Wednesday, February 29, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - New university for Mallorca proposed

Mallorca may get a new university, a private "European" one operated by the Laureate International Universities network. Meetings have taken place today between representatives of this network and President Bauzá and Rafael Bosch, education minister. The university would offer ten degree courses and six masters.

MALLORCA TODAY - Artà seeks to promote itself through film

Artà town hall, looking at ways of promoting the town, its landscapes and beaches, is to cut to 250 euros a day its charge for filming. The town hall is also considering the possibility that there will be no charge if images used are to be clearly identifiable as being those of Artà.

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma bike scheme to be extended to tourists

Criticisms that the Palma bike scheme, Bicipalma, was not available to tourists have been addressed. Palma town hall has approved extending the scheme to tourists who will be able to sign up and pay for it via the internet at costs of, for example, nine euros for three days.

MALLORCA TODAY - Tourism won't combat Balearics recession

Coming on the back of the report which suggests that the Balearics will re-enter recession later this year, doubts are being expressed as to whether tourism, always held up as the means of creating growth, will be capable of doing so. This is because tourism to the islands has lost both productivity and competitiveness, a consequence in part of tourism that simply doesn't spend enough money.

This grim economic news is not made any better by the fact that the Balearic Government plans further drastic cuts in order to tackle the islands' deficit.

Update: The Balearic Government disputes the report which suggests that recession will return, claiming that there will be moderate growth of up to 0.5%.

MALLORCA TODAY - Students occupy university building

As expected, students at the Universitat de les Illes Balears occupied yesterday the Guillem Cifre building (which houses the education faculty) in protest at education cuts. Today there is due to be a strike by students and a demonstration from midday in Palma.

Update: Some 2,500 students have protested in Palma. The demonstration and the occupation have passed without incident.

MALLORCA TODAY - Fire destroys Spar warehouse

A warehouse for the Spar supermarket chain on the Son Castelló industrial estate in Palma has been completely destroyed by fire that broke out late yesterday evening.

MALLORCA TODAY - The Duke of Palma had another foundation

Iñaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma, may have returned to Washington with Princess Cristina, but this doesn't mean the end of the affair. Anything but. Evidence from his declaration that is filtering out shows that nine months after the King ordered him to disassociate himself from the Instituto Nóos in 2006, another organisation was set up - the Fundación Deporte, Cultura e Integración. This was formed along with the Duke's ex-business partner Diego Torres and totally went against the King's wishes. Prosecutors are looking at whether this foundation effectively headed a network that channelled money to London, Belize and Luxembourg.

Meanwhile, the appearances in court will continue for several weeks and indeed months. Eleven people have been indicted to appear along with 45 witnesses in order to declare before the investigating judge. These include ex-president of the Balearics, Jaume Matas, and former minister, Jaume Font, now leader of the La Lliga party.

Update: The chief prosecutor has ruled out indicting the Duke's wife Princess Cristina, saying that he believes she knew nothing of her husband's affairs.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 February 2012

A bit of mist around, but sunny with temperatures to 7.8C at 08:00. Plenty of sun today and similar values as yesterday - up to 15 or 16.

February, unsurprisingly, has been one of the coldest months on record, certainly the coldest in the past 40 years with average temperatures four degrees lower than normal. The month has also produced significant rainfalls, higher than usual. These have contributed though to filling reservoirs to around 90% of capacity.

Afternoon update: Warm enough in the sun, but the temperatures being kept in check by some chill - a high of 16.6C today.

Turning Back The Clock: Terrace times

So, Palma town hall is planning to break the midnight terrace curfew. Mayor Isern and his tourism supremo Álvaro Gijón have seen the light, and it needs to stay on past twelve o'clock. "We cannot allow (businesses) to lose the business opportunity caused by the obligation to clear terraces at midnight."

If the town hall goes through with the abandonment of the curfew, it would apply mainly and probably exclusively to tourist area frontlines. It's a move that will doubtless have bar owners in backlines clamouring for a similar dispensation. It could raise charges of discrimination, but it is something.

Apart from bar owners away from the sea fronts, not everyone will be happy, especially if they live above a bar. The midnight curfew has been a compromise, and it has been one of trying to work out a means by which residents (and indeed some tourists) in tourism areas can be accommodated and can get a good night's sleep.

There isn't and never has been a happy medium. Palma, by loosening the regulations, is turning the clock back to a time when residents were disadvantaged. Howls of protest are likely to follow, if it does indeed loosen the regulations. But it would be a loosening very much in line with regional government thinking. As tourism minister Delgado has announced, tourism should no longer be subjugated to urbanism, something that can be interpreted in all sorts of ways.

If Palma goes ahead, there will be calls elsewhere for a relaxation of the midnight rule. Local ordinance governs the operation of terraces in individual municipalities, but changes to local ordinance would run up against a general law, one that defines the parts of a day (and night).

This law, and as far as I am aware it was not re-amended, established during the last administration that "evening" was no longer from eight to twelve but from eight to eleven. It caused a ruckus in Magalluf, Calvià being the only town hall which sought to apply what, for almost everyone, was a totally unknown change to the law. Police went in soon after the law changed, made bars close terraces at eleven, there were protests and everyone promptly forgot about it.

The re-definition of evening was one of a raft of measures brought in by Enviro Man, Miguel Grimalt, daily in the news as he raced across Mallorca in a constant campaign to save the environment in all its facets. The loss of an hour of evening was a confirmation of just how much regulation was being used to make bar owners' lives nigh on impossible.

It was also a confirmation of how little was understood of what many tourists enjoy. In a word, it is fun. It is an impossible compromise, as many other tourists want to be tucked up by midnight, but the possibility to enjoy being up late, sitting outside on a warm summer's night and having a drink was one of the great attractions of "holiday". Along the way, regulators forgot that people came on holiday. A semantic preference for "tourist" has relegated the word association of holidaymaker and fun into virtual non-existence.

Holidays have become sanitised and have lost some of their essence as a consequence. That old romantic Pedro Iriondo, now put out to presidential pasture by the Mallorca Tourist Board, alluded to this when he became president. He reminisced of a time when everyone had happy, smiling faces and there could be night-time barbecues on the beaches, and the police, rather than issuing tickets, would join in. There didn't used to be all the regulation. And if there was, no one took much notice.

Palma's move would not be one of turning the clock back to those more hedonistic days. It would not be one so much with the desires of tourists in mind as with the needs of businesses. And behind the move, one senses the influence of both other regulation and of market change, namely and respectively, the smoking ban and all-inclusives.

A turning back of the clock of a different sort will occur in Calvià, the town hall allowing tiqueteros (PRs) once more. But it is a turning back that comes with a price tag. Calvià's ludicrous tiquetero tax proposal will in all likelihood bring back the worst excesses of tourist harassment. The move is meant to help businesses, but it gives with one hand and takes with another. And unlike longer hours on terraces, it is not a move that most tourists will appreciate, proving that there is indeed no such thing as a happy medium between the wishes of businesses and all tourists.

Any comments to please.

Index for February 2012

Alfredo Rubalcaba is PSOE leader - 6 February 2012
British tourism: reservations down - 26 February 2012
Brochure speak - 1 February 2012
Carnival in Mallorca - 12 February 2012
Charles Dickens, the Mallorcan novel and - 8 February 2012
Class in the Balearics - 7 February 2012
Competitiveness in Mallorca - 21 February 2012
Consumer confidence survey - 15 February 2012
Correbou and tradition - 2 February 2012
Cruise operators and Catalonia tourist tax - 28 February 2012
Culture and expatriates - 10 February 2012
Cyclists and drivers - 24 February 2012
Duke of Palma's court appearance - 27 February 2012
Electricity in Mallorca - 20 February 2012
English in Balearics schools - 3 February 2012
Established since ... - 19 February 2012
French doping satire of Spanish sport - 14 February 2012
Judiciary, Spanish - 23 February 2012
Magalluf new hotels and image - 16 February 2012
Mallorca Tourist Board finances - 18 February 2012
Pesetas - 4 February 2012
Protests - 22 February 2012
Ryanair and Spanish air industry - 9 February 2012
Social media and news - 13 February 2012
Terraces opening after midnight - 29 February 2012
Tiqueteros in Calvia - 25 February 2012
Tourism law - 11 February 2012
Winter weather - 5 February 2012, 17 February 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Tourism law amendments re condos and hotel activities

Ongoing discussions between various parties and the Balearic Government have led to one firm amendment to the proposed new law, i.e. that hotels which opt to become condohotels will be obliged to stay open for six months of the year and not eight months. This is quite a shift in emphasis, as the government was making much of the fact that condos would help to help with combatting off-season problems.

Meanwhile, the complementary offer (bars, restaurants etc.) are carrying on talks with the hotels over the latter being able to offer secondary activities that might conflict with those provided by businesses outside hotels. The complementary offer want this to only be possible for hotels which are open 320 days a year. Previously, it was said that the two sides had arrived at a consensus in moving the new tourism law forward, but it is hard to see how the hotels will agree to this demand.

Otherwise, there is agreement on the prohibition of food and drink being taken off of hotel premises and that if it were to be then hotels would not be held liable. There will be a reliance on information posters to tell guests not to take food and drink out, but this provision in the new law seems very difficult to impose. Who will stop guests doing so? How can they be stopped? If they didn't stop, would they (the guests) be thrown out of the hotel? Would the police be involved? It sounds unworkable and likely to create problems.

MALLORCA TODAY - Balearics to go back into recession

Were you aware that the Balearics had ever got out of recession? Well, they did but only just, but by the third quarter of this year they will be back, or so says a joint report from the Centre de Recerca Econòmica (centre for economic research).

MALLORCA TODAY - Artà seeks photos of talayotic settlement

The Ses Païsses talayotic Bronze Age settlement in Artà is one of Mallorca's most important prehistoric sites. The town hall is asking for photos of the site from the time immediately after original excavation work was carried out at the turn of the 1960s. There is a new initiative to recover the site which is overgrown, and the photos, it is believed, could help in this archaeological exercise.

MALLORCA TODAY - Students prepare for strike

The planned strike for tomorrow (29 February) by university and secondary-school students looks set to go ahead, along with overnight sit-ins in at certain institutions. The protest is against education cuts (and also against cuts in other sectors). Against this background, the mood of students and parents, some of whom have, together with teachers, backed the protest, is likely to be darker following an announcement by the Balearic Government that the cost of buying educational materials will rise for both primary and secondary schools as from the next school year (which starts in September).

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma looks at ending the midnight curfew

Palma town hall is considering loosening the regulation that requires terraces to be closed at midnight. Any change would apply to only specific parts of the city, most obviously, for instance, the tourist frontline area of Playa de Palma.

The midnight curfew is one generally applied throughout Mallorca and has been blamed for a loss of business by bar, restaurant and club owners.

MALLORCA TODAY - New potato harvest starts

Just to emphasise how important potatoes are to the economy of Mallorca and to Sa Pobla in particular, almost 25% of Spain's total export of new potatoes comes from Sa Pobla. The harvest of the new potato has now started amidst concerns that the recent bad weather could have caused a loss of up to 30% of the harvest.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 February 2012

Another sunny morning, chillier though at a coastal maximum of 9.2C at 08:00. Remaining sunny with temperatures again into the mid-teens.

Afternoon update: Pleasant enough today, but the high has struggled to top 15 degrees. It has. Just.

The Best Tax In Catalonia

Could Palma and Mallorca be beneficiaries of the Catalonian tourist tax? The tax, described by the director-general for tourism in Catalonia as being the "best tourist tax in Europe", has been modified since its first announcement. It won't be as high as was envisaged, under-16s will be exempt, and it won't now come into effect until November.

Marián Muro, the director-general, believes the Catalonian tax will be the best because regular tourist families won't be penalised, i.e. the kids won't have to pay. It will also differentiate between Barcelona, where there is a proliferation of four and five-star hotels, and other parts of Catalonia where there aren't such hotels; the tax is at its highest (2.50 euros per overnight stay) for five-stars.

Such a geographical distinction may contribute, in Muro's mind, to the tax being the best, but it is not a virtue that cruise operators agree with. Cruise ships are being bundled in with five-star hotels; hence, a 2.50 euro charge. Leading cruise operators - Carnival, Costa and Royal Caribbean - have all expressed their annoyance, and so they might decide to give Barcelona a wide berth and head instead to Valencia or Palma.

The operators say that they cannot claw the tax back from passengers (presumably because bookings have already been finalised), and so they will be out of pocket. They are also unhappy as they feel the tax is something of a kick in the teeth for having made Barcelona the leading port for cruises in the Mediterranean.

What is confusing is whether the tax will be applied regardless of whether a ship stays in port overnight. Marián Muro has been at pains to point out, in spinning her best tax line, that the tax isn't one for a service but on overnight stays in regulated establishments, including cruise ships.

It is a bizarre way of trying to justify this "best" tax. A tax is a tax is a tax, whatever its basis. But if it really is a tax on overnight stays, then why don't the ships just leave well before midnight? At random, I looked up some cruise schedules and one, for the Costa Atlantica, starting from France and going to Palma and then Corsica via Barcelona, is in port in Barcelona for a mere six hours, departing at eight in the evening. So how could this qualify for a tax?

The cruise operators make the point that ships do only stop off for a short period of time. In this respect, ships aren't like hotels and nor are ships' passengers like hotel guests. Of course they're not. But the Catalonia tax is not one on usage or for the environment. It is unashamedly one that will be used to fund Catalonian tourism promotion, and this includes ensuring the Barcelona Formula One grand prix and "maintaining Ryanair" (whatever this is supposed to mean, though one can hazard a reasonable guess).

However the tax is ultimately applied, it could be good news for Mallorca. But for how long? The Balearic Government has thus far eschewed the revival of some form of tourist tax, but, and to the dismay of the European Tour Operators Association, such a tax is becoming increasingly common in the Mediterranean. Rome and Venice, for instance, both introduced one last year. A tourist tax is being seen as an easy way of raising revenue.

For the cruise operators, there is a particular issue. If taxes were imposed elsewhere, then the cost of cruises would be affected. Well yes, but guests staying seven nights in Barcelona are going to be affected just as much. And here is the nub. Might all types of tourist decide to give Catalonia a miss because of the tax? This remains to be seen, but if there were negative publicity, the tax might have some impact.

Great for Mallorca you might think, but this negative publicity could rebound on the island. Not because it has a tax, but because of misreporting. As an example, Royal Caribbean, on its blog and under the headline "Royal Caribbean protests new tourism tax in Spain", implies that the tax is being applied throughout Spain and therefore Mallorca.

The chances are that the Balearic Government will revisit the idea of a tourist tax, but, if it has any sense, it won't do until it sees how things pan out in Catalonia. If the cruise operators don't go through with a threat to bypass Barcelona and if other tourists keep packing themselves onto the Costa Brava, then don't dismiss the possibility that a new tax will be coming to Mallorca some time soon. You never know, though, it might be the "best" tourist tax.

Any comments to please.

Monday, February 27, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma police get tough with looky-looky men

Three men have been detained in an operation by Palma local police against the street selling of counterfeit goods in the central district of the city. Some 800 or so fake CDs and DVDs have been confiscated along with other pirated items.

While the police have been praised for this action, they will know how difficult it is to stamp this illegal trade out, and not just that of the street-selling lookies.

MALLORCA TODAY - Shipping companies in the Balearics fined 54 million euros

The Spanish national competition commission has imposed fines totalling 54 million euros on five shipping and passenger transport companies operating between the Balearics and the mainland and within the islands. They include two companies well-known as ferry operators, Trasmediterránea and Baleària, which have been fined, respectively, 36.1 million and 15.9 million. The commission started an investigation into price fixing and the existence of a cartel last year. The commission's intervention could prove important in helping to make costs of shipping more competitive. The Balearics suffer as a consequence of maritime transportation costs.

MALLORCA TODAY - Garzón acquitted on Franco investigation charge

The Spanish Supreme Court has, by a majority of six to one, absolved Judge Baltasar Garzón of being guilty of an abuse of position in seeking to open investigations of war crimes committed during the Franco era. The case had been driven by the far-right union Manos Limpias. The decision does not mean Garzón can return to office as he was found guilty of exceeding his powers in respect of the wire-tapping of suspects and lawyers to do with the corruption case, "caso Gürtel".

MALLORCA TODAY - The Duke of Palma still has questions to answer

Finally, at 01.30 in the morning, the interrogations of the Duke of Palma (Iñaki Urdangarin) came to an end. At 04.15, he left the court, having spent further time revising papers to do with his declaration. The lawyer representing Manos Limpias, the union that had brought a "popular" action against the Duke, did not press for charges to be laid as had been expected.

Judge Castro had made it clear that he did not believe that the marathon proceedings of yesterday were the time for charges to be laid (if they are going to be). The judge, though, may well want the Duke to return to court to make a further declaration, as there were so many evasions in the Duke's responses - he did not know answers or could not remember events.

The Duke's position, that he disassociated himself from the Instituto Nóos in 2006, has become increasingly questionable. In his declaration last week, the former director of sports in the Balearics, Pepote Ballester, suggested that the Duke had not. The Duke has admitted that he phoned Ballester and his former business partner Diego Torres in 2007 regarding the payment of 400,000 euros in respect of the sports forums organised in Mallorca. There is also evidence of email contact between the Duke and Torres in 2008 regarding various projects.

The Duke has looked to make Torres culpable, arguing that Torres robbed him, and has insisted that his wife, Princess Cristina, had nothing to do with Nóos or with the Aizoon real-estate company, other than being a director. Aizoon is one of the many companies that the Duke was associated with which, it is alleged, were used for the diversion of funds.

The royal household had apparently expressed disquiet as to the length of the interrogations of the Duke.

MALLORCA TODAY - Son Dureta furniture to go to Pollensa's old people's home

What do you do with all manner of furniture in a hospital that has been closed? Son Dureta, now no longer the main hospital in Mallorca, has a wealth of such furniture and rather than it being chucked out, it is being reused. Pollensa's old people's home is to be one of the main beneficiaries, beds, wardrobes, desks being among the furniture that it will receive.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 February 2012

Following what was quite a warm night - it was still 14 or 15 degrees around 02:00 - it is another sunny morning, the high 13.6C at 08:30. The week ahead looks like remaining mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid to high teens.

Afternoon update: Sunny all day but temperatures down considerably on the weekend, a high of just 15.1C.

The Power To Corrupt

If the Duke of Palma's appearances in court were to have a British parallel, it would be like Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence being up before the beak for allegedly fiddling a few invoices, though to be more sportingly accurate, it would be preferable were Captain Mark Phillips in the dock. An Olympic gold medallist, he does share a sporting background with the Duke who, as simple Iñaki Urdangarin, was an Olympic handball medallist.

What do former Olympic medallists with royal connections do once they are no longer participants in their sports? They stay with sport. Captain Mark has gone on to be a successful horsey person. Iñaki has gone on to be a sort of Mr. Fixer for sport of all sorts. Perhaps he should have stuck with handball, the sport he knew.

How has the Duke come to be in a Palma court? Partly, it is because, like many sportspeople, his life remained sport after he had ceased to be a player. The impulse is strong. It is one that makes managers, coaches, pundits and administrators of former players. It, the sport, is all they know. But normally, they stick with the one sport they knew. The Duke became positively Olympian in terms of his sporting interests.

It may have been the Duke's misfortune, or fortune if you prefer, to have sought to carve out a sports marketing career at the same time as Jaume Matas was president of the Balearics. Matas has been exposed as a vain man, one who coveted the company of celebrity (and royalty) and who puffed himself up with grandiose projects or ideas for projects of a sporting nature. The "caso Palma Arena" takes its name from the velodrome. It was just one of Matas' pet schemes. Another was the preposterous idea of staging a grand prix on the streets of Palma.

Making sense of the trail that has led to what has not been a trial but a declaration in front of the judge reveals a whole world of sport that the Duke inhabited. The case against him first surfaced when the judge investigating the "caso Palma Arena" was inclined to consider arrangements between the Fundación Illesport (and IBATUR, the now defunct-because-of-corruption tourism agency) and the Duke's Instituto Nóos that related to international sports forums in Mallorca at the time of Matas' second presidency.

This was not the first time the Duke's institute had dabbled in grand sports gatherings. There had been the Valencia Summit in 2004, an annual sporting debate. There had been the European Games that weren't, also in Valencia, for which initially Nóos was to receive three million euros from the Valencia administration (it came to less than half this). Then there was the Palma Arena itself and an alleged 2.3 million euros from the Matas government to Nóos. And there was advice in respect of Villarreal football club; a ten-page report cost nearly 700,000 euros.

To itemise all the bits of evidence, if only in outline, would take much more than a ten-page report. How much paperwork the prosecutors and the judge have to consider is anyone's guess, as it requires untangling the network of companies with which the Duke was said to have had an association and the movement of funds to the UK, the USA and Belize. The Duke, in his declaration, has intimated that he knew little or nothing of these companies. They were under the management of his former business partner Diego Torres.

Through this network, so it is claimed, contracts from local authorities - the Balearics, Valencia, Alcalá de Henares, Mataró - were turned into subcontracts to companies operated by the Duke and for which unrealistic charges were made and payments sent offshore into tax havens.

The Duke has, however, further intimated that he only got involved with sports matters. Sport is all he knows, one might conclude. Olympic medallist he was, but he also acquired a diploma in business science from the University of Barcelona, is licensed in business management and had gained an MBA from ESADE, one of Spain's leading business schools.

The Duke will discover whether or not he is to face charges. This is why he has been in court; to establish whether there are grounds for formal charges.

Whether charges are laid or not, the Duke's story shows that sport, meant to have the power for good, can just as easily have the power to corrupt. His sporting background was the Olympics, his sporting interests were Olympian in scope, and the Olympics movement itself was once the embodiment of how sport can corrupt.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Sociedad 1 : 0 Real Mallorca

Mallorca away in the Basque Country to the team they put six past in the cup but which they did lose to in the first leg of that tie in San Sebastián.

Sociedad were quicker out of the blocks and in control until midway in the first half when Mallorca began to come into things more, Ramis having the best chance with a header saved by Bravo. A spate of corners gave Mallorca the early ascendancy in the second half, but these didn't lead to anything. Even enough, Sociedad then broke the deadlock after a phase of pressure when Agirretxe put them ahead. Disappointing for Mallorca; a game against a similarly placed team that they would have hoped for a point from.

Bravo; Estrada, González, Martínez, Cadamuro; Bergara, Aranburu (Pardo 68); Vela (Prieto 79), Zurutuza, Griezmann; Agirretxe (Llorente 82)
Goal: Agirretxe (78)
Yellows: Bergara (58), Llorente (90+)

Aouate; Crespí, Nunes, Ramis, Cáceres (Ogunjimi 81); Tissone (Pina 70), Martí, Pereira, Castro; Victor, Hemed (Alfaro 57)
Yellows: Tissone (52), Pereira (60), Martí (85), Ramis (90+)

MALLORCA TODAY - Duke of Palma in court - day two

After the Lord Mayor's Show, this morning's events outside the court were quite different. It is Sunday morning after all. No more than 20 protesters, and the Duke arrived for the second day of declaration in a more relaxed mood.

The Duke is expected to insist that Princess Cristina had nothing to do with the Instiuto Nóos. Meanwhile, revelations keep emerging, the latest being the apparent existence of false invoices related to the European Games, something the Duke was involved with along with the Valencia regional government, but which didn't take place.

The Duke has said that the alleged contracting of phantom employees at the Instituto Nóos was a matter to do with his ex-business partner Diego Torres. He has admitted that he was involved with a regional government payment of 400,000 euros to the institute in respect of a sports promotional forum held in Mallorca but that the exact amount of payment was not something he controlled. He has continued to insist that he knew nothing about the network of companies with which he was said to be involved. Lunch taken at just after 14:00.

Update: The real-estate company Aizoon, in which Pincess Cristina was a partner, was the sole responsibility of the Duke, he has testified. Money from Nóos, it has been suggested, was diverted to Aizoon.

The judge lost patience at one point with the Duke's evasiveness and inability to remember, suggesting it might have been better had he not come to declare. After some 15 hours of questioning, the judge handed over to the prosecutors at around 17:30.

The Duke has accused Diego Torres of having negotiated contracts with local governments off his own back.

Update (20:30): The proceedings seem to be becoming increasingly absurd. Some lawyers are unhappy that the judge took so long in his questioning, and with others, in addition to the prosecutors, to lodge their questions, it is possible they could all be there into the early morning. How can anyone be expected to give reasonable evidence (or reasonable questions) after such a protracted session? They should call it a day and come back again. Ridiculous.

On and on they go. The judge has indicated that if there is to be an injunction served on the Duke it will not be today. There is also now a suggestion that, because of the evasiveness of the Duke, Princess Cristina may be called to declare. Thankfully, not today or nearly tomorrow. The prosecutors have just about finished their questions. It is now 23:30.

MALLORCA TODAY - Body found in pond in Sa Pobla

The body of a Brazilian woman was discovered yesterday in a pond in a remote area near to the Albufera nature park in Sa Pobla. The body is believed to have been in the water for at least a week. In a separate incident in the locality, a Mallorcan man in his twenties was found hanged in a wooded area in Puerto Alcúdia on Friday morning.

MALLORCA TODAY - Roman bridge shelter to re-open in spring

The shelter in Pollensa by the Roman bridge, a stop on the cultural dry-stone route and closed for a year following the collapse of the skylight in the dining-room, is set to re-open in the next three months.

MALLORCA TODAY - Language Movement in defence of Catalan formed

Current and former members of the Partido Popular have come together to create the "Moviment per la Llengua" to counter the Balearic Government's proposed changes to the law as it applies to the use of Catalan in the public sector. Prominent in this movement are Antoni Pastor, mayor of Manacor, Cristòfol Soler, for a time the president of the Balearics in the 1990s, and Jaume Font, formerly a member of the PP who left the party because of disagreements with the now president, Jóse Bauzá, and formed his own party, La Lliga. Politicians from other parties have also signed up to the movement, including the ex-PSOE president of the islands, Francesc Antich.

MALLORCA TODAY - Worries over Sóller's beach

Delays to work on the Paseo Marítimo (promenade) in Puerto Sóller are leading to concerns that a regeneration of the Través beach in the resort will not be finished in time for the coming tourism season. Work on the sea front in Puerto Sóller has been dogged by problems, such as those which arose last year over the re-routing of the tram.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 February 2012

Some mist but a quiet, clear morning with a high of 8.8C at 08:30. Maximums later on like yesterday, i.e. into the higher teens.

Afternoon update: Another fine day, and the 20 mark has been beaten but inland, the day's high in Pollensa having been 20.4C. The coastal high just under 20 at 19.8C.

Taken For Granted: British tourists

Woe, woe and two times thrice woe. Sice woe. Six per cent of woe. British woe. But this is the woe things go in tourism land. Disaster beckons for the Mallorcan season. The British have yet to make reservations to the same level as last year. Oh woe.

But woh! Or even woah! Wait a moment. British tourist reservations are down by 8% wherever the tourists might be planning on going, and 6% down to Mallorca on what had been a 16% increase in 2011 doesn't sound so bad. And it is only February. 6% might become 2%, it might even become 2% or 3% plus. Joy, joy and thrice joy.

The fall in reservations is being attributed to all manner of things: a tendency to book late; the Euro football championships; the Olympics; the Queen's jubilee celebrations; Dave cajoling Brits to take a staycation in order to enjoy all of this and there being a promotional campaign to back up staycationing; there not being any Balearic money to spend on tourism promotion; anxieties over tour operators (i.e. Thomas Cook).

Some or all of these might be playing a part. Or some or all of these might be playing little or no part. The most important reason is economic uncertainty, but as holiday time begins to loom, there is a tendency for uncertainty to be cast aside and for the trip to the travel agent to be made or the send button to be clicked on the internet booking.

It is reassuring that, in a world where British influence has declined to virtual non-existence, a minor blip in Mallorca's British holiday reservations statistics can cause a seismic shift in the hyperbolic plates of the press. "Big fears", we are told, have been aroused by the six per cent that has gone temporarily AWOL. The big fears stem from the fact that the British rule the waves lapping onto the beaches of Magalluf and Alcúdia, or at least some of the waves, those not dominated by the Germans that is. British imperialism survives, if only in Mallorca, and it wears a pair of Union Jack shorts.

A tremor there may be, but were Brit tourism to be swallowed up, would there be a funeral lament? British tourism, for all that it represents one of the three main tourism markets, has acquired a reputation it never used to have for being tight. This used to be one reserved for the Germans, but now the Brits can claim it. The opprobrium which is levelled at British tourism can commonly be found on Spanish websites: it has no money; it clogs up hospital emergency units because it has jumped off balconies; it has put pressure on town halls' cleaning services because it has vomited all over the streets.

Much as the Brits contribute to a tourism industry and a governmental ability to quote statistics which reveal a picture of rude health tramping through the automatic doors from Palma airport's baggage reclaim, one does wonder as to whether there isn't just a touch of indifference as well as complacency. The Brits will come in good numbers pretty much come what may, but if they are down 6%, then does it really matter? The remaining percentage, or so the increasingly voiced criticism would have it, merely gets ferried off to All-Inclusive Ghetto Land, ne'er to be seen again for a fortnight.

This does, though, rather overlook all the other nationalities heading off in a similar direction. But some of these nationalities are more minted up. The Russians, for example, who can boast a 22% increase thus far for the coming season.

It isn't really indifference. It is more a case of pragmatism. Because someone has spent most of the government's money and left only a handful of euros for tourism promotion, the fact that there are no telly ads for Mallorca is down to what little promotional spend there is being diverted towards the new markets with their promises of greater riches, be it the bling-clanging Russian market or others.

Poor reputation, indifference, complacency, pragmatism, changing priorities, whatever dynamics are at play, Mallorca can nevertheless ill-afford to neglect one of its most populous tourism markets. Not just because this market might ultimately decide that its imperialism is better displayed elsewhere, but also because tourism is meant to be the great motor of the economy, especially in Mallorca.

Tourism, British tourism, is taken for granted. But taking anyone for granted shows a lack of respect. Not all British tourists might command respect, but for promotional effort to be cut back as dramatically as it has been is a false economy. The economy depends on tourism, and tourism, from whichever market, needs investing in.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Armengol is new leader of PSOE in the Balearics

Francina Armengol, ex-president of the Council of Mallorca, has been elected as new secretary-general of PSIB-PSOE in the Balearics in succession to former Balearics president Francesc Antich. Armengol received 67.1% of the vote, the only other candidate, Carles Bona, polling 31.9%.

MALLORCA TODAY - Ses Casetes still under Coasts Law threat

The Council of Mallorca has rejected a proposal by Muro town hall that the enclave of Ses Casetes des Capellans in Playa de Muro should be declared a site of cultural interest and so afford the cottages protection from demolition, as has been the declared intent of the Costas Authority because of the apparent illegality of the cottages (many of which were built almost a hundred years ago). The town hall does hold out hope, however, that a planned revision of the Coasts Law by the new government will give Ses Casetes a reprieve.

MALLORCA TODAY - Priest stages protest over alleged bank swindle

For two days, the people of Muro town have been presented with the odd sight of a local priest staging a one-man protest with a board which explains what he claims is a swindle by a bank in which he deposited 90,000 euros for stock-market investment which appears to have been lost.

MALLORCA TODAY - Media Markt set to open in Palma

Anticipated for some months, the German electrical-goods retailer Media Markt has officially announced its intention to open a large store in the Ocimax centre in Palma at some point this year. The company expects to create 60 new jobs as a consequence.

MALLORCA TODAY - Nadal academy edges closer

Though definitive permission has still not been granted, the construction of the Rafael Nadal academy in his home town of Manacor should be able to start soon. The Nadal family will invest 15 million euros of their own money in a project for training young tennis players and which also envisages a Rafael Nadal museum and accommodation for young athletes.

MALLORCA TODAY - Alcúdia approves 2012 budget

The Partido Popular-dominated town hall administration in Alcúdia, with the support of the non-accredited Carme Garcia, has approved a budget of 27.3 million euros for 2012 which will allow for an increase of 2.4% in project investment. There will be an increase from one tax, i.e. IBI (property tax), while other taxes will remain frozen. The town hall also anticipates an increase in revenue from businesses that use the beaches in the town.

MALLORCA TODAY - Pollensa agrees Catalan policy

An unusual level of accord has broken out at Pollensa town hall. Along with the general agreement related to Ullal (see "Ullal proposals withdrawn by town hall", 24 February), there is also agreement regarding opposition to the regional government's attitude towards Catalan, the town hall pressing to ensure that, for example, programmes and films on local television are transmitted in Catalan.

MALLORCA TODAY - The Duke of Palma's day in court

Rarely has any event in Mallorca attracted as much interest as today's appearance by the Duke of Palma (Iñaki Urdangarin) at the court in Palma to face questioning over the so-called "caso Nóos". Speculation has been rife as to how the Duke will arrive at court - on foot or by car; various protest groups will be out in force, such as the Maulets (independence radicals); police will also be out in force, extra officers having been drafted in from Valencia, along with the media.

The Duke faces charges of fraud and tax evasion, his marketing organisation the Instituto Nóos being at the centre of the charges which relate, among other things, to invoices for work that allegedly was not performed but for which government agencies paid substantial amounts of public money during the last presidency of Jaume Matas; the "caso Nóos" has, in effect, become a part of the ongoing "caso Palma Arena" investigations and trials of the former president for embezzlement and fraud.

The case has embroiled the royal family, as the Duke is married to the King's daughter, Princess Cristina. Her involvement with the case, though she has yet to be indicted and may not be, is largely to do with a real-estate firm she ran with the Duke and alleged diversion of money to this firm.

Update: So, the Duke entered on foot after all, though his car had some eggs thrown at it. 500 demonstrators protested against corruption and the monarchy. The Duke said he was seeking the truth and to defend his honour. He has admitted to the judge that the King ordered him to disassociate himself from the Instituto Nóos back in 2006.

Update: Prior to a break for lunch at 14:00, the Duke was asked mainly about the various companies that are cited in the case and with which he had associations.
The Duke has said that he did not take decisions where these companies were concerned but that the management was left to his former business partner Diego Torres and that involvement he had was confined to matters to do with sport.

Update: The Duke has said that he did meet with Jaume Matas and the former director of sport for the Balearics, "Pepote" Ballester at the Marivent palace where they discussed governmental financial support for a cycling team run by the bank Banesto and for which his company could act in marketing. It seemed a good idea to the Duke who claims that arrangements were left in the hands of Diego Torres.

Update: The Duke has declared that money from Nóos went to Belize for a foundation for sick children. The judge has indicated that he wants to finish the interrogation of the Duke today, which could mean the court session lasting to almost midnight.

Update: Showing how complex the affairs of the Duke were, questions have arisen regarding a settlement of 300,000 euros through one of the Duke's companies Global Corporate, itself linked to the Belize foundation. Global Corporate has two subsidiaries in the USA in addition to a Spanish base.

Update: Judge Castro has called a halt to proceedings at just after 20:00. Everyone will be back tomorrow at 09:30. Cue more demos no doubt.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 February 2012

A clear, still and chilly morning, temperatures ranging between 9.1C inland and 5.5C on the coast at 08:00. It should be a fine day with temperature values climbing to similar levels as yesterday, i.e. the high teens.

Afternoon update: A high the same as yesterday, i.e. 18.6C, on another warm and sunny day.

PR Disaster: Calvia's tiquetero tax

Calvia town hall is to permit "tiqueteros" once more. It hasn't decided exactly what the new ordinance governing the PRs will entail, but it has already decided what it is going to cost. Going to cost bars, restaurants and clubs, that is. The town hall is licking its lips at the prospect of 1.2 million euros finding their way into the municipal coffers, over a third of them in the form of fines, as a consequence of the PRs returning to the streets of Magalluf and other resorts and of their employers having to pay the town hall for the privilege.

Depending on the size of establishment and therefore the number of PRs that will be allowed, a bar owner could find him or herself having to fork out up to 3,500 euros a week.

For larger places, the cost of one employee could be as much as 350 euros more per week. This is because larger establishments will be obliged to fork out 50 euros a day (and they would be allowed to employ a maximum of ten PRs). Smaller places, i.e. less than one hundred square metres in size, will have to pay 30 euros a day but can only employ one PR.

To the onus of the tax (and this is the only way it can be described) is added an engineering of the business process. Smaller bars might wish to employ more PRs, so why shouldn't they be allowed to? What is the obsession with 100 square metres (or 200, another level of tax determination?

Over and above the arbitrariness, there is the question as to how such a tax can be justified, as it is a tax on marketing. The town hall's response would probably be along the lines of the fact that a PR occupies space owned by the town that is on the "public way". It is the same sort of principle as is applied to terraces which encroach onto the public way.

Up to a point, one can understand this, but where PRs are concerned, to be allowing them and then to be charging for them is a case of giving with one hand and taking with the other. But what if PRs were to be based only on a bar's property? What if they never moved? This would be unlikely, but were it to be so, then how could the town hall justify the tax? Only if the town's property is being used, can it feel safe in levying such a charge.

While regulating what businesses do is a legitimate responsibility of local authorities, too often bars appear to bear the brunt of petty and heavy-handed regulation. This is symptomatic of a culture in which business often appears to be misunderstood or simply exploited. There is a them-and-us culture, one exacerbated by a town hall mindset in which revenue calculations are arrived at with fines having been factored in. Town halls might be right to think like this, but it doesn't exactly make for an atmosphere in which all sectors of local resorts are co-operating for the greater good.

But, aside from the tax, what of the return of the PRs? Plenty of businesses have argued that they have suffered because they can't employ them (well, not legitimately). Perhaps so, but one reason why they were banned and why in other resorts they were confined to the premises and not meant to be patrolling the streets, was that there were so many complaints about harassment.

The town hall doubtless has a list of rules that it will unfurl to cover how PRs should operate, and doubtless they will be ignored. Allowing the return of PRs is one thing, making bars pay a tax for them is another. Calvia is making a rod for its own back. A bar owner who is obliged to spend as much as is being envisaged will want to make damn sure that he or she gets a return. And this is likely to mean a return to harassment of passers-by.

You can already begin to imagine how it's going to be. The local police will be spending all their time under instruction from the town hall to go in search of PRs acting inappropriately or without the tax having been paid so that the town hall can say it is keeping a lid on things and make a few more bob from fines. Meanwhile, other complaints that surface in the tourism season in resorts such as Magalluf will go unattended.

They're bringing back the PRs, but they're likely to bring about a PR disaster as well. Just wait for the internet to get clogged up with tourists moaning about the PRs.

Any comments to please.

Friday, February 24, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - British tourism to the Balearics down 6%

Figures to 10 February show that reservations by British tourists coming to the Balearics are down by 6% on last year. This has, however, to be placed in context, i.e. holiday reservations as a whole by Britons are down by 8%. Late bookings are likely to boost the number of British tourists, but there are special factors to consider this year, i.e. in addition to the Euro football championship, there are the London Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee.

MALLORCA TODAY - Ullal proposals withdrawn by town hall

Pollensa town hall has backtracked on suggestions that the Ullal area of Puerto Pollensa could be opened up to wholesale development as a consequence of a revision of the "plan hidrólogico". However, this change in attitude is provisional and there appears to be a lack of unanimity among different political parties which would allow the establishment of a new ordinance which would guarantee that future changes to the wetland area of Ullal were in the common interest and not in the interests of just a few.

MALLORCA TODAY - Calvia bars will have to pay tax for PRs

Calvia town hall, in the process of approving anew the permission for bars and other establishments to publicise themselves through "tiqueteros" (commonly referred to as PRs), is to also introduce a tax whereby the businesses would have to pay between 30 and 50 euros a day per PR. Calvia includes the resorts of Magalluf, Santa Ponsa and Palmanova.

MALLORCA TODAY - Sa Pobla steps up dog-fouling patrols

Following complaints from members of the public, Sa Pobla town hall is to step up police patrols to ensure that dog owners remove excrement from the town's streets. On occasion, these patrols may be performed by police in plain clothes. Fines for not picking up dog mess range from 60 to 180 euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - Drop in water temperature blamed for fish deaths

A significant number of fish have been found dead in Puerto Alcúdia's Lago Esperanza, the result it is believed of a drop in water temperature, provoked by recent abnormal weather. Initial investigations have ruled out other possibilities, such as limited oxygen. Different types of fish have been affected, including sardines.

MALLORCA TODAY - Jonquillo catch prohibited

Fishermen in the north of Mallorca have been prevented from catching the jonquillo goby fish because of an intervention by European Union inspectors. The jonquillo season lasts into March and has already been disrupted because of bad sea conditions during February.

MALLORCA TODAY - Cuts to Balearics Day celebrations

Events surrounding Balearics Day (1 March) have been scaled back by the Balearic Government. The budget will be 280,000 euros, which represents a saving of 55% over last year. The events are primarily organised in Palma. Despite the cuts, there will still be plenty happening, including a concert by leading Mallorcan singer Tomeu Penya on 1 March, which is a regional holiday and celebrates Balearics political autonomy.

MALLORCA TODAY - Inca father and son hanging tragedy

A mother returned to her house in Inca yesterday to discover the bodies of her 66-year-old husband and five-year-old son. The child had been hanged and the father then hung himself in an act of suicide.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 February 2012

A greyer morning, but set to clear and be quite sunny. 8.7C at 08:00 and due to rise to around 16 degrees. The weekend looks to be a mix of sun and cloud and similar temperatures.

Afternoon update: Clear the cloud did and the temperature has reached 18.6C, not the warmest day of the year but not far off.

Irrational: Cyclophobia in Mallorca

As is tradition at this time of the year, arguments about cyclists are starting. One says arguments; they are little more than someone going off on one, citing a particular incident and then condemning all cycle-kind as a consequence (or in reverse, i.e. the whole of car/taxi/van/lorry/bus-driver-kind being branded as devils incarnate or even devils in cars).

I was once a cyclophobe. Or rather, I was once only too glad to take the rise out of cyclists, as with a description that dates back to January 2007 of supermarkets being alive with the sound of cyclists' foot furniture - a horse-hoof, coconut-shell karaoke heading for the bananas. But since then, I have had a cycling epiphany. The ghosts of cycling past, present and future visited me in a dream, and I awoke with a broad smile and went in search of cyclists in order to bestow upon them gifts of goodwill.

And so there should be goodwill. Cyclists mean money. To all the naysayers who would have it that cyclists do only buy bananas and rarely patronise hostelries, I say you are quite wrong. I have witnessed with my own eyes entire platoons of cyclists demolishing pannier-loads of charcoaled meat at one sitting, washed down with helmet-fulls of foaming German lager.

Cyclophobia can attach itself to the seemingly most unexpected of people. Matthew Parris's infamous piano-wire stretched across roads to decapitate cyclists was strange not just because of its murderous desire but also because Parris is the sort of chap you would believe not to be a cyclophobe. Enthusiasms that he has, such as for Catalonia and the Conservative Party, mark him out as being slightly eccentric, rather like Boris Johnson, a Tory two-wheeling advocate. But sorry, sorry, there I go, forgetting my epiphany and implying that cyclists are eccentric, when of course they aren't. Well, not all of them anyway.

Another Conservative eccentric, the British Prime Minister, wants there to be greater safety for cyclists, and it was this that provoked a phone-in to Nicky Campbell on Five Live, one which proved that cyclophobia is more of a disorder in the UK than it is among users of Mallorcan roads who are other than cyclists (or skaters or runners or lunatics on those trike things or even pedestrians).

To the ranks of the celebrity cyclophobe and thus joining Matthew Parris can be added that all-Australian ocker Shane Warne. The leg-spinner fired off a flipper on Twitter, having flipped when a cyclist punched his car, and called for cyclists to ride in single file, have number plates and pay road tax. He didn't say anything about banning cyclists for taking diuretics or having had a hair transplant, but Warney may have had a point.

Put plates on a bike and if a cyclist goes through a red light ... . Hang on, not if a cyclist goes through a red light, but when a cyclist goes through a red light, and the nearest driver could take a photo with a Smartphone and upload it to a dedicated Tráfico website. Except of course the driver would then be penalised for having used a mobile.

Number plates probably aren't much of a solution. Bikes are bikes, they don't have wide bumpers onto which clearly visible plates can be mounted. Nevertheless, revengeful cyclophobes would doubtless favour some form of identification or tracking. Perhaps this is it. All cyclists should be electronically tagged. Jump a red, veer into the centre of the road, go the wrong way down a road and a vast GPS system floating in space over Mallorca would immediately clock them.

Should anything like this be necessary, though? Why can't drivers and cyclists live side by side together in perfect road-use harmony? The reasons why not, one supposes, are an irrational primeval territorialism and another instinctive human trait passed down from cavemen, that of objecting when someone seems to be taking the piss.

This is what it all boils down to, but it doesn't matter. Or only occasionally does it matter, if there is real danger involved. So, a cyclist jumps a red and a driver doesn't. Who cares? I don't, that's for sure. Though I was finally convinced there was a God when a cyclist went through a red and Tráfico were at the very junction and pulled her over.

The cyclophobia season is back with us, as it will always be with us. Hopefully, no cyclist feels inclined to punch a car, but to be honest if it were Shane Warne driving, it might be understandable. Even this, though, would be irrational.

Any comments to please.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma approves Sunday opening

Palma town hall has today approved the Sunday opening of any business in the main tourism centre of the city in and around its walls. Experimental for 2012, this measure will mean, for example, that large shops which cannot currently open will be able to do so. Small businesses can already open, and it is a threat to their business which has been an objection to the larger ones opening. In addition to the shops opening, there will also be street activities and reduced fees for parking.

An impetus for this change has been the tourists brought in by cruise ships, but opposition (the Mallorcan socialists) at the town hall point out that the number of cruise tourists who come ashore (assuming they even stay in Palma) is small by comparison with the number of businesses, implying therefore that they will not necessarily result in greatly increased trade.

MALLORCA TODAY - Town hall plans to take over necropolis maintenance

Santa Margalida town hall, having grown tired of the inactivity of governmental bodies, has decided to take on restorative maintenance of the necropolis in the Son Real finca itself. A small budget for this has been allocated and the town hall expects that the Council of Mallorca will permit it to undertake the work.

MALLORCA TODAY - Fall of over 20% in January foreign tourism

The Balearics were the fifth most popular destination in Spain during January for foreign tourists. But the total of nearly 87,000 was way behind the most popular destination - the Canaries with over 900,000 visitors. The total represents a decline of 22.6% over last year but was also up slightly over the number for December.

MALLORCA TODAY - Nadal and Ronaldo film in Santa Ponsa

Rafael Nadal and Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo were both at the country club in Santa Ponsa yesterday to take part in filming for a Nike advert amidst heavy security.

MALLORCA TODAY - Complaints about illegal gas inspections rise

The regional government's industry and energy ministry has announced that there has been an increase in the number of complaints regarding illegal inspections of gas installations. These now include those of meters for connections to the natural gas network that is operative in parts of the south of Mallorca. Inspections for both natural and butane gas have to be carried out every five years and are arranged by owners. Legitimate inspections are never performed without prior arrangement.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 February 2012

What promises to be a decent day has started well, with temperatures soaring to 13 degrees by 07:30, even if in parts of the area they are also as low as 3 degrees. A clear and fairly calm morning, an anticipated high of 16C.

Latest yellow alert update: The met office has put out a warning for low temperatures, i.e. down to one degree below zero, for much of the island as from midnight tonight (23 February). (Which, given that all things weather-wise are relative and that minus one is not really that cold, seems rather unnecessary.)

Afternoon update: And a decent day it has been. Clear skies and a high of 15.6C, feeling quite warm in the direct sun.

On Trial: The Spanish judiciary

Justice, administered and delivered by judges and magistrates in Spain, is administered and delivered in the name of the King. The King, in addressing a legal profession gathering in Barcelona, has reminded judges that it is they alone who impart justice. On Saturday, the King's son-in-law appears in a Palma court. The judge presiding over the "caso Nóos" is consulting with not just the prosecution but also the government and the Partido Popular as to whether they wish the King's daughter, Princess Cristina, to be indicted as part of this case.

Make of this little mix what you will, as there is an awful lot that can be made of it.

Under the Spanish Constitution, the judiciary is independent, and so of course it should be. But the extent to which it truly is independent or neutral is coming under increasing scrutiny. The Garzón affair has raised serious doubts, and the royal family having become embroiled in the wider investigation and trial of the former president of the Balearics, Jaume Matas, raises more doubts.

Let's be clear. If, and one stresses if, there is a case for the King's daughter to answer, then so be it. The royal household, from the outset of the investigation of the Duke of Palma, has made it clear that it respects the actions of the judiciary, but justice being administered and delivered in the name of King when it might involve the King's daughter, as opposed to a commoner (which the Duke is), highlights just how much of a dilemma has been created by the investigation.

For Judge Castro, the dilemma is enormous. By consulting with the government and a political party, he runs the risk of being seen to be subject to political influence. Should it not be his decision and his decision alone? Possibly. But by counselling the wishes of the political class, or a part of it, he is placing the dilemma in the hands of this political class.

In some respects, one could say he is playing a blinder, as he is handing responsibility elsewhere. But however the political class decides to play things, it will be criticised. Firstly, it will be criticised for getting involved at all. Secondly, if it says it does not wish the Princess to be indicted, it risks being accused of applying one rule for one and one rule for another (assuming, that is, there genuinely is a case to answer, and most noises have suggested not, as with the evidence of former Olympic sailing gold medallist, "Pepote" Ballester). Thirdly, if it says it does wish the Princess to be indicted, then it potentially opens up a massive can of worms.

The reason why this can of worms might be opened up is that a trap has been laid by the right-wing union Manos Limpias. In calling for the Princess to be indicted, if the government and the PP were to follow its demand, the union would, in effect, receive official backing. For the government to be perceived as acceding to the wishes of a union with the type of associations it has, i.e. Francoist, could be hugely damaging.

The government will be damned if it does and damned if it doesn't, and a further problem is that the Spanish people, generally speaking, are indifferent to many members of the royal family, with the definite exception of the King, who is held in such enormous regard, and rightly so.

The whole affair surrounding the Duke couldn't have come at a worse time for the Spanish judiciary. The world is having its say about a Spanish system that has tried, convicted and removed from office a leading judge at the behest of right-wing forces. Daniel Kaufmann, senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, has suggested that a travesty has been committed in respect of Judge Garzón, that judicial independence has been compromised, and, moreover, has presented evidence which indicates a decline in Spain's rule of law.

However much the Spanish judiciary is theoretically independent, there is a suspicion of politicisation and partiality. And it is caused not just by politics but also by professional rivalries within the judiciary (the Garzón affair is said to have been influenced by these). Garzón himself is not above charges of politicisation, and it is such charges, for the wider judiciary, which suggests that there needs to be some reform.

At the heart of all this, and a reason why it is all so important, is that the judiciary is a vital instrument of democracy. And in Spain, so is the monarchy. Both institutions, the legal system and the monarchy, are being placed or potentially being placed on trial.

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Demands made for recuperation of Puerto Pollensa public areas

The Alternativa Party has set out demands for the recovery by Pollensa town hall of parts of the Gotmar urbanisation and other areas of Puerto Pollensa, e.g. one in Singala that belongs to the town. In Gotmar, the Alternativa highlights the extent to which pavements and also steps have become overgrown and, in one case, the Calle Estornell, the extent to which it has all but disappeared as well as having an electricity transformer in the middle of it.

MALLORCA TODAY - Palma demonstration supports Valencia students

A demonstration of some 300 people in Palma yesterday - students, parents and teaching staff - voiced support for students in Valencia who were subject to allegedly excessive violence by police during protests over the weekend.

MALLORCA TODAY - Old people's homes staff still not paid

A further protest took place yesterday by staff at old people's homes in Mallorca who have not been paid because the regional government has not paid their employing companies. President Bauzá has promised that payments will be made to the company Nova Edat which is owed 4.5 million euros.

MALLORCA TODAY - Judge consults on Princess Cristina subpoena

The judge heading the "caso Palma Arena" trial is to consult with the government over whether it supports the subpoena and indictment of Princess Cristina, daughter of King Juan Carlos, in relation to that part of the trial that deals with the affairs of her husband's company, the Instituto Nóos. The Duke of Palma is due to appear in court on Saturday, when press from many countries are expected to come to Palma. There is a public clamour for the Duke to arrive at the court on foot, as is usually the case, rather than be brought in by car to the back of the court.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 February 2012

Still breezy after quite a windy night, a mix of sun and cloud and warmer, with a high of 11 degrees at 08:30. Should be a better day than yesterday turned out to be and the daytime highs are on the rise at the end of the week.

Afternoon update: A pleasant enough day, despite a still stiff breeze. Plenty of sun but a high of only 12.8C.

Unravelling: Protests and opportunism

On one day, events come together that forge the impression of an unravelling. The word unravelling, in its literal sense, means an undoing or an unknitting of fabric. In an abstract sense, and as the word is often applied, it is an undoing of a different type of fabric, that of society for example.

The one day in question was Monday. The events that came together were a protest against non-payments to ambulance workers, a threat of legal action against the Balearic Government over non-payments to public transport operators, an announcement of sit-ins and a strike by university and secondary education students, and news of alleged over-reaction by police against protesting students in Valencia.

Charges of disproportionate measures being adopted by police in Valencia are not new. They were also made in respect of efforts to clear "indignado" demonstrators last year. The protests staged in many Spanish cities by the indignados and the responses by some police forces were, though, against a political backdrop that had yet to be properly coloured in. It now has been. And this is how it begins. Protests of different types. An unravelling.

At the weekend, there had been another protest, that against the national government's labour reforms. To the fore was Lorenzo Bravo, secretary-general in the Balearics of the UGT union, a Dereck Chisora-David Haye of industrial relations trash talk, upping the ante in publicising the fight with the government by labelling President Bauzá a fascist.

The allusion to Spain's history is a dark colour to be added to the swatch with which the political backdrop is suffused, one embellished by a legal system that permits a tarnishing of Spain's reputation. The actions of a right-wing union with undeniable Francoist sympathies, in forcing the pursuit of Judge Baltasar Garzón and in also seeking the subpoena of Princess Cristina, were born out of democratic sophism; the targets - Garzón's brand of legalistic independence and the royal family - are integral to Spain's democracy and they are being hounded.

The events of Monday and at the weekend and the manipulation of the legal system are not coincidental. They are an opportunistic and inevitable collision within the unravelling framework. Yet, the inevitability of, for example, the public transport operators' federation seeking legal redress might not become reality. Nor is it inevitable that individual bus companies might actually stop services, as they are threatening to.

There is always brinkmanship, and suspension of bus services by companies responsible for places such as Pollensa and Can Picafort, just as the tourism season starts to get underway, would be unlikely to happen. It is not as though we haven't been here before. Pharmacies threatened to pull down their shutters in protest at not being paid by the IB-Salut health service, but the threat didn't materialise, or at least, it hasn't materialised yet.

Things have moved on, though. Pharmacies not being paid was an issue soon after the change of regional government last June. The strains are far greater than they were and the roll call of services being cut or finding themselves without funds grows longer.

At some point, one of the threats will be realised. If it were that of the bus companies, notwithstanding the government's pre-emption by declaring a suspension of services illegal, the ramifications would be significant; in terms of tourism reputation if nothing else. And while the ambulance workers are protesting and the pharmacies remain unpaid, what of another element of the health service - hospital emergency units?

These units have become overstretched as it is, leading to resignations, such as that of the director of Son Espases' emergency department. When the units start to fill up with tourists who have either chucked themselves off balconies, had too much to drink or suffered a severe reaction to a mosquito bite, the last thing the hospitals (or the government) would want would be a "Sun, Sea and A&E" film crew hovering in the background, showing them struggling to cope.

The unions and the students are playing their expected roles as usual suspects when it comes to protest. Their actions will be easier for governments, nationally and regionally, to handle in terms of PR. But these actions are only beginning. Valencia for now, but over the next months?

When hospital directors, pharmacies, bus companies, ambulance workers - to name but a few - add their voices to those who might simply be dismissed as regular agitators, protest is less easy to handle. And all the while, lurking somewhere, is the opportunism of the non-governmental right and further right. On one day, events come together that forge the impression of an unravelling. How about 23 February? Do you know what anniversary this marks?

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Ex-mayor of Capdepera barred for eight years

As part of the sentencing related to the case of the Son Moll hotel in Cala Ratjada, which collapsed in December 2008 during building works, killing four workers, the mayor of Capdepera at the time, Bartomeu Alzina, has been barred from public office and employment for eight years and ordered to pay costs. The mayor was judged to have been guilty of abusing his position in not complying with licensing requirements for the building works. Others charged in the case have received custodial sentences to a maximum of two years.

MALLORCA TODAY - GESA building could now be demolished

The GESA office building in Palma, which was afforded protection as a listed building by the Council of Mallorca in 2007, now no longer has this protection, following a judicial ruling. Unless the Council, now with a different political make-up, seeks to challenge this latest ruling, the building could be demolished.

MALLORCA TODAY - Transport industry considers legal action against government

Bosses from the Balearics transport federation which represents companies that operate bus services are considering legal action against the Balearic Government for the non-payments that amount to 3.2 million euros for 2011. Certain operators face the possibility of having to suspend services on account of the non-payments. These include the Pollensa-based operator Transunion and Autolineas which provides services from Can Picafort.

MALLORCA TODAY - Students plan sit-ins over cuts

From Thursday a series of protests are to be organised by university and secondary school students over cuts in education (and also in health plus the rise in transport prices and labour reforms) which will culminate in sit-ins over the night of 28 February and a strike on 29 February to coincide with protests across Spain and Europe.

Meanwhile, action by students in Valencia against education cuts there which has been ongoing since last week has become the focal point for protests, with accusations of violence and disproportionate measures being adopted by police.

MALLORCA TODAY - Ambulance workers protest over non-payments

More problems for the heavily indebted Balearics health service IB-Salut. Ambulance drivers and personnel attached to the company SSG protested yesterday over payments not made by the health service, which include the Christmas bonus.

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa military base 75th anniversary

A commemorative plaque was laid by mayor Tomeu Cifre yesterday as part of the act of celebration of the 75th anniversary of the military base in Puerto Pollensa, work on which was started in November 1936 under the direction of Franco's brother, Ramón Franco.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 February 2012

A brighter start, quite breezy and a high of 10.3C at 08:00. The outlook remains good for the days ahead with a good deal of sun and winds lessening.

Afternoon update: Well, promise of a reasonable day was misplaced. Some sun but also some rain and strong wind. A high of just 10.9C.

The Competitiveness Trap In Mallorca

For years, I have been beating the drum for the need for greater economic diversification in Mallorca. I have also been critical of a lack of competitiveness. I take no credit for having drawn attention to either as they are obvious.

Over the weekend, there was a gathering of the great and good (sic) of various business bodies and the regional government. They called on Brussels to recognise problems caused by the insularity of the Balearics. They referred to problems for competitiveness created by elevated transportation costs. They cried out for major investment in research and development. They insisted that there had to be diversification away from a reliance upon tourism.

It makes you want to scream. None of these issues are new, especially calling on Brussels to put its hands in its pockets. Apart from previous aid from Brussels, the other issues have either been handled badly or simply not been handled at all. What really makes you want to scream is the fact that Josep Aguiló, the government's finance and business minister, was there, trotting out mantras that would not now need to be trotted out if any meaningful action had been taken in the past to address the lack of competitiveness, R&D and diversification.

It would be instructive to learn from Aguiló what he actually believes competitiveness to mean. Perhaps he concurs with Air Berlin's Álvaro Middelmann, who implied that Balearic taxpayers were being ripped off by paying for mainland infrastructure and that transport (and transportation) systems in and for the Balearics are inadequate.

The greater costs of both import and export because of higher transportation costs are a further obvious factor. So why are the great and good only talking about it now? And what are they going to do about it? The answer is probably nothing, other than to hope that Brussels might come calling.

Balearic taxpayers were paid an inadvertent insult by President Bauzá when he made such a thing of bigging up the high-speed rail link from Algeciras to the French border. It will help to lower transportation costs to the Balearics, he said. Well, let's hope he's right because a conclusion one can draw from Middelmann is that he appears to think that it won't benefit the Balearics, and if you were to choose between a businessman who regularly speaks common sense and an ambitious politician only too willing to be seen allying himself with fellow PP leaders on the mainland, then I would suggest you choose the former.

While lending his support to the AVE train, what is Bauzá doing for Mallorca's transport system? He took a ride on the inaugural electrified train to Inca and gloried in the celebration of something set in motion by a previous government. Other than this?

He will argue that his hands are tied by the man with the money box, namely Aguiló. And to the question as to what Aguiló believes competitiveness to mean, the answer will be the same as his masters in Madrid. Lower wages. Reduce the pay packets of those already receiving a pittance for performing mainly McJobs in the tourism industry, and tourism will receive a boost and Mallorca's troubles will be over.

Except of course, he is wrong. Price competition isn't the same as competitiveness. Not competitiveness as it applies to a country or to a region or to an island. Competitiveness comprises among other things - and I borrow from Harvard professor Michael Porter here - good education, good roads, sound economic policies, trusted institutions (to include the legal system), privatisation and, perhaps above all, the right mentality for economic progress engrained in the local culture.

How many of these elements exist in Mallorca? The public education system is lousy, some roads are good, but many are not, economic policies have been anything but sound, the legal system is way too politicised, there is privatisation but could be more, the mentality is one of so long as there's enough to pay for a good fiesta, then the rest can go hang.

Lowering wages will achieve nothing in terms of improved competitiveness. The opposite is the case, because they do not contribute to higher living standards. Competitiveness equals productivity and maximising returns on all products and services and on human resources. And where the latter are concerned, the best are getting the hell out of the Balearics.

It's the same old story. Tourism is all there really is. The private sector might be able to do something about diversification and R&D, but if it comes up against a mentality that seems incapable of looking beyond a Brussels sugar daddy and that for years has failed to address these issues, then it won't.

Any comments to please.

Monday, February 20, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 February 2012

A greyish morning, quite a stiff and chilly northerly, though the high is 10 degrees at 08:30. Some rain around earlier, but the day is expected to be mostly sunny.

Afternoon update: It took some while for the day to get up to speed with the forecast, there being more rain in the morning but then finally sun in the afternoon. Poor temperatures though - a high of just 11.6C.

Electric Light Orchestra: Mallorca's electricity

Endesa's recent announcement that cold weather had brought about record gas consumption levels in Mallorca was hardly a great surprise. Not because of the cold weather as such, but because natural gas has been supplied to the island for only two and a half years.

Infrastructure can take an awfully long time to be developed. The introduction of natural gas does give rise to the promise that the days of hernias and back problems, thanks to humping butane bottles around, might soon be something of the past. Natural gas is on its way north and west from its Palma base - to Inca and then onwards to Alcúdia and also to Andratx.

The piecemeal approach to the development of a gas infrastructure has echoes of that which brought electricity to Mallorca. There was little danger of there ever having been any light pollution in Mallorca before the turn of the last century, and for some time afterwards the danger only slowly became a possibility.

Electricity arrived on the island, not as you might have expected in Palma, but, of all places, in Alaró. 1901 was the year that the first electricity network was established, thanks to the vision of one Gaspar Perelló, native of Alaró, who had been to Barcelona and realised what vision could really be, thanks to the city's electricity system.

From the first bulbs being lit at the town's Mare de Déu d'Agost fiesta in 1901, it was still several years before other towns started to catch on to the idea. In 1912 Sa Pobla got its first real spark of electrification. The hundredth anniversary of lighting up La Puebla will be on 24 July, coinciding with the Sant Jaume fiesta, and doubtless there will be a display of lighting that befits the occasion and probably results in an overload of the system and power cuts for everyone else.

We can expect a 1912 overture with full orchestral accompaniment in a Sa Pobla piper and whistler style, and there will be further ones over the next years until 2026, the one-hundredth anniversary of the lights truly going on all over Mallorca. But all that sound and light in Sa Pobla will probably be as nothing compared with another electrifying one-hundredth birthday, as the grand switch-on in Sa Pobla was overshadowed, three months earlier, by a fanfare for the common man not on the Clapham omnibus but on the Sóller train. 6 April 1912 was when it was inaugurated, though to be electrically correct, it was to be another 17 years before an electric train ran.

A mere one hundred years later, the electrification of the Palma to Inca railway has now been celebrated, but how long it might be before the extension to Sa Pobla gets its juices flowing, who can tell? He who holds the keys to the 45 million or so that will be required to do so, along with the extension to Manacor; that's who.

With all these electric jubilees knocking around, it is unfortunate that a hundred years of electricity have to coincide with grand switchings-off rather than switchings-on. And in an effort to help with household energy bills, the regional government has hit upon the idea of having meters show consumption directly as euros, instead of kilowatts per hour, something that no one understands, rather like an Endesa bill therefore.

The story of Mallorca's electricity and indeed its trains at the start of the last century was one of lack of interest by government and a reluctance to invest in mostly any form of infrastructure. The story has changed in Spain as a whole, but in Mallorca the story is different to that of the mainland. Álvaro Middelmann, the director of Air Berlin in Spain and Portugal, has said that Mallorca and the Balearics should be compensated because of the islands' transport systems. The citizens of the islands pay the same taxes but they don't get the same benefits of motorway systems or high-speed trains.

Cost of energy is another disadvantage that the islands have. Investment there may have been in natural gas and also in electricity cabling from the mainland, but infrastructure is still lacking by comparison with the mainland. Part of the rail network has been electrified but it is inadequate and subject to political squabbles and funding cuts, as have affected extensions to Alcúdia and Artà.

Still, at least there is some public money. This didn't used to be the case. Alaró's electricity, Sa Pobla's electricity, the Sóller railway; they were all private initiatives. And in the case of the Sóller railway, it still is.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 4 : 0 Villarreal

A first half notable as much for its yellow cards as for its actual football, with Mallorca having the best of the game and taking a deserved lead through a Victor header on 40 minutes. The second period started with Mallorca in the ascendant, the veteran Martí heading in after seven minutes and things just getting better for the home side when Victor added his second with nearly 20 minutes gone and defender Nunes headed a fourth three minutes later. And it was game over and a great win for Mallorca over a declining Villarreal in danger of relegation.

Aouate; Crespí (Zuiverloon 72), Nunes, Ramis, Cáceres; Tissone (Pina 83), Martí, Pereira, Castro; Victor, Hemed (Alfaro 68)
Goals: Victor (40, 64), Martí (52), Nunes (67)
Yellows: Tissone (31), Nunes (33), Crespí (36), Pina (86)

López; Mario, Gonzalo, Musacchio, Oriol; Senna (Pérez 81), Bruno; Cani (Castellani 69), Valero, Camuñas (Martinuccio 45): Ruben
Yellows: Senna (15). López (39)

MALLORCA TODAY - Thousands protest against labour reforms

Palma today has been one of 57 major towns and cities across Spain where a protest has been staged against labour reforms announced by the Spanish Government. More than eight thousand are said to have taken part in the Palma protest against reforms described as unfair, ineffective and useless.

Spanish premier Marian Rajoy, meantime, has addressed the Partido Popular congress in Sevilla and said that the reforms are indeed fair as well as being good and necessary.

MALLORCA TODAY - Ballester drops Duke and Matas right in it

José Luis "Pepote" Ballester, a former Olympic sailing gold medallist and ex-director general of sport in the Balearics testified yesterday in that part of the "caso Palma Arena" considering allegations related to the Duke of Palma. Ballester confirmed in open court what he had already declared to the judge that the Duke and former president of the Balearics, Jaume Matas, "plotted" contracts for the Duke's marketing organisation, Instituto Nóos, and that 400,000 euros were paid for a report that was cobbled together from others. Ballester also rejected any involvement by the Duke's wife, Princess Cristina.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 February 2012

A mainly bright morning. Still and chilly at a high of just 6.4C at 08:30. The week ahead shows a return of some awkward sea conditions, an advice going out for tomorrow but on land, once some wind and possible rain go, the later part of the week promises a rise in temperatures to at least 16 degrees.

Afternoon update: A bit of rain around in parts but otherwise not too bad a day, if nothing remarkable about the temperature - high of 14.9C.

Since When?

I shall not identify the establishment in question, but let's just say that it is somewhere in Alcúdia. It hasn't opened yet and I fear that once it has opened it won't be open all that long. I hope I'm wrong, as no doubt some no small expense has been gone to in preparing the place.

Why might it not be open all that long? Well, its location isn't that good for starters. What it claims it will be offering also doesn't set the pulse racing. One element is a type of fritter commonly associated with parts of the Spanish mainland.

The location and the offering aside, the establishment does have a big marketing message. It is the "since" message. Since 1912 in this particular case. Having mentioned the place in conversation, it was suggested that this was the year a brewery was founded, thus implying that the brewery in question had perhaps helped with getting the place going. This could be right, but the brewery was in fact founded in 1904, even if it established itself in Madrid in 1912.

Whatever the link to 1912, however tenuous it might be, is there any value in making a thing of the "since" message? Plenty of bars, restaurants and other businesses do this, especially locally. Sometimes the "since" is genuine; other times it appears to have been either made up or be based on a year only partly related to the business.

There is a mentality among Mallorcans and the Spanish which lends apparent longevity and history copious amounts of credibility. Whether the same "since" message has much or any impact with tourists from different countries is probably doubtful. Do visitors go through a process by which they think, oh, look, this restaurant has been around since (add as applicable), it must be good, therefore we must patronise it? Some might, but most, I would suggest, do not.

Being able to say that a restaurant or whatever has been going for 50, 60, 100 or however many years, so long as it genuinely has, does establish it as not being fly-by-night, but the message can be one that targets the owners themselves; it is for their esteem. It is also a message that is inherently passive. Saying you've been in business for however long equals you (the punter) should buy our product or meals simply because we have been here for so long. Not always. There are restaurants which merit their boasting their longevity; it does all rather depend on the restaurant.

The Mallorcans do love their history or at least being able to draw upon history as a means of justification. As mentioned yesterday, the Fomento del Turismo appears to still be in existence partly because its history suggests that it should be. There are times, however, when longevity should demand a re-think, even to the point of consigning something to the history books.

A re-think is precisely what opposition groups of the uppity, leftist, nationalist tendency at Pollensa town hall are calling for with regard to Puerto Pollensa's military base. 75 years old on Monday, what better time than to declare it open to civilian access, as has been demanded for some years? And these some years are now probably sufficient to require their own celebration.

Why 75 years should be a reason for changing the base's status is anyone's guess. It is a convenient hook, but national defence ministries, as in Spain's Ministry of Defence, tend not to think along such lines, except when celebrating something military, though given the base's history (Condor Legion, Guernica bombing, Francoist associations), you might think they would prefer to keep it quiet.

At least with the base, however, it does have the advantage of being unique, as in there aren't any others in the immediate vicinity. If the "since" message is to be relayed, then it's best if it really stands for something significant. Which brings me to "The Bulletin". It is fifty years old this year. I happen to think this is a decent achievement; it's older than "The Sun" - by two years.

With the military base and with the paper, there is no disputing the "since" message, nor is there any disputing the significance of both. There is genuine history, as there is for some restaurants. There is one in Puerto Pollensa, Celler La Parra, which plays the "since" card. Since 1962, the same year as "The Bulletin". And the fact is that it looks as though it has been there since 1962. Not because it's falling to pieces, but because it has the feel and appearance of a certain and real antiquity and a reputation that has been forged over fifty years.

The since 1912 place doesn't have this. It is located in a modern "local". Since roughly the turn of the century. If history is to be aspired to, it has to be history in context. Otherwise it looks out of place.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Joint tourism promotion effort in Puerto Pollensa

Pollensa town hall is joining forces with hotels and other local businesses in Puerto Pollensa in attempt to create a unified tourism promotion effort for the resort this year. The town hall has a promotion budget of 300,000 euros, slightly down on last year.

MALLORCA TODAY - New report may lead to redefinition of Ullal

To the ongoing argument as to the land classification of the Ullal wetland area of Puerto Pollensa has now been added a report from the regional government environment ministry which adds weight to the possibility that what is currently protected land would, under a revision of the "Plan Hidrológico" (water resources plan), be reclassified as an area for development. The matter is due for further debate by the town hall at its next meeting on 1 March.

Further to this, the Alternativa Party has circulated information relating to a company called Ullal Park S.L., a development business that was created originally in 2006, dissolved in 2007 and then reactivated in 2010. The Alternativa alleges that changes to land classification are at least in part in response to the interests of this company.

MALLORCA TODAY - Working week to be extended for public workers

Workers employed in the public sector in Mallorca and the Balearics could soon find themselves having to work two and a half hours longer each week. The regional government plans to follow the lead of central government in extending the working week from 35 to 37.5 hours per week.

MALLORCA TODAY - Snub to Puerto Pollensa military base celebration

Representatives of the PSM Mallorcan socialists and the Esquerra Republicana at Pollensa town hall are to reject an invitation to attend the celebration on Monday (20 February) to mark the 75th anniversary of Puerto Pollensa's military base. The parties object to the continued use of the base by military personnel only, there having been repeated calls for it to be opened up to civilians. The base also operates as a holiday centre for military personnel from Spain and NATO countries.

MALLORCA TODAY - Nadal favourite to lead Spanish Olympics team

Mallorcan Rafael Nadal has emerged as the favourite to lead the Spanish Olympic team into the stadium during the opening celebration of the London games in July.

MALLORCA TODAY - Electricity to be measured in euros

The regional government, looking to assist in ways that consumers can save energy, is to launch a pilot scheme whereby meters would show consumption directly in the actual cost, i.e. in euros and centimos rather than in kilowatts per hour.

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 February 2012

A greyish, quiet start this morning with a coastal high of 8.4C. Likely to clear quickly and be a reasonably good, sunny day, with the weekend staying generally fine.

Afternoon update: It didn't clear quickly. Rather, there was some rain this morning before the sun finally appeared in the afternoon. A high of 13.6C.

Private Tourism: Mallorca Tourist Board

The Fomento del Turismo is a strange old organisation; old being appropriate, given that it makes much of its being the oldest tourist board in Europe (founded in 1905). Its name in English, the Mallorca Tourist Board, suggests something official, yet it is a private and independent body. This independence doesn't stretch, however, to being of totally independent means. Its corporate members supply a goodly amount of funds, but the board also relies on government money. And right now, it isn't getting any.

The board now has a new president, the gaffe-prone Pedro Iriondo having stood down and having been replaced by Eduardo Gamero, the ex-director general of tourism during Jaume Matas' time as Balearics president.

Gamero is no doubt seeking to use his political connections to try and swing the current government around to a more favourable stance where the tourist board is concerned, though an association with Matas might not be that much of a positive with President Bauzá who has sought to distance himself from the Matas era.

The government has been playing hardball with the tourist board. It apparently owes the board nearly 300,000 euros and last year failed to enter into an agreement of collaboration. The board has been left to survive on its corporate funding, but now finds itself, like pretty much any other organisation in Mallorca, in a delicate financial situation, one that threatens to undermine its work in tourism promotion and specifically that which relates to its press services.

With money so short and especially money for tourism promotion, the government's budget having been slashed into virtual non-existence, the board doesn't have much of a case in going chasing limited public money. Or perhaps it does. The answer, either way, lies in what it does that the government doesn't.

One area of its work that does appear to differ to that of the government is in the organisation of articles that appear in the international press. To this end, its press centre is involved not just in supplying information but also in arranging for journalists to visit Mallorca, to put them up and hope that they end up writing something nice about the island.

This is a fair enough exercise, but if one considers tourism promotion as a whole, why is it that there are agencies of government and a private and independent body (the tourist board) engaged in otherwise similar activities? If the press centre work is so important, could it not just as easily be operated by the tourism ministry? You have to ask, therefore, why continue with the tourist board or also ask why not hand over to it responsibilities that the government currently has.

There is a feeling that the tourist board's history is what keeps it going. Undoubtedly, it was a hugely important organisation, before, that is, the government started to genuinely organise its own tourism promotion operation, which wasn't until the late 1980s with the establishment of IBATUR, the agency which has since been wound up because it was caught up in corruption scandals in the tourism ministry; IBATUR having now re-emerged as the ATB, the Balearics Tourism Agency.

With the best will in the world, and notwithstanding arranging for fine hotels or villas for journalists in which they can pen glowing pieces about Mallorca, the information element of the press centre isn't particularly remarkable. It is an exercise in pulling together bits of information, but it is an exercise that would not be beyond the abilities of one person sitting in a spare room in a house. In fact, I could do it and would be willing to do so at no doubt significantly less cost. On the credit side, the board reckons that its international press activities in totality bring in four million euros of economic benefit, though how it arrives at this figure and over what period, who knows.

The fact is that the tourist board has not always enjoyed the best of relationships with the government. The current lack of collaboration stems in part, one presumes, from the empty nature of tourism ministry coffers, but it isn't a complete surprise given the at-times strained relationship with previous administrations, and is less of a surprise as minister Delgado has had to wield the axe so dramatically.

The tourist board may have to face up to a future in which it really is independent insofar as its funding is all private. It cannot use 107 years of history as a means of justifying public money. If it is to get this public money, there has to be a clear agreement as to what it does and can do that the government cannot or could not.

Any comments to please.

Friday, February 17, 2012

MALLORCA TODAY - Mallorca Tourist Board in financial difficulty

The Fomento del Turismo (commonly referred to in English as the Mallorca Tourist Board) faces a difficult economic situation and in continuing its role in tourism promotion if it does not get financial aid from the regional government. The problems facing the board were outlined by the new president Eduardo Gamero, who has replaced Pedro Iriondo. The board is in fact a private organisation represented by businesses from different parts of the tourism industry.