There they were saying that there were a mere nine million, and the next day Delgado goes and trims the budget by almost another two-thirds.

The ministry does, after all, only have a total of 63 million for next year. It is the lowest budget of any ministry, and tourism is only the most important industry, but needs clearly must in these austere times. Even so, 3.6 million? And the question is, what will the ministry find to spend the other 59.4 million on, as everything is being cut.

To this end, we will be sad to see one body fall to the ministry’s axe, as it has kept us so royally amused for a few years. The Foundation for Sustainable Development; they’re getting rid of it, along with its stupid “tarjeta verde”. I may need to remind you that the foundation and the card were what replaced the eco-tax. All these tourists were going to be buying one of these discount cards, all the money raised was going to save Mallorca’s environment; that sort of thing. The only problem was that no one bought one, or if they did, the money wasn’t handed over.

They had to find something else to justify the existence of this pointless foundation (and one, it should be noted, into which various banks pumped not insignificant amounts of money as well as the government), so they let it run certain sites of environmental interest, such as Son Real near Can Picafort. Then they had to find someone to be in charge and recently the PP government gave the job to Jorge Campos, the founder and president of the fiercely anti-Catalan Círculo Balear.

Poor old Jorge. Gives up his presidency and then finds he's out of a job. He should have known better, as it's a surprise that the foundation had been allowed to stagger on as long as it had, especially as it was due for the scrap-heap under the Antich restructuring of the tourism ministry. So much for him having mates, like Bauzá, in high places. They'll probably find him something else.

And so they should, as Campos’ brief time in charge of Son Real has had high amusement value in itself. For example, he insisted on putting up a Spanish flag at the entrance, thus provoking all manner of Catalanist indignation and Maulets radicals, who of course can’t stand him, into promptly going along and taking it down.

Meantime, Santa Margalida town hall was sent an invoice for a visit with people from the Alicante town of Vall d'Ebó, with which Santa Margalida has a sort of twinning arrangement. We've never had to pay such invoices before, said the mayor, who has threatened that if the demand (for 159 euros) isn't withdrawn, the town hall will claim 12,000 euros from the foundation relating to a licence for works at Son Real that wasn't pursued. Yep, things certainly have been fun, and petty, since Campos took over.

But the town hall probably won't now be able to claim its 12,000, as it's farewell to the Foundation for Sustainable Development. Sadly, it couldn’t sustain itself, but we greatly appreciate the entertainment. Of its responsibilities, Son Real will end up with something called the Espais de Natura Balear, while Costa Nord, its biggest responsibility, will go to the tourism agency, which is where (and the agency's previous incarnation as well) it should have been all along. The foundation, though, and let us not forget, was a creation of former PP president Matas. And we know all about the various bodies Matas set up, though not quite as much as the anti-corruption prosecutors do.

The tourism promotion budget, or lack of it, is, though, the headliner. 3.6 million. It really is a pittance. But there's more. What about those arts festivals the ministry is meant to support financially? Like the Pollensa Music Festival. The ministry's not saying, other than to imply that unless an orchestra-pit load of private sponsorship can be found, it probably won't happen. And if it and others don't take place, the ministry will have to fork out for changing all the publicity material. I wonder if they've accounted for this in the budget?

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Long Hello And Goodbye

In the final week before the national election, no polls can be published; they might distort public opinion, or so the theory goes. Come the final 24 hours before the election, and everyone has to shut up and allow themselves a period of reflection before heading to the polls on Sunday to do the awful deed.

Putting a block on more polls is unnecessary; there hasn’t been a need for polls for months. PSOE’s long goodbye should go into the Guinness Book of Records for the most time it has been known that a political party would lose the next election. And badly.

Nothing has altered the path to the inevitable Partido Popular victory: not a Rubalcaba bounce when Zapatero confirmed that he knew the way the wind was blowing; not a surge of support from the right when PSOE carved up the constitution and committed the deficit requirement to law; not a wave of thanks to PSOE when ETA called it a day.

The eclipse of PSOE on Sunday will be the culmination of the process started by the credit crunch and Zapatero’s attempts to calm a nation’s fears. By saying there was no crisis, he was whistling in the dark; his delusion, a fiddling of inaction while capitalism burned. He responded too slowly, but he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. The game was up as soon as crisis raised its unlovely head. The story would have been the same had the PP been in government - and they know it.

Mariano Rajoy will be the next president of Spain, and president, by title and tradition going back to the nineteenth century, it is; calling him prime minister is in line with how titles normally work in a parliamentary monarchy. Rajoy’s ascendancy has been the long hello, so long in fact it is difficult to understand how he comes to still figure. Beaten by Zapatero in 2008, long dismissed as inadequate by many commentators and even members of his own party, one of them being the former PM José Maria Aznar, it is a mystery what he is doing about to take office.

Rajoy is becoming prime minister (president) by default. He has had to do nothing and say nothing. The prize has been his ever since the flames from Lehman and utterances regarding the previously unheard of subprime market first flickered across dealers' screens. Prime minister by default and prime minister by superior force and direction. Just as the Balearics Bauzá is a puppet on a long string stretching from PP central office, so Rajoy dances to the tune of his own master. And if Rubalcaba is to be believed, that is Aznar; Aznar who has been contemptuous of his successor and now treats him as the dummy to his ventriloquism.

The electoral slogan for Rajoy is both simple and simplistic. "Súmate al cambio". Join the change, more or less. When all else fails, and it normally does, politicians bring out the change word. It is the default slogan for a default prime minister; vote for me, I'm not the other lot. But what will Rajoy change? More pain and more austerity are not change; they are more pain and more austerity, and the electorate is heading to the polling stations to vote for masochism.

"Masoquismo" and "machismo". Macho politics with which to confront the unions and employment conditions. Mariano as Margaret, tackling the enemy within. Change is necessary, but at what cost socially (and industrially), as Thatcher stubbornly ignored. The unions, though, have been but one part of the collusive complacency of Spain's social capitalism model; they have been a loveably roguish pantomime villain to the Prince Charmings of successive governments of both blue and red who have flaunted the glass slippers of boom-time politics.

It was Zapatero's misfortune to be the shoemaker who couldn't repair the slipper. He can be accused of a lack of foresight, but foresight with hindsight is a wonderful thing; he danced to his own tune, as had previous Spanish leaders, one with an exciting boom-boom beat, but he ended up a busted flush and a boom-time rat.

Yet for all this, Zapatero helped to mould a Spain far more at ease with itself. The pain that Rajoy is about to inflict, and it is going to be painful, might just be acceptable, though by no means to all, but if he insists on a change that is a back to the future in terms of cultural, social and religious policies, he may not find the populace so willing to support him.

Come Sunday, the electorate of turkeys will vote for Christmas, and after Sunday, things will change. Just don't expect them to be very pleasant.

Any comments to please.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Technical Update

It wasn't the router, as with the new one the same problems persist. Has to be the line; I guess. Works very slowly but often cuts out. Hopefully at some point this week ...

Who Wants To Be A Nine Times Millionaire?

Nine million is a fair amount of wonga. You can do all sorts of things with nine million, like paying the Duke of Palma’s institute four times over - allegedly. Or it could pay the mortgage for ten apartments of the sort that President Bauzá has in what is described as one of the the most expensive parts of Spain - Sa Calatrava in Palma - and not allegedly, but fact.

So yes, nine million goes a fair old way. But it still does depend upon how you might intend blowing it all. That’s why I’m giving you a little game and then test. It’s best if two of you play; something for one of those boring winter afternoons in Mallorca when there’s nothing open and the skies are ominously silent and without any sign of aircraft. One of you has to imagine that he or she is the tourism minister (to get into the right mood, think being a bit of a shorthouse, if you aren’t already one, and being generally disliked especially by members of your own party). The other has to pretend to be in charge of the tourism promotion pot at the Balearics Tourism Agency. Ok, ready?

Tourism minister: “Right now, Juan (feel free to substitute a different name, if you wish), the president, myself and the finance chappy have been putting our heads together and we’ve come up with your budget for next year. Hold your hands out.”

Juan: “Nine million! What do you expect me to do with nine million? Have you any idea how many countries we’re supposed to be promoting to?”

Tourism minister: “Look, it doesn’t matter. The Brits’ll be flocking in next year anyway. And the Krauts. The Ruskies, too. Up 80% more already this year. Think of all that bling jangling as it reaches for the folding notes. It’ll do wonders for the tourism spend statistics. Great PR for when they’re all rioting in the streets next summer when Rajoy pulls the plug on pensions.”

Juan: “But nine million. That’s barely enough to pay for Nadal’s arm let alone Nadal. Then there’s the boat. And the prime time. The prime time, minister, in God knows how many countries. Nine million. That’s the approximate equivalent of only one euro for every tourist who comes to Mallorca.”

Tourism minister: “Yea, but we’re not using Nadal, unless he does it for nothing. And what’s this one euro for every tourist business got to do with anything?”

Juan: “Well, nothing really. I just thought it sounded good. You know, like in a political way.”

Tourism minister: “Brilliant. You’re on to something. I’ll use it for my next speech. The government will be spending one euro on every tourist coming to Mallorca. It’s so ambiguous it’s genius. Is it austere or is it generous?”

Now, having undertaken your role play, you have to, using your skill and judgement, come up with how you would spend just nine million euros for a whole year to promote not just Mallorca, but also Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, not just to the UK, but also to Germany, Scandinavia, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, China … .

Ah, you see, it’s not so easy, is it? Put you on the spot a bit. It’s no use saying they should splash out on some grand TV ad campaign, because they’re not going to. Not on nine million they’re not.

While one of you figures out how best to spend the meagre nine million, the tourism ministers among you need to think strategy. That’s a tough one, as there haven’t been many tourism ministers who have ever done that. But it’s important. Really important. You might be able to get away with spending hardly anything next year, but nothing lasts for ever, as Mallorca well knows having slid from its one-time position of invincibility. But this is Mallorca’s big chance, perhaps its last chance.

Events have conspired to create a record summer for tourism in 2011 and will do so again in 2012. But after next year? It’s going to take some money, and rather more than nine million annually.

By the way, those of you who come up with the most creative ways of spending the nine million will be entered into a prize draw. First prize is two weeks in a Mallorcan-owned all-inclusive hotel. In winter. In the Dominican Republic.

(And by way of clarification, the budget for tourism promotion last year was 27 million, which should in fact have been 44 million.)

Any comments to please.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lidl By Lidl

The people of Campos have never known anything quite like it. They've finally got a supermarket, or at least this is the impression one gets. I confess to not being intimate with the details of supermarkets in Campos and its neighbouring Ses Salines, but one shopper was reported as saying that she wouldn't any longer need to trek off to Al Campo.

I do rather suspect that there were already other supermarkets, but what there wasn't, was a Lidl. There now is. And the astonishing thing is that every time a new Lidl store opens in Mallorca, it becomes not just a news event but also an occasion of such magnitude that, as with the opening of Lidl's Alcúdia store in October last year, it is comparable to days of yore when the train first arrived.

The Campos shop is number thirteen in a series of twenty Lidls that will be dotted about the island. Slowly but surely, little by little, Mallorca is succumbing to a process of Lidlisation; Germanic commercial empire-building. Well, it makes a change to the Chinese emporia I suppose.

Lidl has benefited from relaxations to land rules that have permitted greater commercial property development. While the rest of the economy stumbles along, the supermarkets are booming. With their value for money, they are to be welcomed, though their impact in terms of employment is only quite small; the Campos store apparently received 3,000 CVs for the 30 jobs on offer. Mallorca, as I quoted recently in a different context, that of tourism, is getting itself more, but not so many, McJobs.

Despite feeling that Lidl wasn't breaking entirely new ground in propelling Campos into the modern shopping era, the excitement surrounding its arrival does remind one of times past when there certainly weren't such things as supermarkets. I can't speak for Mallorca, but the supermarket first came to town some time in the mid-60s. It was a Sainsbury and it offered a whole new self-service and time-saving mode of shopping for the upwardly mobile housewife that its previous store hadn't.

The old Sainsbury was a place of personal service and lengthy queues. It was also a place that was so outmoded that its walls were decorated with enamel dark-green tiling. If it hadn't been for the cheese, the loose tea and the pound of sausages, it could have been mistaken for a public lavatory.

Back in the day, and prior to the moment the Sainsbury family was good enough to cash in on the new consumerism of the sixties, shopping was distinctly inconvenient but was, courtesy of shops' quirkiness and even smells, infinitely more inclined to leave an impression than the monotony of the modern-day barn.

Just two of these shops in our local village were Underwoods, the ironmongers, a general store packed to the gunwales with all manner of rubbish and which had an alarming and potentially disastrous smell of paraffin and paint-stripper, and the grocers, that owned by Mr. Cutt.

It was Mr. Cutt's misfortune to have a garage that backed onto our garden and my sandpit in particular. It was doubly unfortunate that, rather than brick, it was made of far from substantial wood. The temptation for a seven-year-old hooligan with a nicely sharp-edged spade was way too great. Thus started my vendetta with Mr. Cutt, one that was to take in my stories as to our flopsy, who did mysteriously disappear one day, being served up on his meat counter and to the awful things he actually did with his bacon-slicer.

It was probably as well that we moved not long after but also a shame that I had come to be barred from the shop, as that bacon-slicer was always a point of fascination. And the smell of bacon was what hit you as soon as you entered the place. It was the evocative smells that contributed, pre-supermarkets, to what were old curiosity shops.

The point is that in Mallorca you don't have to ever go into a supermarket. Everything still exists in a way that it did in deepest Surrey in the early 1960s. Some ferreteria are just like Underwoods. Stocked to the rafters, ramshackle and utterly mad. There are delis by the ham loads. And then there are the markets.

Little by little, the Lidls and others take it all away. I'm not complaining. But, inconvenient or not, the individual shops retain the character, the quirkiness and the smells that transport you back decades. Just for one day perhaps, forget the supermarket and do these individual shops in the local towns. But if you see any rabbit ... .

Any comments to please.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

That's Entertainment: Industrial estates

Andratx is to get an industrial estate. Lucky old Andratx. Or should that be unlucky old Andratx?

The good news is that it might not be built because of land restrictions. The bad news is that the town hall is looking at how it might be able to sidestep by-laws.

Why my negativity? Haven't I often spoken of the need for greater diversification in the Mallorcan economy? Haven't I even spoken of industry being a potential source of tourism? I have indeed. The need for diversification is unquestionable, and around Andratx there is relatively little by way of industrial activity. So shouldn't I be all in favour of an industrial estate?

In theory, yes. It is not a case of being against an industrial estate but of being highly suspicious as to what might end up on it. Industrial estates have become a misnomer, as they are littered with anything other than industry.

Part of the reason why Andratx wants an industrial estate is that it does have some light industry but it clogs up parts of the town and port. Far better, therefore, to put it all in one place, thus easing congestion and offering better facilities for the light industry. However, it's the nature of this light industry that had me shaking my head. Carpentry, metalwork, small construction firms; much of it is of the small workshop-type business, and it is just this sort of business that has been leaving industrial estates elsewhere in Mallorca in droves.

Mallorca's local industry has suffered badly by comparison with other parts of Spain. A decline of some 30% in industrial activity in the five years up to 2010 was way higher than elsewhere, the 30% drop more or less equating to the 30% that is said to be how much more expensive it is to produce in Mallorca than much of Spain.

The greater cost of production and the fall in industrial activity are not solely due to higher transport costs; the Canary Islands, by contrast, haven't suffered to anything like the same extent as Mallorca. One factor that has been critical has been the cost of industrial land; twice as much as the Canaries, for example, or six times as much as Aragon on the mainland. And key to the cost of industrial land in Mallorca have been speculative developments and speculative property acquisition.

Take a look around some industrial estates, and you come to appreciate that they don't necessarily exist to aid industry; small industry especially. As you enter one of Inca's estates, what do you see? Car showrooms, one for Honda power tools and equipment, an office building for a major hotel chain, Garden. It is not untypical. Banks have colonised industrial estates, as have entertainment centres which can even include the ambiguously monikered "alternative" clubs. Part of Inca's third industrial estate will be set aside for entertainment. Why?

The reason is very simple. The level of speculation has driven the cost of land up to such an extent that the only businesses that can afford them are the bigger businesses or those that can generate good profits, and so I have to assume that "alternative" clubs can do just that.

According to the Chamber of Commerce, at least 20% of industrial land on Mallorca is in fact used for commercial purposes, and this percentage will vary significantly from town to town and estate to estate. The figure is probably on the conservative side, as it has also been reported that entertainment centres have gobbled up so much land that should have been for industrial purposes that only some 3% is available.

One has to treat this figure with some caution, as there are estates which are under-utilised and always have been, something they might wish to consider in Andratx. Nevertheless, and though economic hard times have clearly played their part, it is the sheer cost of the land that has resulted in plots being unoccupied or in businesses abandoning estates; and the small businesses, the carpentry and metalwork concerns and such like, have been the ones to the fore in getting out.

So Andratx is to get an industrial estate. Good for Andratx. Or is it good for speculators? Unless the town hall were to find some mechanism whereby land could be affordable, its wishes to have its small businesses transfer will probably be thwarted. These businesses might be well advised to stay put, and if they do, then the industrial estate will have achieved nothing. Congestion won't have been alleviated and there will be a part of the town that is given over to showrooms and entertainment.

Any comments to please.