Friday, February 12, 2016

The Shambles Of The Tourist Tax

If there was any question over the tourist tax being a political tax and only a political, as I suggested the other day, it has now been removed. The politics of the tax do not solely reside with the motives for its introduction, they are also firmly at the centre of the mess that is passing for government in the Balearics, one created by the unworkable nature of a government held hostage by a party that is not even part of it. This is the government and model of government that Francina Armengol insists is working so well that the national government should be based on it as well. She's either having a laugh or she really is in cloud cuckoo land.

Much as it might pain me to side with the Partido Popular, when its general secretary in the Balearics, Andreu Ferrer, says that it is "worrying" that Armengol should suggest this model to Pedro Sánchez, I cannot disagree. I had, after all, said much the same thing, just as I had suggested, before Jaume Font of El Pi did, that the tax would end up being this government's TIL: its own omnishambles.

It was all so predictable. Another of Armengol's crutches is her regular reference to the accords for change that underpin (supposedly) the way this government works. These accords, for which there is the ominous-sounding monitoring committee to ensure their compliance, were cobbled together in the days of desperation following the May regional election in order to form a government with Armengol theoretically at its head. They are accords subject to, as the president parrots, dialogue and consensus, when all along they have been a means by which the government could be collapsed and have been the principles through which Podemos controls Armengol, controls PSOE and controls Biel Barceló.

The arguments over the tax are no longer confined to the rights and wrongs of its introduction. They have moved on to who it is that defines it and controls it, and the past few days have revealed who this is: not the government, not Armengol, not Barceló, but Podemos. The tax is a defining piece of legislation, as it was always destined to be. Podemos wants it all its way and no one else's. If it fails to get its way, then the unworkable working-well government of Francina Armengol's fantasy may well collapse in the great heap that had been predicted.

Laura Camargo of Podemos, expressing her surprise at disagreements over the tax, its purpose, its potential discounts and more, was voicing surprise at the temerity of the government to be contemplating uses that differ to those that Podemos demands. This is not government through consensus, this is government through command and strong-arm tactics, and it was all so very predictable.

Camargo said earlier this week that were there to be a vote on the tax legislation right now, this would not be a vote in favour of an eco-tax. The semantics are important, as the government has gone on record as having said that it will not be an eco-tax, i.e. not one in the image of Eco-Tax Mark I of 2002-2003. Catalina Cladera, the PSOE finance minister, has been one of those to have insisted that it will not be an eco-tax: one to be used solely for environmental purposes.

So, what Camargo was getting at was that Podemos will not accept anything which isn't an eco-tax. The deadlock that has been caused through the stand-off on the purpose of the tax (but not only this) can be resolved, suggests Camargo, through the forming of another monitoring committee, one expressly for the tax and which would presumably be separate to the planned committee for supervising the distribution of tax revenue. This would be a political committee to make damn sure that the tax becomes an eco-tax. Not that it would comprise only politicians. Oh no, Camargo wants experts and environmental activists. Now, who might she have in mind? GOB perhaps? Gurus from the university's geography department?

Biel Barceló, who himself has said in the past that environmental purposes would be only one of a range of uses of the tax revenue, now says that the environment is a priority. But Barceló is hostage to not only Podemos but also to his own eco-influenced party. He keeps changing his mind because he is forced into doing so. A member of his party, David Abril, finds it curious that Podemos should be siding with the enemy, the Partido Popular, in some aspects of the tax legislation. It isn't curious, because the PP is well aware that it can make mischief to the point of ensuring that the tax is at least held over until next year.

Meanwhile, the arguments over the tax create the metaphor for this government. Shambles.

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