Friday, November 27, 2015

The Palace Of Horrors

Even at the end, they can't bring things to an end. The Palacio horror story drags on, the squabbling now being over what is comparatively loose change in the scale of colossal spend amidst all the institutional incompetence. The government's vice-president, Biel Barceló, knows all about loose change. British tourists, thanks to the strength of the pound, will consider their bills for the tourist tax to be like loose change. So he pronounced in London recently. Thanks very much, what the tourists gain through the exchange rate, they lose by handing over the gains to the Balearic government.

British tourists may not yet be "fed up", but everyone, according to Barceló, is "fed up" with the Palacio. Amen. How many years have we had to put up with this nonsense? Far, far too many. Everyone's "fed up", Biel, not because of the contractor Acciona spinning out the last, miserable days of the construction, but because they long ago got "fed up" by the sheer sorrow of the saga.

Just think about it for a moment. Here was to be a convention centre that would be a further jewel, if a contemporary jewel, in the crown of the island's capital. A development to capture a market - the conference and exhibition market - that would be crucial to eating into the harmful effects of tourism seasonality. It was to be a monument to new, revitalised Palma and Mallorca. Yes, it is a monument, but one that asks many questions of public institutions. Why should we surprised? It was after all a pet project of Jaume Matas, and one that he was warned against by those in the know.

The "pressure" that Acciona has been applying by downing tools in the final furlong has to do, we understand, with the compensation it is seeking for the mess caused by previous administrations and the consequent two-year delay. The town hall reckons the contractor's claim should be a quarter of what is being demanded. Yet, how has it been allowed for this claim to remain unresolved? Acciona's bill has been known about for a couple of years and was even referred to in official communiques when work was reactivated. It needed to be accounted for, just as the compensation - also for the delay - to the architect, Patxi Mangado, had to be allocated. Mangado has been paid, so it is believed, but then his claim was lower, something over half a million. A cheaper payment of loose change to keep him on as cheerleader as well as architect. He now says he isn't bothered by yet further delay. It sounds like he's "fed up" as well. And who can blame him? Through no fault of his own, through none of his making, his reputation has been dragged through the mud of association with this benighted project.

The town hall and the government can argue, with some justification, that they inherited a pup. They, like Mangado, can't be blamed for the follies of others, but the final months of the construction have nonetheless been dogged by further institutional uncertainties, the town hall forced to release a tedious explanation as to how the final work is to be paid for. The Partido Popular had smelt a rat, as there seemed to be no budgetary provision. Not, it should be said, that the PP has much of a leg to stand on in the whole affair.

But even before they started to butt heads with Acciona over payments, there was the impression that they - town hall and government - were less than entirely committed to the project. He may not now be a councillor in Palma - he's the number one Congress candidate for Més instead - but it was Antoni Verger who, not so many months ago, raised the possibility of demolishing the whole thing. Only the cost of doing so seemed to deter such a decision.

When (if) it is finally finished, we can doubtless anticipate that Palma's smiling mayor, José Hila, will be smiling at the official opening ceremony, spouting the touristic correctness of seasonal lengthening and social correctness of the "citizens" taking pride in the venture. The citizens have been allowed to take a look. Some may indeed be proud. But how many are just "fed up"?

Hila's permanent smile seems to have been stitched on through a sense of desperation. He is already dead mayor walking, as he's only serving for two years before handing the mayoral wand to Més. He is a servant of Palma's political pact and so a signatory to the nonsense of the Feixina monument demolition and the even greater nonsense of a public referendum for the Born. How can there be such a fuss over four bloody terraces?

But there is, just as there is the ongoing fuss with the monument to institutional folly, both past and present. The Palace of Horrors.

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