Sunday, March 09, 2014
Bono Comes To Spain's Rescue
The European People's Party, "the political family of the centre-right" apparently, had gathered in the Irish capital for its summit. Among the political leaders who form this family are Angela Merkel and Spain's very own Mariano Rajoy. And Mariano made a speech at the gathering. Unfortunately, it wasn't Mariano Rajoy but Mariano Rayor, a simple enough mistake perhaps or alternatively a massive great howler. The name that was projected behind someone who looked remarkably like Mariano Rajoy was Mariano Rayor.
Of course, the Irish might not be terribly familiar with Mariano, but they would most certainly be very familiar with one of the non-political-leader speakers. They can't avoid him. Indeed, no one can avoid him. He still hasn't found what he's looking for, but Bono has spent the past several years in earnest pursuit of its discovery. World peace, poverty, you name it, Bono is seeking a solution.
And in Dublin he came up with a solution for Spain. "Where is the response of the European family? Where is the pan-European campaign for people to take their holidays in Spain, to buy Spanish products and listen to Spanish music?" There has to be European support for the Spanish economy, he went on, as a response to the reforms and measures that the Spanish Government has put in place.
It was all very curious, and doubly so when Bono seemed to intimate that U2 might be about to record a flamenco album. But has there not been European support for the Spanish economy? Or did we imagine all the intervention by Brussels? And what exactly was all this stuff about a pan-European campaign for Spanish tourism? Is Brussels about to diversify into the travel industry?
Unless you prefer Bono sticking to telling us all it's a beautiful day and so stop sticking his nose into European affairs, you will probably think it does little harm for him to make a plea on behalf of the Spanish tourism industry. To be fair, it doesn't do any harm because very few people are likely to pay much attention, but by calling for a campaign for more holidaymaking in Spain, Bono falls into the trap marked "over-reliance on the tourism industry". This may not be a reliance which is common to all parts of Spain, but it is to some, such as Mallorca.
Tourism, and more of it, as an antidote to economic crisis is both necessary and welcome, but tourism has, for too long, been a strength balanced, or rather imbalanced, by the weakness that this strength produces. Mallorca displays this better than anywhere. Its economy does not have adequate balance. There is little scope for a major increase in Mallorca's summer tourism (peak summer, that is), while there is enormous scope for a major increase in the off-season, as I think we know. But the angst that is caused by the absence of off-season tourism and the resultant debates, suggestions and prescriptions create a polemic which is itself imbalanced. The arguments should be about economic well-being from sources other than tourism and about attempting to establish a balance in the economy rather than one in which the summer scale is so heavily loaded that it tips the empty winter scale to an almost vertical position.
The Bono prescription is, therefore, simplistic and short-termist, but then he is a rock singer not a politician, though being a politician offers little guarantee of there being a true understanding of issues, tourism being one of them. Take Mariano, for example. Among his arguments for defending oil exploration off the Balearics was one which drew a comparison with the United Kingdom, Norway and Canada. In each of these countries oil co-exists with fishing and tourism, he said. Which may well be true, but the tourism is of a very different order to that in the Balearics. And as for fishing, with his newly acquired moniker, he might bear in mind that the Mediterranean is very different to the Atlantic. Perhaps he can seek Bono's advice.