Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Government That Doesn't Govern

All is now being revealed. We are finally coming to understand why the Balearics are run by an incompetent and has therefore presumably been run by fellow incompetents ever since 1983. This is not to say that President Bauzá is incompetent, just that he does not have the competence (as in responsibility) to take decisions. And who says so? Why, it's the president himself.

The hoo-ha over Bauzá's business affairs and his non-declaration of them struck me, when it first blew up, as being a case of straw-clutching by an opposition desperate to pin anything it could on the president. These business affairs had seemed relatively inconsequential and they may well have remained so had he fessed up straightaway and issued a grovelling apology rather than dilly-dallying for many a month before getting around to declare them. And now we learn that not only did he not declare them to parliament he didn't declare them to his own government either, which he was also obliged to do.

There is nothing to prevent Bauzá or any other member of the Balearic parliament simultaneously holding public office and receiving remuneration from a private business (or businesses) of which he or she is an owner or in which he or she has some interest, e.g. shareholding. So long, that is, as he or she declares these interests, and the reason for declaring them is to ensure that there is no possible incompatibility between the public office and these business interests. It is this alleged incompatibility that the opposition has used to finger Bauzá. Plus the fact that, until recently, he hadn't declared these interests.

What had seemed inconsequential most certainly isn't any longer. It is beyond credibility to believe, as has been claimed, that he made an error or omission in not declaring these business interests. One is left with only one conclusion: that he deliberately tried to conceal them and that he did, as opposition politicians and numerous journalists have been and are saying, lie.

I don't believe for one moment that Bauzá has made any personal gain as a result of these business interests, even through his pharmacy (a business interest that everyone was well aware of, it should be noted, before he became president). If there were any question that he had, then it would surely be a simple enough process of audit to establish. The issue is not any benefit he may have gained; it is the failure to disclose. And this failure is being compounded by the explanations he is making and his governmental colleagues have been making; they simply don't ring true, e.g. Rafael Bosch's assertion that the failure to disclose was just an error.

Now we have the revelation about competence to take decisions. The president, in a written defence of complaints that were made last summer by opposition parties, maintains that the role of president is little more (if that) than an institutional figurehead without the power to take decisions. It is a role without executive powers. The only body which has decision-making powers is the governing council, of which he is of course both a member and the head.

Frankly, it is an extraordinary piece of spin. Tony Blair would have approved heartily ("it wasn't my decision to attack Saddam", that sort of thing). It is extraordinary also because of who he compares the presidential role to - the King of Spain, who doesn't strictly speaking have any decision-making powers, and the president of Italy. Why not to the prime minister of Spain? There is probably a good reason for the Italian reference, and that is because Bauzá's critics have compared him with Berlusconi. And increasingly, in terms of goalpost-moving, the comparison is becoming more valid.

What Bauzá is trying to explain is that, regardless of his business affairs, he is not in a position to take decisions which would impact on these businesses to his benefit. He is trying to explain this but in the process he is digging a deeper hole. He has not addressed the fundamental issue of why he didn't disclose his business affairs.

Bauzá insists that it will be down to the courts to decide on any possible incompatibility, but this is now less of an issue. The integrity of the man who said he would preside over a clean government is what is at stake and it has been shaken. Beyond repair? Possibly so. The honourable thing would be to resign, but who would take over? Whoever it might be, though, wouldn't matter, because he or she wouldn't be taking any decisions.

Any comments to please.

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