Thursday, February 28, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 11.3C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Southeast 5 reaching 6 to 7 then easing to South 5 by the evening.

Wind and rain, back again. And tomorrow.

Evening update (18.00): Rain, rain, wind, rain, up to 30mm in areas. A high of just 11.7C.

The Five Star Mould Breakers

I have something vaguely in common with Roberto Casaleggio and Beppe Grillo. Very vaguely. Italy's Five Star Movement came about through the internet, Grillo's blog, one that swiftly attracted an enormous following, becoming a virtual manifesto for what the Italian electorate were presented with at the weekend. Casaleggio and Grillo have kicked at the political establishment in Italy, at cronyism and the political system. Grillo, banished from mainstream media because he ruffled far too many feathers, especially Berlusconi's, has used alternative means, the internet, to make himself and Casaleggio heard and to rise from nowhere in becoming a political force.

In my student days there was no internet. There were no computers. There were, however, IBM typewriters and duplicators. There was also a group of individuals who created an alternative means of communication with the student body. Ostensibly, this was the magazine for one of the colleges at Lancaster. It swiftly ceased to be just for the college. It became a campus-wide phenomenon. It attacked everyone and everything, especially the student political establishment. The magazine wasn't against political ideologies per se but was against the stupidity of much of the politics.

For six months, the magazine was churned out at least once a week, sometimes more often. In our office, the walls of which became plastered with our own graffiti, there might at any time have been ten or more people: writers, cartoonists and the occasional member of the student establishment who would come on a secret mission to dish some dirt. The magazine rocked that establishment because it appealed to the broad student population that had little interest in student politics as such. It was crude, rude, scurrilous and irreverent. It was also subversive, an alternative form of agitprop turned on the agitpropists themselves.

The magazine folded after six months. The police were threatening to bring an action for obscenity. There was a further threat of libel, though the offending piece was not libellous (I should know because I wrote it). Neither threat came to pass. If the magazine was shut down, all would be forgotten. But it didn't end. The annual union elections were looming. We formed our own party. And we very nearly won.

Casaleggio and Grillo's Five Star Movement has very nearly won. In some respects, it has won. Even if it transpires that the party doesn't come into a coalition, it has won an astonishing victory in terms of turning the political establishment on its head. It has appealed to an electorate battered by austerity and also by the political system.

In Spain, Rajoy and Rubalcaba must be looking at what the Five Star Movement has achieved with horror. While Rubalcaba has achieved the remarkable feat of being less trusted than even Rajoy, both party leaders are viewed with what amounts to contempt. Circumstances aren't the same as in Italy in that there is the King thing as well as the separatist thing, but the political system is in a similar state of disrepute. Could a Five Star Movement rise from nowhere in Spain as well? In a way, it already has, but the "indignados" have not become a political entity as such. There is no obviously populist voice like Grillo.

The Five Star Movement, though, is a curiosity of non-alignment. Those who have been elected are free to make their own decisions. It is a coalition of non-ideology or several ideologies rolled into one. At university we were a mish-mash of left, right, centre and couldn't give a damn. We didn't stand for anything, because to stand for anything would have run counter to the whole purpose of the party.

And this is perhaps the Five Star Movement's weakness. While it professes to be an alternative and to advocate direct democracy and the dismantling of the established political system, how can it now become a part of that system? When we were faced at university with the sudden and horrifying prospect of actually winning, we came to the conclusion that we would promptly resign, were any of us to gain a position.

Ultimately, therefore, perhaps politics always revert to the norm and to the established. There could be a Spanish Five Star Movement but there is equally as likely to be a populist movement predicated on conventional ideologies, either right or left (and I'd suggest that the former, and well to the right as well, would be the more likely of the two). Casaleggio and Grillo have broken the mould, and maybe Spain will follow suit. But if they join in, will they have really broken it or will they just be new pieces in the old mould?

Any comments to please.

Index for February 2013

Alcúdia's Mile - 2 February 2013
Balearics Gold Medals and Ramon Llull prizes - 27 February 2013
BBC programmes parody - 10 February 2013
Búger and rude place names - 15 February 2013
Climate change and tourism - 13 February 2013
Coca-Cola and Turespaña marketing assocation - 5 February 2013
Dinosaur theme park - 16 February 2013
Estación náutica Alcúdia - 12 February 2013
Ferdinand VII and football club ownership - 7 February 2013
Five Star Movement - 28 February 2013
Imperfect information - 11 February 2013
Judge José Castro - 25 February 2013
Labour reform - 17 February 2013
Language and Spanish personality - 26 February 2013
Orizonia collapse - 21 February 2013
Partido Popular secret accounts - 1 February 2013, 4 February 2013
President Bauzá's business affairs - 24 February 2013
Russian tourism - 22 February 2013
Santa Margalida and Western Sahara - 20 February 2013
Spain and Rugby World Cup - 8 February 2013
Spain's economy - 14 February 2013
Tour guides and Columbus - 3 February 2013
Tourist product survey - 6 February 2013
Town hall reform - 18 February 2013
Travel writing and Mallorca - 9 February 2013
Urdangarin case - 19 February 2013
Walking and private land - 23 February 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Ellie Goulding on Mallorca Rocks 2013 line-up

Mallorca Rocks hotel in Magalluf has released a provisional line-up for its concerts this summer. More acts and dates are to be confirmed, but among the highlights so far announced will be Jake Bugg, who will be part of the opening party on 4 June, regulars Dizzee Rascal (27 August) and Example (13 August) as well as Ellie Goulding (20 August). Other confirmed dates: Rizzle Kicks (11 June) and The Vaccines (18 June). MTV will be broadcasting live gigs at both Mallorca Rocks and Ibiza Rocks this summer.

MALLORCA TODAY - Cold weather brings risks for Sa Pobla new potatoes

Sub-zero temperatures over the past few nights have raised concerns among producers of new potatoes in Sa Pobla where the harvest had begun well because of previously benign conditions. Though the potatoes have been protected by watering and should not have succumbed to frost, there is a call for an improvement to the supply of water in the future.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 4C
Forecast high: 13C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northwest 3 to 4 veering Southeast 5 by the evening.

Quite a heavy frost on a cold, sunny morning. Sub-zero temperatures overnight and morning lows just above zero. A bright day, then all change tomorrow with rain but warmer. By next week, temperatures should be climbing into the higher teens.

Evening update (19.15): A fine sunny day it has been but chilly. A high of 12.9C.

The Gold Medals For Political Dross

It's awards time again. Forget The Brits, forget The Oscars. Forget James Corden, forget Seth MacFarlane. The night of the stars is tomorrow night. It is the annual ceremony for the Ramon Llull prizes and the Balearics Gold Medals. And who will be handing over the prizes? It will be that scheming political baron, J.R. Bauzá.

Opponents of Bauzá are unimpressed by the choice of presenter. They would prefer a nice Bobby Ewing-type character rather than the manipulative J.R. He is not qualified to hand over the prizes because, inter alia, he "is politically disqualified", says PSOE socialist spokesperson Vicenç Thomas. Disqualified? When did this happen?

Thomas has been banging on about Bauzá having "intentionally lied to the citizenship" of the Balearics (all to do with his business affairs of course) and about J.R. having "committed the same errors as Urdangarin in having forgotten to declare a part of his assets and activities". The president may have committed an error (his party apologists concede this), but it is hardly in the same ball park or league as the sports-event organising Duke of Palma. (And it might be noted that Urdangarin hasn't actually been found guilty of anything yet, much though the impression might be given that he has, and nor has Bauzá.)

The opposition is naturally making hay thanks to Bauzá's slight difficulties, but it is coming out with real old dross in the process. Thomas has reproached the government for being a spectator to the "grave tourist crisis" connected to Iberia and Orizonia. Firstly, I am not sure that there is a grave tourist crisis, and what exactly has Thomas expected the regional government to do about Iberia? Or Orizonia? Its troubles are squarely ones of its own making - an unsustainable level of debt attributable to the original leveraged buyout from Iberostar and to a wild growth strategy.

But in politics there always is rubbish to be spouted, and Bauzá's own party have been responding in kind, putting forward its favourite lonely goatherd, Mabel Cabrer, she who once characterised the whole of Santa Margalida's citizenship as being violent. Mabel's latest nonsense has it that Bauzá is "the most transparent politician in the history of the Balearics". Of course he is. You can see right through him.

The level of political argument and debate that takes place in public in the Balearics, i.e. in the islands' parliament, can be awe-inspiringly amateurish and petty. It reminds me of the days of student union meetings but without the constant references to Marxist dialectics. If Thomas had wanted to make a legitimate point about Bauzá's qualifications to hand over prizes, he might have drawn attention not to any possible incompatibility arising from the president's business affairs but to an incompatibility related to the regional government's attitude to Ramon Llull and to the Ramon Llull Institute. Its decision to withdraw from the institute's network was transparently (sic) a political one and not one based on cost, as the government has maintained - a matter of not seeing eye to eye with Catalanists, in other words.

Thomas could also make more of Bauzá's apparent indifference towards regional autonomy. The prizes coincide with Balearics Day on 1 March, the celebration of this autonomy and one that is thirty years old. Rather than hammering this point home, Thomas has merely drawn attention to the Bauzá administration "despising" the islands' councils, e.g. the Council of Mallorca. It's a pretty weak argument, as there are any number of people who aren't politicians who aren't exactly great fans of the Council. But regardless of whatever Bauzá's attitude might be, his friends in national government are, via the reform of local government, bolstering the roles of the islands' councils and not diminishing them.

As to the prizes themselves, they have their own small controversy. Echoes of the 2011 Sports Personality of the Year awards, there are no women who will need to make an acceptance speech. No women for the second year running. Bauzá has a phobia when it comes to women, says Més socialist Fina Santiago. "The government despises the contributions of women to society," she insists. Which sounds a tad harsh and also sounds as though as Fina and Thomas have been collaborating when it comes to the despise word. In fact, she isn't right, as there is a gold medal for Marilén Pol, albeit a posthumous award for the former president of the Mallorcan hoteliers federation. But then, politicians don't always say the right things, do they.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - High court rules against double taxation for Puerto Pollensa terraces

The Balearics High Court has upheld a previous legal ruling and dismissed an appeal by Pollensa town hall in respect of a challenge raised by a restaurant owner on the Paseo Anglada Camarasa in Puerto Pollensa who objected to paying a tax to the town hall for occupying public space (for a terrace) when a tax had already been paid to the Costas Authority. 

Comment: This is an important decision by the court as it tackles the absurd situation that exists not only in Pollensa of businesses paying more than once for the same public space. It also highlights the confusion over which authority has dominion over what. There is a third body which comes into this equation, namely the Balearics Ports Authority, which, as an example, collects revenue from businesses on Alcúdia's Paseo Marítimo. A definitive ruling is needed to establish that there is one body and one alone that has the right to apply a tax, and the most sensible one would be the town halls, a possible problem with this being, as shown in Puerto Pollensa, that when it comes to maintenance of the frontlines, it is the Costas which have to act, meaning it would want tax revenue. Confused, it most definitely is.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 4C
Forecast high: 11C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): North 3 to 4.

Fairly bright morning, cold, some risk of rain but the snow risk at sea level diminishing. Tomorrow the temperature should rise a bit and from Thursday there will be a return to more normal levels (daytime highs in the mid-teens) but it will also be wet.

Evening update (18.45): Remained mainly sunny but still cold, a high of 10.4C.

The Quixotic Spanish

Alex Rawlings can speak eleven languages. He is 20 years old and winner of a competition set by the Collins dictionary publishers to find the most multi-lingual student in the UK. Such proficiency in languages might suggest that Alex is a precocious swot who should get out more, but going by the video that the BBC has presented of him on its website, Alex appears a personable and well-rounded young man who just so happens to be blessed with a skill for learning languages.

It helps to have grown up in a bi-lingual family, his mother is half Greek, but this only explains how he came to acquire two languages, and bi-lingual families are hardly that unusual. There has also been some family mobility, such as to the Netherlands, which can help to explain his acquisition of Dutch and Afrikaans, but what about all the others - German, Hebrew, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish and Catalan?

In the BBC video*, Alex makes a highly pertinent point about languages and their personalities. It is pertinent in revealing that, far from being a grammar bore slavishly repeating exercises in the linguistic sweatshop of a language laboratory, he discovers joy and fascination in the ways that languages reflect cultures and societies. It is also pertinent in suggesting that, rather than a mechanistic and essentially rule-based approach to language learning, this learning should be more contextual. Alex himself, when speaking Spanish, says that he finds that lyrics of a song are more memorable than words written in a list.

Each to their own in a sense, as not everyone has the same learning style, but context and personality are important. To give one example, I don't know how well Alan Hutton's acquisition of Spanish is progressing, but I would guess that it is influenced by the context of Real Mallorca and the personality of the training ground and dressing room. I feel sure he knows by now the Spanish for threatened with relegation.

Alex's reference to languages and their personalities is intriguing. Of those he can speak, there is a huge difference. He describes Dutch, for example, as being rather formal. He could say the same for German. Both languages are reflections of their cultures and societies, even if these are cultures and societies less of the present and more of the past. What can be abrupt and direct in German can be attributed to national traits of efficiency and pragmatism and perhaps also to heavy historical doses of militarism.

Spanish, while it has a formality in its sets of grammatical rules (which are therefore no different to any other language), is stylistically far less formal. Miquel Ferrà i Martorell, in his historical perspective column in the "Bulletin" on Sunday, made a most telling point about Spanish "quixotism", one that he described as having been negative. This quixotism had come to characterise Spanish life from the time of Cervantes; the term's origins lie with "Don Quixote" and it means lofty and romantic ideals or highly chivalrous action.

Alex describes Spanish as "lively". I tend to think of it more as "comedy". Like Italian, Spanish is a comedy language. There is something inherently not serious about it. Spanish is a language of flourish, of late-mediaeval to eighteenth century nobility and chivalry, a language of courtiers. It is flowery, romantic and redolent of Cervantes and quixotism. Further definitions of quixotism can embrace naïveté, lack of practicality, the non-attainability of ideals. Is it too much to suggest, therefore, that in the personality of the Spanish language there is a clue to an overarching national characteristic? One that is inherently impractical. The contrast with the reserved or direct Dutch and Germans and their highly practical characteristics is great.

Then there is Catalan. Alex didn't compare Spanish and Catalan, but he did compare Dutch and Afrikaans, describing the latter as more poetic and expressive. It is probably fair to say that Spanish is more expressive and poetic than Catalan, though there is plenty of Catalan poetry which would suggest that the two languages are equally expressive. The distinction between the two can't be made along the same lines as that between Dutch and Afrikaans. For a kick off, there is geographical proximity, but this very proximity is what raises the conundrum as to why the differences between Spanish and Catalan are as they are. While there are similarities, there are very distinct personalities. Catalan does not have the twirls of Spanish flourish. It is more earthy, more grounded. It does not have the Spanish quixotism and it, unlike Afrikaans, which developed out of Dutch, had its own genesis. 

Languages have personalities, and so therefore do nations or would-be nations.


Any comments to please.

Monday, February 25, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 4.5C
Forecast high: 10C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 4 to 5 easing to variable 2 to 3.

Cold, wet, grey and rainy. The snow risk is likely to ease during the day and into tomorrow as the temperature climbs slightly. The week looks a mixed bag of some sunny spells and rain but getting warmer by the weekend.

Evening update (18.45): No real sign of the snow at sea level but it was very wet until the afternoon. A high of 7.8C.

The Last Hurrah Of Judge Castro

Iñaki Urdangarin has absolved Princess Cristina and the royal household of having had anything to do with the Instituto Nóos, save for the royal household having given him advice to cease his activities with Nóos. It would have been surprising had he suggested otherwise, but regardless of his statements in front of Judge José Castro, the public is inclined to think differently. Opinion polling indicates that an overwhelming majority believe that the princess knew what her husband was allegedly up to with Nóos. Opinion varies, depending on political party sympathies, as to whether the King knew or might even have participated in Urdangarin's alleged activities. 

What the public thinks shouldn't of course matter. Those who do matter are the actors in the Urdangarin drama. While we are now familiar with Urdangarin and his former business partner Diego Torres, there is one actor with whom we are less familiar. The judge.

Not cowed by any fear of appearing disrespectful, Judge Castro has demanded to see the visitors book at the Zarzuela royal palace. He wants to see if the Valencian politicians Francesc Camps and Rita Barberá attended a meeting with Urdangarin at the palace to discuss contracts related to the 2004 Valencia Summit on sport. Urdangarin told the judge on Saturday that no such meeting took place.

Castro has seemingly remained immune to any pressures to back off, and this would be in keeping with his reputation. Often described as being brave, he has also been described as reckless. The two descriptions go hand in hand because they refer to what he has investigated. Urdangarin, and the proximity to the royal family, is the latest in a list that goes back to when he first took up his post in 1991. They have included the "caso Calvià", the investigation into the buying of political advantage by the Partido Popular, and the "caso túnel de Sóller". Though the accused in this latter case were cleared, it was enough to bring about the downfall of one of the accused, the grandfather of Balearics politics, the first president of the islands, the PP's Gabriel Cañellas.

More recently, Castro has been investigating corruption cases involving the Unió Mallorquina party and of course another former PP president, Jaume Matas. There is something of a theme with the various cases over the years, and it is the PP. Matas has been so convinced of some sort of bias that he has said that Castro has a "personal and political phobia" towards him.

Castro can't be accused of bias against one political body. It is more a case that he has locked horns with a Mallorcan establishment, both political and societal. The PP has, since autonomy, been the dominant political presence. Both the PP and the now defunct UM have been synonymous with certain interests in local society, business ones in particular, in ways that other parties haven't been. And for Castro, the confrontation with establishment has moved to a different level, one embodied by Iñaki Urdangarin.

Investigating judges such as José Castro do face accusations of bias. The most famous of Spanish judges, Baltasar Garzón, fell foul of opponents in the PP as well of rivals within the judiciary. His allegiance to PSOE was no secret. Unlike Garzón though, Castro does not court publicity. It is why little is really known about him, other than a reputation for being fearless and for appearing grumpy. He has acquired a further reputation, one among some Mallorcans for having become a hero of the people. Matas and Urdangarin are, for these Mallorcans, joint holders of the status of public enemy number one, and Castro is their pursuer.

Attitudes towards those facing allegations do, however, get influenced by what prosecutors and the judge say and which becomes public knowledge. Castro's statement before Urdangarin's latest court appearance that Nóos was a premeditated act of criminality would only have served to reinforce negative attitudes towards Urdangarin. Such a statement might be perceived as evidence of partiality, but then an investigating judge is not like a judge in an English court.  

It has been suggested that the Urdangarin affair might be spun out so long that Judge Castro retires. He is now 66, but it is understood that he wants to carry on until he is 70. Even by the slow standards of Spanish justice, four years are a long time. Too long for Castro? The "caso Nóos" is one of the last hurrahs for this scourge of the establishment. Will it prove to be the defining investigation by which José Castro will be remembered? Cañellas was let off but he had to resign. Castro's Nóos noose has far bigger game to hunt.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 6C
Forecast high: 11C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 2 to 3 reaching Northwest 4 and occasionally 5 and veering Northeast 4 to 5 by the evening.

Some sun this morning and it was a mostly clear night. Still cold and a possibility of a touch of sleet or snow, which will be the case both tomorrow and Tuesday.

Evening update (18.15): There has been some rain and a touch of sleet in among it but also a reasonable amount of sun. A high of just under ten degrees. An amber alert for snowy conditions has been put in place for tomorrow, but this is more likely to be a factor in elevated parts of the area.

Being Seen To Be Honest: Bauzá's business affairs

If you happened to be the president of the Balearics and were hopeful that bad news might be buried by events elsewhere, then an appearance in a Palma court by the King's son-in-law would be high on your wish list of competing attractions. Unfortunately for José Ramón Bauzá, though attention has indeed been focused on Iñaki Urdangarin, he is not escaping without goodly amounts of attention being paid to him. And specifically to his business affairs.

Ahead of the elections in 2011, Bauzá promised to clean up the Partido Popular. One way of doing so was to reject candidates at the elections who had been tainted by allegations of wrongdoing. It was good electoral PR, as Balearics politics had become well and truly mired in corruption cases, some of which related to former PP politicians, such as the ex-president Jaume Matas.

Anti-corruption prosecutors' interest in Matas had its origins in an investigation that was conducted during Matas's period in office between 2003 and 2007. This was the investigation into the former mayor of Andratx, Eugenio Hidalgo. He was arrested in late 2006 on charges of money-laundering and on suspicion of taking kickbacks. He was subsequently found guilty. Because the tentacles of the Hidalgo affair reached into the government, the prosecutors started digging further, and what they discovered was to lead to charges against Matas. 

There was a good deal of murkiness surrounding the early weeks of the Hidalgo investigation. One aspect of this was the allegation that documents had gone missing as the result of a tip-off given to Hidalgo. One of those who was suspected of having tipped him off was the then interior minister in the Matas government, José María Rodríguez. No charges were ever brought against Rodríguez, but he had been tainted. At the end of 2011, he became the delegate for the Balearics. Seven months later, he was forced to resign because of corruption allegations related to a different case during the Matas administration.

At the time of Rodríguez's appointment as delegate, it was suggested that the appointment was the result of a pact by which Rodríguez would not make life difficult for Bauzá. Whatever the truth of this suggestion, with Rodríguez's resignation, Bauzá's wish for clean government was itself starting to look tainted.

That wish may turn out to be a case of Bauzá having made a rod for his own back. There was much applause for his stand on not permitting candidates who had "form" even if this form had not resulted in any court sentencing, as was the case with Jaume Font, another former minister in the Matas government. Allegations against him were archived, but Bauzá's position (and the two were also political opponents) led Font to leave the party and form his own.

By making the wish for clean government such a prominent element of his administration, Bauzá opened this administration up to scrutiny, which has come from the media and from opposition parties. It hasn't helped his cause that the mayor of Inca, Rafael Torres, and the now former president (speaker) of the Balearic parliament, Pere Rotger, have, along with Rodríguez, come under investigation by Judge Castro, the same judge investigating Urdangarin. But nor has his cause been helped by statements he has made, such as one made just before Christmas last year. Referring to the ethical code that the PP wants to be established, Bauzá confirmed his commitment to this code, saying that "I don't only have to be honest, I have to be seen to be honest". By the time he made this statement, however, several months had elapsed since his honesty had been brought into question.

In June last year, representatives of what is now known as Més (formerly the PSM socialists, greens and Entesa grouping) sent a written complaint to the regional government's council in which they alleged that Bauzá had lied about his business affairs when he had registered assets on taking office as president in June 2011. Specifically, it was claimed that he had overlooked his pharmacy business in Marratxí, a wine bar called Divino and a medical and orthopedic equipment firm, Bauser International 2001 S.L. The complaint wasn't so much an implication of any wrongdoing or personal gain but one of incompatibility between these business interests and Bauzá's position as president and one of dishonesty. There was also a precedent. A one-time health minister, the PSOE politician Aina Salom, had been forced to step down when her business interest in a pharmacy came to light.

The government's own investigation of Bauzá, perhaps unsurprisingly, found no evidence of incompatibility. This didn't satisfy Biel Barceló and Fina Santiago of Més. Acting on their complaints, the public prosecutor undertook to investigate Bauzá's business affairs and then, in December, the Balearics High Court was presented with a "denuncia", one to which PSOE in the Balearics had added its name. The leftist opposition was by now united in pursuing Bauzá.

The prosecutor has since archived the complaints, saying that these did not amount to a legal infraction, but the denuncia with the court is still being considered. Meantime, however, the president has posted what are referred to as "complementary assets" that he holds on the government's website. This occurred last week, and their declaration has led, once more, to charges that the president lied in June 2011. These complementary assets are the very ones he did not disclose on taking office.

The government's spokesperson, Rafael Bosch, has said that the president didn't lie but that he has now, by posting these assets, corrected an "error or omission". The secretary-general of PSOE, Francina Armengol, is just one who is incredulous, wondering how he could forget 80% of his assets. Armengol insists that Bauzá's legitmacy to remain as president has, at the very least, been brought into question. How can the people of the Balearics be assured that he is being honest on matters which affect the people, if he has been less than honest about his business affairs?

Despite Bosch's assertion that Bauzá either made an error or an omission, there is concern among the PP as to what might happen at the High Court. It has been suggested that the president of the Council of Mallorca, Maria Salom, might step in and take over, but the PP has no obvious alternative to Bauzá.

The president may be undone by his own determination for there to be clean government. But that determination did not prevent him from making an error or an omission. In Spanish politics, especially against the background of the recent Bárcenas revelations to rock Mariano Rajoy, honesty has suddenly assumed a position centre stage. And politicians have to be seen to be honest. José Ramón Bauzá has said so.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Urdangarin denies royal household influence

Iñaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma, spent four hours today making a further declaration in front of Judge José Castro who is investigating charges of diversion of public funds by Urdangarin. The duke denied that the royal household had ever advised him on or endorsed his activities with the Instituto Nóos. He also denied that Princess Cristina had any involvement with Nóos and that she didn't have powers to take any decisions. The judge has requested sight of the visitors' book at the Zarzuela royal palace where, it has been alleged, Urdangarin met with Francesc Camps and Rita Barberá to discuss contracts for the Valencia Summit sporting debate in 2004, for which Nóos was handsomely remunerated. Urdangarin denies that there was such a meeting. The judge also asked about accounts in Switzerland; Urdangarin assured him they were not his.

MALLORCA TODAY - Real Mallorca 1 : 3 Getafe

A hugely important fixture for Mallorca, in 19th place and six points adrift of Zaragoza in the safety spot of 17th. Getafe the visitors, mid-table, neither threatened with relegation nor with much chance of a European place; might Mallorca therefore have more desire?

Getafe created the best chances in the opening exchanges, Colunga heading over and Castro shooting just wide, while Mallorca's Geromel was getting himself booked for obstruction before Victor drew a save from Getafe's keeper Moyá on 12 minutes. Hutton produced a stop from Moyá, just after Colunga had the clearest opportunity for Getafe, his shot hitting Nunes. An open game, and the first goal came when Dos Santos's fine individual effort put Mallorca into the lead, his shot following a run down the left wing. Dos Santos was then the provider as Victor saw a header go close, and the Mexican was giving Getafe all sorts of problems, Fernández receiving a yellow for fouling him. Hutton had another decent effort, and a shout for a penalty on Alfaro, turned down by referee Vitienes, brought the first period, a satisfying one for Mallorca, to a close.

Into the second half, and veteran Martí went close after five minutes with a shot following an assist from Dos Santos, Colunga going closer after quarter of an hour for Getafe. And then, with 20 minutes remaining, Nunes was adjudged, perhaps harshly, to have handled in the area, and Castro equalised with the resultant penalty. Alexis with a header hit the post five minutes later, as the game went end to end, Dos Santos having another effort stopped by Moyá and then Colunga, having been threatening, finally headed Getafe into the lead with nine minutes to go. And things just got worse for Mallorca, the defence sleeping to let Colunga make it three.

A bad loss for Mallorca, it is getting increasingly difficult to think they can avoid relegation and, depending on how Zaragoza fare later today at home to Valencia, they may slip a little further away from safety. Granada, who may ease their own relegation worries at Vigo tomorrow, away next Sunday for Mallorca.

Aouate; Hutton, Nunes, Geromel (Conceiçao 45), Luna; Pina, Tissone, Martí; Alfaro (Nsue 82), Victor (Hemed 73), Dos Santos
Goal: Dos Santos (24)
Yellows: Geromel (6), Martí (61), Nunes (69)

Moyá; M. Torres, Fernández, Alexis, Escudero; X. Torres (Gavilán 55), Borja (Lacen 68); Léon (Michel 84), Barrada, Castro; Colunga
Goals: Castro (70, penalty), Colunga (82, 85)
Yellows: Fernández (33), X. Torres (43), Borja (48), Alexis (72)

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 6.3C
Forecast high: 10C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Variable 4 to 5 reaching 6 and 7 at intervals, easing by the late afternoon to Northeast 3 to 4. Swells to three metres during the afternoon. 

No surprises with the forecast. Rain, wind, cold. Snow more likely later and overnight. A rather better day tomorrow in that there will be some sun, but for the week ahead, forget it. Pretty awful.

Afternoon update (17.45): Plenty of rain around and highs stuggling to make six degrees. Down to two or three degrees in parts. Miserable.

The Happy Wanderer: The Mallorcan version

I love to go a-wandering
I would love to go a-wandering were it not for the fact that many parts of Mallorca on which I could wander were in fact privately owned and deemed off-limits to the general public.
Along the mountain track
Such as along the mountain track that takes me from the Ternelles finca to the ancient Castell del Rei in Pollensa but which is only accessible by groups of a maximum of twenty people who need to get permission from the town hall's mayor.
And as I go, I love to sing
Oh yes, I love to sing. Songs such as the "The Happy Wanderer" by the Obernkirchen Children's Choir, a UK hit in 1954; they don't make 'em like that anymore.
My knapsack on my back
Being a mad beardy wandering sort, I always have a knapsack on my back even when not going a-wandering but to still ensure that I can transport useful items like an ordnance survey map, a Swiss army knife and a song sheet with the lyrics to "The Happy Wanderer".

Val-deri, Val-dera,
Val-deri, Val-dera
None of this chorus should of course be confused with "Valerie" by Amy Winehouse who, while she loved to sing, didn't do so while going a-wandering, except under the influence. It should also not be confused with "Valleri" (a number-twelve hit in the UK in 1968) by The Monkees, none of whom were especially known for going a-wandering either.

My knapsack on my back
I've already explained this.
I love to wander by the stream
Not that there really are any streams as such in Mallorca. There are instead torrents, which are there to capture colossal rainfalls or get clogged up with the remains of palm trees or shopping trolleys that some socially-minded individuals have deposited therein.

That dances in the sun
Given that the torrents are only full when it rains, they tend not to be doing a great deal of dancing in the sun. Rather, as soon as it gets hot, the torrents dry up and look a mess (see above).

So joyously it calls to me 

"Come! Join my happy song!"
Look, a stream can't joyously call to anyone or invite anyone to join in a happy song. Does a stream have a pile of gold-trimmed invitation cards and a fountain pen with which it can request an RSVP to its happy song event? No it does not.
I wave my hat to all I meet
Another item of attire for the mad beardy rambling sort, especially one of advanced age from Britain with knobbly-knees and an earnest expression, is a sun hat which is worn even in February, when the chances of being affected by sunstroke are remote to the point of non-existent.

And they wave back to me
They being the Mallorcans who, if they see a touristy rambling type waving a hat in their general direction, consider him (rightly enough) to be a complete lunatic and so look the other way or phone the police.

And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
Those blackbirds which hunters aren't out having a pop at.

From ev'ry green wood tree
These would be the ev'ry green wood pine tree which at this time of year is packed with sacs of processionary caterpillars from which the caterpillars break out and give you a nasty sting or can cause death to an animal stupid enough to eat one.
High overhead, the skylarks wing
Apart from those, like the blackbirds, which haven't been brought down by an air rifle.

They never rest at home
Well no, they wouldn't rest if there was someone with a bloody shotgun taking aim.

But just like me, they love to sing
Ah yes, I do love to sing. "The Happy Wanderer". Not sure that skylarks know it, though.

As o'er the world we roam
The world being some walks around Pollensa, most of which have barriers to stop you roaming.
Oh, may I go a-wandering
Well, may I? No, you may not. Not if rich landowners, for example the family of the March banking dynasty who own the Ternelles finca, are intent on making sure that no bugger sets foot on their land.
Until the day I die!
It'll be long after you die before the courts in Mallorca ever get round to making a definitive decision as to where you can go a-wandering.

Oh, may I always laugh and sing
Well, you may always laugh and sing, just don't try doing so while on some private land.

Beneath God's clear blue sky!
Now you're talking. Clear blue sky. Nice, hot blue sky in Mallorca. Best to go to the beach and forget all this a-wandering caper. No one's privatised the beaches. Not yet anyway.

Any comments to please.

Friday, February 22, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Supreme Court confirms that Ternelles walk is private

Much to the disappointment of Pollensa town hall and ramblers, the Balearics Supreme Court has confirmed the decision of an Inca court which established that the walk across the Ternelles finca to the Castell del Rei is private but that there had to be access to walkers to a maximum of twenty. The owners aren't happy either, so the decision could yet go to appeal.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 15.7C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Southwest 4 veering Northwest and East by the afternoon.

Warm and wet morning, warmer in parts than the forecast high. A good deal of rain around today and tomorrow when the temperatures will be at least five degrees  lower. The rain is likely to fall as snow at sea level as it also will on Sunday. The outlook beyond the weekend is poor; warmer but wet.

Evening update (18.15): The morning high was as high as it got, the best local temperature being in Sa Pobla, 15.3C, but the temperatures tumbling rapidly from that mid-afternoon high. Rain coming in tonight, then more rain tomorrow plus wind and the odd bit of snow.

History Repeating Itself?: Russian tourism

During the early years of what came to be mass tourism in Mallorca, a number of factors coalesced in order to bring about this massive foreign invasion. While there were general factors, such as economic growth in Europe and advances in air transport and infrastructure, internal Spanish factors were equally as important. Hotel developments had to be of a more sophisticated order so as to match expectations of this wealthier foreign market. They were assisted by the system of hotel credit as well as by foreign investment that the Franco regime no longer spurned. There were currency adjustments in order to attract much-needed foreign exchange and there were also liftings of visa requirements.

Between 1960 and the shock of the oil crisis of 1973, tourism to Mallorca grew at a staggering rate. In 1960, just over 350,000 tourists came to Mallorca. By 1973, the figure was almost three million. Nowadays that figure has all but trebled, but it is those early years which are particularly instructive when one considers what might just prove to be the second great wave of foreign tourism - Russian.

At the meeting in Palma this week between the national tourism secretary-of-state Isabel Borrego, President Bauzá and Russian tour operators, it was emphasised that Russian tourism has become a priority, both for Mallorca's tourist industry and Spain's. Reflecting this priority, Bauzá will attend the Moscow travel fair next month. His will not be the first visit by a Balearics president; his predecessor, Francesc Antich, also made a point of going to Moscow.

Russian tourism to Mallorca still only accounts for a relatively small percentage of total tourism. The around 100,000 tourists to the whole of the Balearics during 2012 are dwarfed by the numbers of British and German tourists, to say nothing of French, Italians and Scandinavians. But it is the potential growth of Russian tourism that makes that market a priority. If the current growth pattern were to continue, by 2020 there could be a million Russian tourists coming to Mallorca: a ten-fold increase, just as there was a ten-fold increase in total tourism between 1960 and 1973.

There are similarities between those early years and what is now happening. A more affluent and growth economy (that of Russia) meets improved air links (and the regional government is particularly keen for there to be more air routes in the off-season) meets more sophisticated hotel development meets high-spending foreign exchange providers meets visa restrictions being lifted: Spain is applying pressure on the European Union to remove the need for tourist visas.

Of these factors, hotel development (and also resort development) is one of the more intriguing. The Russian market, as we have been told repeatedly, has a certain expectation. It is one that is more inclined towards the luxury end of the market. Has this expectation been the real motivation for shaking hoteliers out of their years of stupor and for making the regional government bring about legislation that enables hotel and resort modernisation? If it hasn't been, there is nevertheless the enormous coincidence of hoped-for riches from a new market.

One can see for oneself how the priority is manifesting itself. In Magalluf, the first language on signs that might once have been English or Spanish is now Russian. Would in fact the developments in Magalluf have been so rapidly undertaken had it not been for the expectations of this Russian market?  

Magalluf is only one resort. To accommodate the fast growth of Russian tourism with its specific requirements, other resorts have to adapt. But the question is how. There isn't the factor of the hotel credit as was the case in the early years. There isn't any credit full stop, but there is seemingly little shortage of actual and potential foreign investment. The developments in Canyamel and Sa Rapita would draw heavily on overseas cash. Those which might yet emerge, such as one in Puerto Pollensa, would probably also draw on foreign money. Financing isn't necessarily the issue therefore. What is, as has been highlighted in Magalluf, is the issue of planning - urban planning to allow for the resort upgrade and probably also strategic planning to meet the challenges created by the new Russian market.

But when it comes to strategy, what are the consequences of this new market? Is it envisaged that total tourism numbers will simply grow? If so, where are all the tourists going to stay? The regional government has denied that there will be a reversion to the sixties and all manner of new developments. If there aren't, then something has to give. And is what gives the current size of traditional tourism markets? Like the British?

Any comments to please.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.30am): 7.5C
Forecast high: 17C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): West and Southwest 3, reaching Southwest 4 by the evening.

Cloudy once again but due to clear and be sunny and quite warm. Tomorrow there is a high probability of rain and then the weekend and into Monday things are going to be terrible. Cold, rain and snow plus wind, especially Saturday.

Evening update (20.00): The sun eventually struggled out, giving a high of 17.4C. 

When Giants Collapse: Orizonia

How is it that a travel conglomerate that in the past couple of years could post a rise in turnover of 15% in its retail division and a 46% rise in turnover in its hotel division can be brought to its knees? Orizonia, one of the giants of the Spanish travel and tourism industry, joins a list of recent victims of corporate failure. Spanair, Grupo Marsans, now Orizonia. And there are others.

The positive blackness of the figures from the Orizonia accounts obscured all the negative red ink: a loss and 620 million euros worth of debt. In November last year, Orizonia needed to muster 60 million euros to prevent its collapse. The company thought there was a rescue deal with the Mallorcan Barceló hotel group, but it fell through because Orizonia's banks didn't support the offer. They have instead accepted one from another travel giant, Globalia. José Hidalgo, Globalia's entrepreneurial founder (a sort of Branson minus beard, hair and the all-round irritation factor), is meant to be Orizonia's white knight, riding to the rescue, while 5,000 employees face redundancy, a fifth of them in the Orizonia Palma headquarters. 

Meant to be but not able to. Globalia has sunk 15 million into Orizonia but it will not inject a centimo more until the green light to the deal is finally flashed by the Spanish competition commission. And how long will this take? At least two months, and because a merger between the two companies would create an overwhelming presence in the Spanish travel industry, it could even yet be refused. You would think that it wouldn't be, but then the competition commission looks like having other deals to consider as well.

Globalia had said that it wanted to buy all of Orizonia, but this now seems unlikely. Barceló has come back into the frame and made offers for the Orbest airline (which suspended operations on 20 February) and the Vibo travel agencies. Who's buying what, and already one can hear the lawyers sharpening their pens and preparing for court challenges, is all part of the end-game fallout from a spectacular business collapse. Another one, and another one in the Spanish travel industry.

What exactly is Orizonia? It is a group of tour operators, e.g. Iberojet; travel agencies (Vibo used to be Viajes Iberia); airline (Orbest, which operates nationally and internationally); reception services (Smilo); and hotels (Luabay). It isn't, therefore, an unusual conglomeration of travel and tourism products, but it is this combination of business lines that may well have been its downfall.

Orizonia is also a young company, only some six or so years old. It was formed out of Iberostar when, in 2006, Iberostar's owner, Miguel Fluxá, took what many commentators thought was an unusual step. He sold off much of Iberostar's non-hotel business. Orbest used to Iberworld, just as Vibo was Viajes Iberia, both of them formerly part of Iberostar (indeed Viajes Iberia was really what led to the creation of Iberostar).

Fluxá's unusual step can now be seen as a brilliant act of foresight. In concentrating on the hotels, and so continuing to develop one of Mallorca's outstanding businesses and brands, he shed what were to become more vulnerable business divisions. For example, though Vibo turned in that recent 15% rise in turnover, it, as with other Spanish travel agencies, has experienced a rough ride over the past twelve months, the domestic market in the slump that it is.

The Orizonia demise can, therefore, be characterised as a classic business dilemma between expansion through diverse operations and focus on limited lines of business. Marsans was also a diverse operation, though its financial management and controls, we now understand, were far from stringent, and this lack of governance partly explains why one of its founders is currently languishing in prison.

But there is, some commentators have observed, a peculiarly Spanish style of business that tends to neglect fundamentals such as profitability in favour of a desire for turnover and prestige. Orizonia managed to make a loss on a total turnover of 2,350 million euros. Its growth model, and Luabay exemplified this, was too ambitious. In 2011, it acquired its first hotel in Mallorca and agreed to acquire three more, all the time adding vulnerability to the total business group.

There may be some truth to the claim that Spanish businesses pay too little attention to control, but not all. Barceló, though diversified, is considered to be a well-run company. It is different to the likes of Orizonia and indeed Globalia. It is long-established. More conservative perhaps. But if this means paying attention to the basics, then conservatism is the right course. Orizonia's has proved to be the wrong one. 

Any comments to please.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Money for Cloud Atlas will not be paid

A grant of 150,000 euros to the producers of "Cloud Atlas" that it had been thought that the Council of Mallorca would pay will now not be paid. It would appear that there was no official contract for making such a payment, only a verbal agreement with the previous administration (there was a change in administration once shooting started on the film in 2011).

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Ombudsman informed of Lluc walk non-compliance

The ramblers association, Pro Camins, has sent a report to the Defensor del Pueblo (akin to an ombudsman), complaining about the non-compliance with opening access to the walk along the old road between Pollensa and Lluc, compliance that was ordered almost two years ago.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Cost to stay in Mallorca's refuges and hostels to rise

The cost of staying in the various small hostels dotted around Mallorca is to rise. These are the refuges operated by IBANAT, the Balearics nature agency, and do not include the Tramuntana dry-stone route refuges. They include, for example, shelters in the Llevant mountains on the east side of the island, one in Coll Baix (Alcúdia) as well as in the Tramuntana. A night's stay will typically increase from four to six euros per day. 

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 9.3C
Forecast high: 15C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): East and Northeast 3 to 4 easing 2 to 3 during the morning and shifting Southwest by the evening.

Cloudy this morning and due to be mostly cloudy today. Tomorrow should be good and quite warm, a day to make the most of as rain is coming in on Friday and by Saturday it will be cold and some snow flurries (quite possibly at sea level) can be expected through the weekend.

Evening update (18.00): A high of 15.4C on what turned out to be a fairly pleasant, sunny day.

The Sahara In Mallorca

The Socialist Republic of Santa Margalida is a rare mass of leftism in the otherwise rarefied rightist atmosphere of Balearics Bauzáism. It is a shining light of right-on righteousness amidst the policy-lite indifference of thin regional government, one partially determined by Mr. Thin (aka Delgado); a beacon of social welfare that would glow in the night skies from the coastal obelisks of Can Picafort and Son Serra were the obelisks actually beacons, which they are not.

Santa Margalida isn't of course a republic, socialist or otherwise, but it does have a status, albeit one of a town with a town hall that stands obstinately apart from almost all other town halls on the island. Its isolation impels a sympathy for the dispossessed, the non-status and even the non-state. It reaches out across the sea to a different continent, to a land that the world has forgotten exists, to a would-be republic, the non-state of Western Sahara.

A former Spanish colony, Spain, for years under pressure from the UN to do so, abandoned Western Sahara in 1975. The consequence, one that remains unresolved, was confusion and disaster. Morocco to the north and Mauritania to its south and east went to war over this God-forsaken pile of desert. The two countries were engaged in conflict as well with the Polisario Front, the Sahrawi National Liberation Movement. It has long proclaimed there to be a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and has been doing so from its base in Algeria. Mauritania has since ceased to press a claim on Western Sahara, but antagonisms exist between Morocco, which controls much of the country, and Algeria, which abuts on an eastern tip of Western Sahara, and the Sahrawi "government" in exile. A hoped-for referendum which might, once and for all, decide in favour of Moroccan claims over the country has failed to materialise.

Why Morocco would in fact want Western Sahara is anyone's guess. There may be oil off its coastline, but its exploitation is questioned. Otherwise, it has little or nothing going for it and is a massive drain on the Moroccan economy as it is. Desperately poor, riven by conflict, struck by atrocities and human rights abuses, it is an awful example of African tragedy.

Santa Margalida is a curious place. Once upon a time, it was the wealthiest town in Mallorca. It has an old status, that of a "vila" (or "villa"), one that was granted by the crown to legally chartered towns with their own rights. It doesn't mean anything nowadays, but Santa Margalida still boasts that it is the Vila of Mallorca, its residents "vilers". It has long, therefore, been different. Yet time has pushed it into the background, stripped it of a former status, glory and grandeur. Within its municipal limits, it has been superseded, in terms of recognition and awareness, by its principal resort, Can Picafort: what was once all but worthless coastal dunes and forest.

The town is archly traditional in a Mallorcan way. It boasts of having the most traditional and typical of all the summer fiestas - La Beata in September. It has, under the current town hall administration, revived an old harvest fair, one at which the "vilers" are expected to don traditional farming dress and then head to the fields and give crops a sound thrashing and machete-ing. Yet for all this tradition that borders on the stubbornly parochial, Santa Margalida embraces the unconventional. Perhaps because of embarrassment, it distances itself from its most famous son, Franco's banker, Joan March. Instead, it reveres Joan Mascaró i Fornés, one of Mallorca's foremost intellectuals, one who translated Hindu texts at Cambridge University and who could count George Harrison among associates drawn to the mysticism of India.

Which brings us to Western Sahara. On Friday, Santa Margalida will become a symbolic "vila" of the non-nation. The town hall has organised a day during which traditional music will be played and sweet tea, typical of the Sahara, will be served. It is all designed to raise awareness and specific awareness of the Sahrawi cause and of the exiled Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. On 26 February, it will be 37 years since the Polisario Front proclaimed its republic. A forgotten cause, a forgotten nation, the awareness-raising could only happen in Santa Margalida.

Of course, there could always be another motive, other than just awareness-raising. Mayor Miguel Cifre disagrees with President Bauzá on pretty much everything and is rarely slow to make a political statement of this disagreement. To which country did Bauzá go recently to try and drum up some potential trade for the Balearics? Morocco.

Any comments to please.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Good prospects for Sa Pobla potato harvest

Though poor weather could yet intervene, prospects for the harvest of new potatoes in Sa Pobla are said to be good, the harvest now having started. The largest market for the new potatoes is the UK. 24,000 tons of potato were gathered last year, and this season should at least match that.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 12.5C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast and East 4.

A fine sunny and calm morning. Still looking as though things are going belly-up by the weekend.

Evening update (18.15): A high of 16.2C. Stayed mainly sunny but got colder during the afternoon.

The Urdangarin Case

This coming Saturday, the streets around the courts in Palma will, as they were this time last year, once more be thronged with members of the world's media. The son-in-law of King Juan Carlos, Iñaki Urdangarin, aka (and still for the time being) the Duke of Palma, will be the star turn. He has been required, for a second time, to declare in front of the investigating judge, José Castro, on matters related to alleged diversion of public funds that were, again allegedly, channelled to offshore tax havens via an organisation that the Duke had established, the Instituto Nóos.

Majorca has not been without its fair share of court-appearance spectaculars in recent years. Mostly, these have involved politicians facing corruption and fraud allegations. The Urdangarin case is quite different, as the cast list of those either directly or indirectly implicated makes it different. In addition to Urdangarin, this cast includes his former business partner, Diego Torres, Urdangarin's wife, Princess Cristina, and even the King himself. This is not, therefore, any old corruption investigation, it is one that threatens to go to the very heart of arguably the most important institution in Spain, one that holds a potentially increasingly volatile nation together, the monarchy.

The Urdangarin case arose from a corruption investigation into a politician, the former president of the Balearics, Jaume Matas. Though it first drew Judge Castro's attention in June 2010, public awareness of the case only truly emerged in November 2011 and focused initially on invoices raised by the Instituto Nóos that were sent to the Fundación Illesport, a body linked to the tourism ministry in the Balearics. Nóos was an organisation that Urdangarin and Torres had created with the principal aim of it being a vehicle for advising on and organising sports-related events. The invoices referred to the staging of forums and were raised between 2005 and 2007. They amounted to 2.3 million euros.

What alerted prosecutors and Judge Castro were the amounts and the fact that there had apparently been no open tender for the work. They also related to the period when Matas was president; the final invoice was raised just before the elections in 2007 that Matas lost.

Since these invoices became public knowledge, the case has moved on significantly. Other events that Nóos was involved with have been brought into the investigation, such as the Valencia Summit in 2004, an annual sporting debate. For organising this, Nóos was originally anticipating receiving three million euros. There has also been the revelation that the King ordered Urdangarin to give up his position with Nóos in 2006, but another organisation, the Fundación Deporte, Cultura e Integración, was subsequently formed by Urdangarin and Torres. This foundation, so prosecutors have alleged, was another means of siphoning funds to tax havens such as Belize.

When Urdangarin declared last February, he maintained that his former partner, Diego Torres, had robbed him. He also stated that his wife, Princess Cristina, had nothing do with either Nóos or a real-estate company, Aizoon. She was a director but was not engaged in its running as such. Aizoon has also been investigated for possible diversion of funds.

At the end of Urdangarin's declaration last year, the prosecutors ruled out indicting the Princess, believing that she knew nothing of her husband's affairs. The prosecutors are still saying there are not grounds for her to be indicted, but the possibility remains that she might be. If so, the affair would move ever closer to the King.

Prior to the latest declaration by Urdangarin and also that of Diego Torres, which is currently being heard, Judge Castro made what might seem an extraordinary statement. Referring to the 500 pages of evidence that have been amassed, the judge said that Nóos had been an organised plot of premeditated criminality. Against this background and of the various revelations that have emerged since last February, Urdangarin is now due back in court.

Urdangarin's re-appearance before Judge Castro was never going to be easy, but it has become even harder as a consequence of what Torres has been saying and revealing in court. As part of his defence, he has released hundreds of emails which suggest that the royal household was more aware of his and Urdangarin's activities than had been previously understood.

The royal family's personal attorney, José Manuel Romero, is one of those implicated in these emails. He has denied involvement in or offering legal advice to the Fundación Deporte, Cultura e Integración, the foundation that succeeded Nóos. Another attorney, that of both Princess Cristina and Princess Elena, has already been indicted over work that was allegedly undertaken for Nóos.

Other information that has emerged from the Torres emails is the fact that the King knew of an association between Urdangarin and Corinna Sayn-Wittgenstein, a German socialite and businesswoman and personal friend of the King's. Urdangarin, according to the emails, was to become associated with another foundation with sporting interests, Laureus, and Corinna had assisted in his gaining a position with a remuneration of 250,000 euros. More than this, the Torres emails point to the fact that Corinna was involved in the Valencia Summit in 2004.

Torres has repeatedly said that he has not been able to understand why his wife, Ana Maria Tejeiro, has been implicated in the Nóos affair and Princess Cristina has not been. His strategy of releasing email information to Judge Castro is designed, at least in part, to show that the Princess was more knowledgeable of her husband's affairs than Urdangarin has suggested and that the royal household was aware of this. He has also alleged that he has been offered money in order that he should remain silent. But Torres is not going to be silent. There is more to come, and it could be even more damaging for the Princess and for the royal family. And for Urdangarin. His court appearance is only a few days away, but what more might be revealed in the meantime?

Any comments to please.

Monday, February 18, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Alcúdia restaurant owners face steeper terrace tax

The value of public land on the Paseo Marítimo in Puerto Alcúdia has increased by over 300%, this revision of its value having been undertaken by the ports authority (it has dominion over the land, not the town hall). This means that the tax for terraces on this public land will jump to an average of up to 12 euros per square metre. There has not been a revision of the value for over 20 years, and restaurant owners had been warned of an increase.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.45am): 11C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 2 to 3, locally 4, switching North during the morning and then Northeast 3 to 4.

A cloudy start. Some sun later but remaining mostly cloudy with light winds. The forecast for the end of this week has worsened. At the weekend a new cold snap is due accompanied by rain.

Evening update (18.15): Weak sun for much of the day, and a high of 17C.

Reform: Making Town Halls Smaller

The national government's finance minister, Cristóbal Montoro, has unveiled proposals for the reform of local authorities. The new bill already has general support from within the Partido Popular and from the main opposition PSOE party. It should eventually be passed without overly much debate.

The reform is badly needed as it tackles excessive costs incurred by town halls and addresses competencies that town halls have assumed but for which there is no legal requirement for them to have assumed. These are the so-called "impropias" competencies, some of which have led to duplication of responsibilities and of course to strains on town hall funding.

The bill is primarily a finance bill. Anyone who had hoped for a radical restructuring of local government will be disappointed. The government is not proposing that town halls be scrapped, though it is saying that authorities will be done away with if they do not function efficiently. A key part of the bill involves centralisation of specific services under the control of regional governments or provincial authorities, of which the Council of Mallorca is one. The Council, again to the disappointment of some, does not appear to be headed for the local government scrap-heap.

The services which are due for centralisation are any tasks related to education, health and social services. A further provision in the bill will see the number of paid councillors reduced drastically by over 80% to 12,000 in the whole of Spain and limits placed on the level of compensation that mayors and other councillors may receive. And yet another provision envisages that towns with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants (the overwhelming majority of municipalities in Mallorca therefore) will lose responsibility for other services. The government anticipates making a saving of 7.12 billion euros as a result of the reforms.

Reaction at municipal level in Mallorca has been mixed. Inca is one town hall where satisfaction has been expressed, as the reforms will mean a significant lowering of the financial burden and the annual deficit at which the town currently operates. Less supportive is reaction which suggests that the municipalities are the best authorities for deciding what local people need.

There is no "best solution" for how local authorities are organised, only one that is least bad. There will always be tensions between highly local sentiment and demand and centrally-driven, rationalised administration. A move towards greater centralisation does not herald a return to the days of control in the hands of Madrid and pretty much Madrid alone; it is a pragmatic, sensible and overdue measure, one that some would argue doesn't go far enough. But as it stops short of eliminating local authorities, except in worst cases of inefficiency, the new law represents a compromise; the government should be given credit for balancing local sensibilities with the urgent need for rationalisation.

The reform will also mean that there will be job losses and curbs placed on the employment of temporary staff and on the contracting of advisors. The government is, therefore, furthering its efforts to cut down the bloated public sector. But it faces a problem. Apart from any job losses, there is another urgent need that it has to address, and it is a cultural one.

The government has been talking up its plans to foster entrepreneurialism, even if it hasn't put any real flesh on the bones, but such entrepreneurialism is hard to foster when the nature of employment has been as skewed towards the public sector as it has been and when the climate of this employment has been risk-free (little threat to jobs) and essentially control-based as opposed to innovative.

At the presentation organised by the regional government's Centre Balears Europa in November, a spokesperson from the institute for business innovation made a very telling observation - that public-sector employment has been seen as the preferable option because it is risk-free; much of it demands little by way of initiative or proactivity. And this control-based public sector culture has endured since the days of Franco. It is one that is ingrained and will take enormous efforts to change and so, the government would hope, bring about a more dynamic society imbued with the principles of service, innovation and entrepreneurialism.

But a start has to be made, and attacking the hugeness of public administration, with its multiple and duplicative layers that have created ever more employment with little or no value added is one way. Things are going to take time, though. And time is something of which the government does not have huge reservoirs.

Any comments to please.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Valencia 2 : 0 Real Mallorca

A bad-tempered affair in the first half in which Mallorca were really the better team, Dos Santos missing a good opportunity on the counterattack but proving to be, as he has for some games, to be Mallorca's most threatening player. The ill temper spilled over when Tino Costa received a straight red for a foul on Pina. A man down, Valencia should have buckled under Mallorca pressure, but Ricardo Costa put them ahead fifteen minutes into the second period with a header from a corner. Victor drew a save from Alves as Mallorca went looking for the equaliser, only for Soldado to fire in a second for Valencia. The result leaves Mallorca in nineteenth spot, now six points behind Zaragoza in the safety position of seventeenth. At home to mid-table Getafe next Saturday, Mallorca have to win that game.

Alves; Pereira, Rami (Canales 43), R. Costa, Guardado; Parejo, T. Costa; Feghouli, Jonas (Cissokho 60), Bernat (Ruiz 35); Soldado
Goals: Ricardo Costa (59), Soldado (80)
Red: Tino Costa (27)
Yellows: Parejo (5), Bernat (22), Soldado (53), Canales (85), Cissokho (88)

Aouate; Hutton, Nunes, Geromel, Luna (Victor 72); Pina, Tissone (Márquez 66), Martí; Alfaro (Pereira 61), Hemed, Dos Santos
Yellows: Luna (14), Geromel (19), Márquez (74)

MALLORCA TODAY - MBE for publisher of Majorca Daily Bulletin

Pedro Serra, who launched the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" in 1962 and who is president of Grupo Serra which also publishes "Ultima Hora" and "dBalears" and is active in other forms of media, is to receive an honorary MBE from Queen Elizabeth. This was news I was aware of last week but it was embargoed until today.

(It's an MBE not OBE; "Ultima Hora" threw me by suggesting it was the latter.)

MALLORCA TODAY - Classification centre for Pollensa lamb

Despite problems that the farmers' co-operative in Pollensa has in respect of a possible withdrawal of the certification of quality for the town's lamb, the co-operative is to create a pioneering classification centre for lamb.

See more: Ultima Hora

MALLORCA TODAY - Call for more social aid in Alcúdia's budget

The PSOE opposition at Alcúdia town hall has called for there to be greater provision for social aid in Alcúdia's budget for 2013 and for there to be initiatives to help with employment and business creation.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Winter excavation work at Pollentia

Excavation work at the Pollentia Roman town ruins in Alcúdia normally takes place only during the summer, but this winter there has been considerable activity in the area by the forum, work facilitated by a grant from the culture ministry. This winter work is the preserve solely of professionals, while the summer excavations include teams of students, and the exceptional grant has meant that the professionals have been using all the time available to them in making tangible progress and unearthing more information about the forum.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (8.15am): 8.5C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): South 3 reaching 4 by the afternoon.

A still morning with broken cloud. Due to be fairly sunny with cloud returning by the evening. Light southerly breezes. The week ahead - Monday and Tuesday cloudy, Wednesday through to Friday brighter but also with a risk of showers. Temperatures staying around 16 or 17 degrees.

Evening update (18.30): A disappointing day, mostly cloudy and a high of just 15.3C.

Stoking The Fires Of Labour Reform

When I joined the great world of work, as in when I left school and had jobs before going to university or while at university, I gained considerable experience. It was experience I hadn't expected to gain, but it was useful nonetheless, as I experienced inefficiency, poor productivity, moonlighting and skiving.

There was the job as the toilet and restroom cleaner. An excellent job, one that enabled me to acquire communication skills with both factory and office workers who were to be found sitting around in restrooms. I didn't mind the conversations, but the chaps did rather get in the way of what I was doing. Despite them, and with no loss of quality, I cut the time it took to do the many toilets and restrooms from an allocated seven to five hours.

There was the job in the office of a government department - health and social security as it was then. It was a pre-computer task of processing that involved writing information onto cards that was taken from other cards. The task itself seemed inherently pointless, but I didn't of course question its necessity. I just got on with it. Rather too well and rather too quickly. One of the office lags took me to one side and suggested that I might slow down as my productivity was, erm, all a bit embarrassing for others in the office.

And then there was the nylon extrusion factory. This was a cracking job. Night shift, it paid very well and it also offered the best experience of the lot. Being a night shift, there was no obvious sign of management. There were a couple of supervisors, but their supervision was light to the point of non-existence. What stunned me more than anything was that around midnight on the first night I was there (the shift had started at eight), I suddenly realised that I was on my own. There was no one to be seen. Not initially. Only when I went hunting did I discover where everyone was. They were asleep in different parts of the factory. At around six o'clock (the shift ended at eight), they re-emerged. Meantime, I had been left in charge of a machine that required periodic attention from a forklift truck (material had to be lifted in order to then pass through the machine). I was not qualified to drive or operate a forklift truck. Indeed, I had never driven or operated one before.

The experience got even better. One of the supposed supervisors did supervise something. It was the going out and buying the fish and chips and beer. I said that the shift started at eight, and it did, but it was interrupted about an hour later for the evening's food and drink. The same supervisor, I learned, slept on the job because during the day he drove a van for another company. Indeed, on occasions, he would drive the van at night. He would clock on and then disappear.

These were experiences back in the good old days of the early 1970s. Perhaps similar experiences can still be had in British industry or government offices, though I somewhat doubt that they might be as extreme as certainly the latter one was.

I am reminded of these experiences thanks to what a correspondent of mine has told me about what a good friend of his discovered when he was visiting a large publicly owned facility in a major Spanish city that is due for privatisation. This good friend was on a fact-finding mission on behalf of a large private company that specialises in operating facilities of this type (I am not, you may appreciate, revealing the type of facility, the company or the city). This good friend went into the boiler room. The facility would demand significant boiler power. It now operates, as it has for some twenty years, on diesel and gas and will be computer-controlled. There were seven workers sitting around playing cards. He asked what they did. They were the stokers. The stokers!?

It would appear that, thanks to certain union regulations and other regulations applying to workers in the public sector, stokers, no longer needed and not needed for many years, are still on payrolls in Spain. There are, seemingly, hundreds, thousands of workers in the Spanish public sector who are paid to do nothing. Paid from taxpayers' money.

You can probably understand, therefore, why I was reminded of my early-work experiences. I have never hidden a certain contempt for Margaret Thatcher but this has not stopped me accepting that union regulations and what amounted to fraudulent working practices had to be put an end to. Labour reforms in Spain are causing pain, of course they are, but the stokers who have no coal to stoke highlight just how much further these reforms have to go. And people wonder why Spain has such poor productivity and competitiveness.

Any comments to please.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Puerto Pollensa's pedestrianisation planned

Some years after the debacle of the pedestrianisation of Puerto Pollensa's coast road, a project that was abandoned because it was ill-conceived and largely unsupported, a new plan is being considered. It would involve a semi-pedestrianisation of the frontline by which traffic coming from Alcúdia could still use the road, so making the road one way. This plan isn't really that new as it has been spoken about for some while. It requires the Council of Mallorca ceding responsibility for the road to Pollensa town hall and mayor Tomeu Cifre, unlike his predecessor, is making assurances that there will be consultation over a project that, were it to happen, would be in place by the start of the 2014 tourism season.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Work on Can Picafort parking area started

In a bid to reduce the amount of traffic and parking in the centre of Can Picafort, a free parking area is being created by the resort's library. As ever, nothing is without controversy in Santa Margalida, and the opposition CPU (Can Picafort Unit) party wants to know where the earth that is being extracted is to be deposited.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 February 2013

No Frills Excursions

Morning high (9.00am): 9.7C
Forecast high: 16C
Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays): Northeast 3 to 4 veering South 3.

A calm, sunny morning. Might cloud over later. Fairly warm with breezes from the south. Tomorrow similar.

Evening update (18.00): Nice and sunny until the cloud came in during the afternoon. A top temperature of 17.4C.

The Dinosaurs Of Mallorca

The film director Mel Brooks, if I remember rightly, once came up with a gag about Hasidic park. I'm reminded of this because Mallorca may well find itself, only some kilometres apart, with two theme parks. One, the Christian theme park in Inca, is meant to embrace religions other than Christianity, hence, possibly, Hasidism; the other, in Sineu, would appear to be some sort of Jurassic Park (which was the basis for Brooks' gag). The two parks could be put together, and an element of one might mean that the gag was realised.

The plan for a dinosaur theme park leaves me feeling distinctly underwhelmed. The developers say that everyone is interested in the history of dinosaurs and so it will be a great success. I don't know, is everyone interested? Or is everyone just a little tired of dinosaurs? The idea has a touch of the dinosaur about it: a lumbering concept that had been Spielberged into popular culture and has been done to death ever since to the point of extinction.

Possibly dinosaurs haven't reached the end of their life cycle as excuses for theme parks or any other dino-based venture, but like pirates and their increasing proliferation on Mallorca, dinosaurs are a default setting for me-too family entertainment. They are unimaginative and old news. Does Mallorca really want to be a repository for re-working familiar themes? I'm far from convinced that a Christian theme park gives the island the right image. Add a dinosaur park as well, and Mallorca might look like somewhere that has run out of ideas while at the same time offering an attraction (the Christian park) that is out of keeping with a general touristic style.

The dino park will require that the Council of Mallorca declare that it is in the island's general interest. This is a procedural necessity and one that has been brought to bear in, for instance, approving new hotel developments. Because it would occupy a plot of so-called rustic land, there are certain constraints which might need to be worked around, such as the provision of energy sources and guaranteeing the integrity of flora and fauna. As with the Christian theme park and any other development of whatever type, one can already hear the rustling in the undergrowth of the environmental lobby preparing its objections. Things can take an awfully long time in Mallorca because of all the challenges to developments. By the time these have all been exhausted, it may not only be dinosaurs which are extinct.

It appears that the land that is being earmarked for dino park could do with a spot of tidying up. It is rustic but it is also, in a natural way, rusting. Neglected (it had been used for paintball before it was realised that there wasn't authorisation for this), it could do with being put to some use, and use that might actually make it appear attractive. This is not the sort of argument, however, which carries much weight with the enviros.

Sineu town hall backs the scheme. It would help, so it says, with bringing more tourists into the town. But would it? Like the Inca theme park site is out of town, so is the land for dino park. The chances are that visitors would be bussed in and then bussed out, never setting foot in Sineu itself. And then there is the location. Sineu is pretty much at the geographical centre of Mallorca. This might sound like an advantage in that the theme park would draw on the different areas of tourist accumulation, but there is an inherent disadvantage in not being right in or by one of these tourist centres. The House of Katmandu, just to give one example of a fairly new attraction on Mallorca, was sited in Magalluf. In all likelihood, it would have been a complete flop had it been in Sineu or some other part of the island's centre.

Of course, dino park could be fabulous. It could get the excursions coaches rolling in. But does it really set the pulse racing? The other theme park, the one about which we no longer hear anything and about which we may never hear anything more, did at least have something going for it in that it sounded exciting in its array of attractions. Mallorca, if it is to have theme parks, needs parks that really grab the attention, those that are innovative and could be considered representative of a dynamic, modernising tourism destination. Dinosaurs don't really do it in this respect. Like all the johnny-come-lately pirates should be forced to walk the plank or come up with something more inspiring, then so the dinosaurs should be threatened with being meteored by 2012DA14, the asteroid discovered by the observatory in Costitx, and made to think up something less dinosaur-like.

Any comments to please.

Friday, February 15, 2013

MALLORCA TODAY - Dinosaur theme park planned for Sineu

Sineu town hall has requested the Council of Mallorca to report as to whether a plan for a dinosaur theme park on land on the outskirts of the town would be of general interest. Were it do so, then it would help to clear the way for this theme park which would occupy land that at one stage had a paintball facility that was closed because of a lack of authorisation.

See more: Diario de Mallorca

MALLORCA TODAY - Cifre hopeful of Pollensa town hall stability

Mayor Tomeu Cifre, under pressure to come up with an arrangement for governing Pollensa town hall following the decision of two former La Lliga councillors to join the opposition, says he is hopeful of arriving at a "road map" that will set such an arrangement out, despite it being unlikely that his ruling coalition will gain additional councillors from other parties. At present, the mayor can count on six councillors, including himself, while the opposition has eleven.

See more: Diario de Mallorca