Saturday, February 20, 2016

Grandstanding Over The Tourist Tax Vote

Just any old week in tourism. SNAFU. Situation normal, all ... you know the rest. I feel that my assertions that the tourist tax is solely a political tax are totally vindicated. The politics have moved on from the ideology of its introduction to the ideologies of the squawking that has emanated from the political parties this week. It has been pathetic.

There was, so it seemed, just a possibility that the amendment motion to the tourist tax bill led by the Partido Popular, with Ciudadanos (C's) hanging on to their coat tails, might have been passed. Had it been, then the bill would at the very least have needed to have been redrafted, thus removing any possibility of the tax being introduced this summer. The possibility, in truth, was just grandstanding. The key party in the vote wasn't Podemos, it was El Pi. Had Jaume Font's party (three parliamentary deputies) voted with the PP and the C's, then there would have been a majority of one and the tax bill would have been booted out. This didn't happen because El Pi is, with some reservations, in favour of the tax but also because had it supported the motion, Podemos would have rescued the government and found two sacrificial lamb deputies to vote against the amendment rather than abstain. Font concluded that El Pi may as well abstain. He was surely right in his conclusion.

That is how these things work, though Podemos would no doubt deny that this would have been the outcome. But much as it has differences with the government, it could not let the bill die. Podemos needed it to fight another day, because Podemos knows best and will look, by hook or by crook, to eventually get its way.

But what were they actually squabbling about? Principally, but by no means exclusively, it was to do with a geographical allocation of revenue from the tax. On the face of it, this proposal from Podemos (and actually supported by the PP) has some merit. A major problem with it, though, has nothing directly to do with the tax. It has instead to do with the system of regional financing through national government, a system that the Balearic government has been railing against ever since it became a government. The inherent unfairness of this system is that regions with greater tax-raising capacities (such as the Balearics) effectively subsidise poorer regions. Under the tourist tax distribution proposal by Podemos, a similar situation would obtain, with tourist areas of the Balearics with greater tax-raising capacity paying for those with lesser capacity. This is one reason why the government finds it hard to go along with the proposal. It would be hypocritical for it do so.

There was also, however, the political clash within a clash. The arguments were as much about Podemos versus Més as they were Podemos versus PSOE and Més (i.e. the government). The real anger that surfaced in parliament was coming from Més. But why? Two reasons. One is that Més is a party that prides itself on its eco-credentials. These have been exposed by the tax bill, though, as the revenue is due to be used for various purposes, only one of them being the environment. Podemos, by insisting that the tax should be a genuine "eco-tax" for the environment alone, has thus taken the Més environmental moral high ground, and Més doesn't like it. There is also the fact that the tax is very much a Més baby and one of Biel Barceló's in particular. Why do you think he was so keen to get the tourism portfolio in this government? The tourist tax; that's why. Regardless of what might be said about the agreements for government signed up to by PSOE, Més and Podemos, there is still the potential for battles over one or the other's territory. Més has not taken kindly to the attempt by Podemos to usurp its domain.

It's all about the politics. Pure and simple.

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