Sunday, October 05, 2014

Mallorca And The Mountain Of Gold

A mountain of gold. From a distant land known as Madrid, Cristobel the Fairy Godfather waved his magic wand and a spell was cast that flew over the sea as though it were a burnishing trail left by a mythical airplane borne by the wings of angels. The spell touched the highest peaks of the blessed islands of the Balearics and burst like the most benign and glorious fireworks, gold cascading down the valleys, across the plains and to the waters of sapphires. Mont Oro, for it was he, Cristobel the Gold Mountain of All The Treasures of Hispania, spake unto the entranced peoples of the blessed isles. "You shall all go to the Ball (de Bot). You shall all forever more wear glass slippers rather than flip-flops." And the peoples were most grateful.

Well, in a parallel universe the people and politicians of the Balearics might indeed be grateful, but last week there were hordes of ingrates stomping their feet and demanding more. Cristóbal Montoro, Spain's finance minister, had been doing his annual sums. Some for them, some more for them, a bit less for them, and he plucked numbers out of the air and called them the allocations by regions of the state budget. Overlooking the small matter of an 87% increase in the allocation for the Balearics, far from everyone was happy, the discontent coming about because, regardless of this act of central government generosity, the Balearics will still get less per head of population from the national pot than mostly every other region of Spain.

Cheesed off various politicos and businesspeople might be by the miserly sum of 138.4 million euros, but they might remember that there was a time, not so long ago, when the Balearics did much more nicely thank you from the budget. in 2007, as an example, the allocation was 218 million euros, and if one goes back over the years, it will be discovered that, though the amount fluctuated, the Balearics usually did reasonably well. These budget allocations are for what are essentially strategic investments. The lion's share of the Balearics budget is for airports and ports with agriculture and the environment taking up most of the rest.

More investment could doubtless come in handy, but it has to be taken into account that there are eighteen other regions or communities holding out the begging bowl. One of them, Andalusia, despite it being a hotbed of socialism, regularly benefits from Madrid's largesse. It is a comparatively poor region. It is also big. Another, Catalonia (you might have heard of this region, it has been agitating for more for centuries), is also big. It isn't poor but last year it got clobbered by the Rajoy government. 25% down, something else which added to the Mas attack on the Constitution. In 2015, the budget will be up again, as indeed it will be in Galicia (the home region of Rajoy, oh and of Franco as well).

Politics probably do play a part in the budgets, but in truth these allocations are very small beer when compared with what the regions get through the redistribution of tax revenues. This is the principal source of the regions' finances, and it is something for which the Balearics have a very legitimate gripe. The people of the Balearics get back from Madrid around 300 million euros less than they put in.

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