Friday, September 30, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 30 September 2016

Morning high (7.27am): 18.7C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 1 October - Sun, cloud, 28C; 2 October - Sun, cloud, 27C; 3 October - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3.

Chance of a spot of rain today, though clear enough first up. Forecast has improved for the weekend, so mostly sunny for Alcudia's big autumn fair.

Evening update (20.00): There was a spot of rain. Just a spot. The met office went and announced that there would be big storms. There may have been somewhere. Cloud came in during the afternoon. There was thunder, and that was that. Cleared up and was nice and sunny again. High of 27.4C.

Confidence Lost

Confidence. A virtue that one has and a virtue that others bestow upon one. Or remove. There has been much confidence removed and lost over the past days. Sam Allardyce, confidence lost in a man over-confident of his position. Pedro Sánchez, PSOE's general secretary, fighting for his political future, as confidence in him drains away along with many of the national executive who have resigned. The Balearic government, the confidence in which is a constant state of flux largely dependent on external influences, such as the manoeuvres by and against Sánchez. Lluís Segura, the chief attorney representing the Balearic government; Caterina Amengual, the same government's director for biodiversity and natural spaces.

Confidence in Big Sam had to be seen to be lost. In times such as these, of transparency and accountability (we are led to believe), it was necessary for him to be sacrificed by a pious English FA, the champions of institutional fair play and nothing else. Sánchez may learn his fate this weekend. He has appealed to the "militancy" in taking on the "barons", who would prefer that he didn't break bread with Podemos but instead fail to say either yes or no - to abstain and allow Mariano Rajoy's continuance. Confidence is arguably ebbing from both camps: a party, PSOE, in disarray, its one-time confidence, hewn from a total of more than twenty years of democratic government, a fading memory.

The Balearic government has a crisis of confidence. Its leading figures make confident statements yet are prone to vacillation. The public is not confident in knowing who genuinely governs or what is being governed. A victim of an unconfident, enfeebled PSOE that cast around for lifelines, it is being strangled by these very ropes.

Segura and Amengual are minor characters in this drama. They are ones of whom the public would have known little and in whom the public would have had little interest. Thrown into the limelight these past days, they are now known and they are now no more. Both represent sides of the opaque coin of transparency and accountability. The virtuous state of this T and A should supposedly rise above all else in this era of so-called government of change. But it does not.

Lluís Segura, a legal man rather than politician, fell foul of politics. He made the wrong political decision. To drop a case for money laundering against the arch enemy of governmental T and A, the endlessly corrupt Jaume Matas, was a sin. Confidence lost, stripped away, sacked. Podemos want to call him to account, to appear before their baying ranks in parliament and explain this sin. His protectors in PSOE, for whom it was expedient that confidence in him should be seen to have been lost, say that if one civil servant is forced to appear before parliament, then where will it end.

Maybe so or maybe Segura might say something that PSOE find uncomfortable. His Attorney's Office is in direct line of charge by the ministry for the presidency and therefore the relevant minister, Pilar Costa (also government spokesperson), and the president herself. They insist they knew nothing of Segura's decision. If they did not, then he had acted with over-confidence. He was, like Big Sam, either naive or just stupid. Let Matas off the hook in the current atmosphere, and the wolf pack would gather. It did, and he has been eaten.

It is, though, reasonable to require an explanation. There may well have been very good reasons for the decision. These, however, are abandoned in the skirmishing that undermines this government. Podemos and Més insist, PSOE must accede. Confidence lost. Or confidence, hopefully, semi-retained.

Then there is Amengual. Her political master was the environment minister, Vicenç Vidal, a man from Més. She was sacked because there was the need for a new direction, for someone more technical and communicative. She had done well, said Vidal, but the message was loss of confidence. She can't have been doing well, if confidence had been lost. The message was thus mixed. Why had she really been sacked?

Despite the claims of T and A - transparency and accountability - there is mystery that obscures the function and purpose of senior officials like Segura and Amengual. How they come to be appointed in the first place. Who is doing the appointing. What they are doing. Some of these officials come and go. The tourism ministry lost a director of the tourism agency - "personal reasons" that were supposedly a better job - who was replaced by a friend but also one-time sparring partner of Biel Barceló. There was and is the director of the health service, famously the husband of the health minister. Podemos have never forgotten that.

Greater transparency, as Podemos have urged, is needed for appointments, but it is also needed in explaining why confidence is lost and why someone else is then appointed.

Index for September 2016

Anarchists and tourism - 19 September 2016
Architectural harmony - 9 September 2016
Balearic community - 22 September 2016
Balearic government condition - 23 September 2016, 25 September 2016
Balearic government logo - 14 September 2016
Cabrera organisation and management - 13 September 2016
Cala Millor - 26 September 2016
Confidence in government - 30 September 2016
Cultural tourism - 17 September 2016
Formentor Conversations - 15 September 2016
Francina Armengol and attic - 6 September 2016
Holiday rentals legislation - 3 September 2016
Inca tourism - 2 September 2016
Ironman, Alcudia - 24 September 2016
Jaume Matas and Son Espases Hospital - 16 September 2016
La Beata and pot-smashing - 4 September 2016
Mallorca Day - 11 September 2016
Mallorca's Roman occupation - 18 September 2016
Podemos and tourism - 1 September 2016
Posidonia and recreational yachts - 7 September 2016
PSOE and national government - 27 September 2016
Rajoy investiture debates - 5 September 2016
Real Mallorca / tourist saturation - 12 September 2016
Sustainable tourism - 28 September 2016
Tourist places limits - 10 September 2016, 20 September 2016, 21 September 2016
Tourist prizes - 28 September 2016
Virtual tourism - 8 September 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 29 September 2016

Morning high (7.05am): 17.2C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 30 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 1 October - Sun, cloud, 27C; 2 October - Cloud, sun, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 2 to 3.

Sun all the way for today, suggests the forecast, so hopefully no rogue storm like yesterday. May be damp tomorrow.

Evening update (20.30): High of 28.4C. Good enough. Some ominous cloud later and smoke - Albufera was on fire again.

Is Airbnb The Real Scourge?

Increasingly, one wonders who or what is the principal target of those who express their ire over so-called saturation. For some, the most extreme wing, it is all tourism. For others, it is the hoteliers. Or holiday rentals. Or cruise ships.

The latter is an irrelevant category. Irrelevant anywhere in Mallorca that isn't Palma. Forget the cruise passengers. They make for useful propaganda, but they are not central to the debate.

What about hoteliers, then? Well, if one believes that a barely increased number of hotel places this century represents saturation, then hoteliers are at fault. They aren't of course. They haven't been adding to the "crisis" except by knocking out higher occupancy levels. Even these are marginal in adding to human pressure. When one can talk of high summer 90 or 91 per cent one year, then 94 or 95 another, there is clearly an increase, but it doesn't amount to overcrowding. Forget the hoteliers as well.

Which leaves us with holiday rentals. President Armengol suggested recently that it is too simplistic to charge them with being the cause. Simplistic perhaps. But probably accurate.

Some of those who have been railing recently about limits or reduction border on being cranks with no coherent programme for economic alternatives, save for one inspired by impractical anti-capitalist quasi-anarchy. Others are anything but cranks. They are extremely sensible. And amidst their sense, they identify a real issue - that of housing.

This has been a theme that the saturation argument has raised before this summer, but it is one that needs to be far more seriously and urgently addressed. Holiday rentals are depriving people of long-term accommodation, and where they can find it, it is becoming less affordable. One can only see this situation becoming more critical.

The left are in a quandary over holiday lets. An argument is that making a return on a property is a right that should not be denied, if this return is a means of providing an adequate income. A further ingredient is that there are elements of the left who take great issue with the hoteliers, especially the larger ones. They are all for hoteliers' noses being put out of joint; private accommodation is one way of achieving this.

In terms of the market in general, the left, instinctively prone to market intervention and interference, are finding this interference to be not as easy as it might once have been. Institutional and legal bases, be they in Mallorca, Spain or many other places, make interference complicated. But what interference might there be? Denying someone the right to rent out a property runs counter to leftist thinking. At the same time, however, it can deny a worker the right to long-term accommodation, while by its very existence it contributes to additional tourism mass. It's not simplistic.

There are of course degrees of rental. The single property owner is quite different to the one with multiple properties, but where is the line drawn? Can it be drawn? The distinction seems to be coming less and less relevant as the left take on the seemingly unstoppable momentum behind tourist accommodation rental. In Barcelona, the mayor Ada Colau, who shot to prominence as an activist who founded the movement against evictions, has proposed caps on prices for long-term rentals (citing Paris and Berlin as examples of where this is done). She has also been closing down apartments used for tourists and issuing warnings to Airbnb and others: they can expect fines of upwards of 600,000 euros if they don't stop promoting illegal accommodation.

But owners, and not just those with several properties, have fired back by insisting on their rights to rent out. In so doing, they are expressing the rights of a totally free market, something with which Colau and others towards the far left have great difficulty. These owners point to a form of liberation offered by Airbnb and others - the democratisation of property, the very essence of the so-called collaborative economy of which Airbnb is at the forefront, and the very essence also of what some on the left advocate. The contradictions are profound.

It would be stretching things to say that Airbnb and the philosophy of the collaborative, shared economy is the root cause of saturation, overcrowding and distortions in the housing market. There has, after all, always been this rental market, but it is valid to say that Airbnb has expanded the market vastly, so much so that it is now becoming disproportionate. Its advance is such that the number of Airbnb travellers to Spain between June and August rose by more than 70% - Mallorca and Barcelona were among the favoured destinations.

This collaborative economy advocates property democratisation. It favours the individual's rights. But at what cost to other sectors of society? Is Airbnb the real scourge? If you're a free marketer, you'd prefer not to think so. However ... .

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 28 September 2016

Morning high (7.10am): 19.5C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 29 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 30 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 1 October - Cloud, sun, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Northeast 3 to 5. Swells to one metre.

Lightning in the distance to the east before sunrise. A good chance of some rain this morning, improving later.

Evening update (20.00): Some rain did come - if only to parts and not until the afternoon. Accompanied by a few loud bangs of thunder, it came down but not in any great amount. All cleared up quickly. Sunny otherwise and a high of 26.9C.

When Tourism Generations Collide

It's a photo from 4 July, 1978. A certificate and gold medal are being handed over. The recipient is King Juan Carlos I. The award-giver is the Fomento del Turismo (the Mallorca Tourist Board). Two years later the king received another medal, a commemorative one to mark 75 years of the Fomento. Last year, a similar award was made to the king's son. Felipe VI, for his love of Mallorca, was to receive a medal in honour of the 110 years of the Fomento.

Two generations of royalty divided by more than a generation in time and in tourism culture, for which also read political culture. Curiously, though, when the Fomento's board gathered to consider its awards last year, a participant was the tourism minister, Biel Barceló, not someone automatically bracketed in the royalist camp. But the awards were not the government's, they were those of the Mallorca Tourist Board, an institution long marginalised yet sustained almost symbolically - a vital part of the island's heritage.

Sustainability and heritage. Both were to the fore as the tourism ministry delivered its own tourism awards on Monday. Symbolism was inadvertent in the choice of Es Baluard as the location. It was from this edifice of culture that the so-called anti-tourist guided tour (an oddity in itself) had started two days before. This was a "route" which Barceló, also perhaps inadvertently, had helped to foster. Tourism politicians need to take greater care when mentioning the word "saturation".

The generational shift in tourism and political cultures has been immense. Juan Carlos received his medals at a time when Mallorca and Spain were grappling with the meaning of democracy. It was a time also when Mallorca was starting to truly debate its model of tourism. The years of uncontrolled construction demanded such a debate. The medals, one can suggest, were representative of "old" tourism, symbolised by the Fomento. Organisationally and politically, it was to become sidelined by the political institutionalism of tourism - regional government and the first tourism ministry from 1983.

The "new" tourism has undergone its twists and turns, and the most recent was on the way to Es Baluard for the Night of Tourism, a gala event crafted from the rocks of heritage and from the philosophy of sustainability. Here is a word, sustainability, so often uttered that it is ceasing to have meaning. Or rather, it can mean whatever is required. New tourism deals in concepts of open meaning. "Quality" is another. Whenever did anyone - business, government or whatever - make a case for lack of quality or indeed promote it? Come to Mallorca, where quality is absent. The concept is redundant.

As I remarked over a month ago when considering these tourism awards ("And The Sustainable Tourism Winner Will Be?"), the night of tourism could easily be called the Biel night of tourism. The minister referred to the many challenges, to the government's determination for there to be responsibility, to the pride in Balearic land and people. "This is what makes us say with pride that we are Mallorcans, Menorcans, Ibizans and Formenterans. We have been and are a land of welcome, inclusive and able to attract people from across the globe to admire natural and patrimonial aspects that we are making unique and infrastructures that are turning us into pioneers."

The awards were the tourist tax in physical form. There is and has been misunderstanding about the purposes to which its revenue will be allocated. Enshrined in law - that for the sustainable tourism tax - are these purposes. Hence why, for example, there was an award for the Council of Formentera for an initiative designed to recover the countryside, the island's agricultural heritage. Why also there were awards for technological innovation - to Robinson Club Cala Serena for its alchemy in converting seawater, to solutions related to climate change, to the business application of social Big Data.

These awards underpin the tourist tax thinking, the latest "new" tourism. The purposes for the tax revenue can be derided, but they are evidence, if one likes, of whole-island touristic thinking and of the desire of a left-wing government to spread the wealth generated by tourism more widely.

Had there been a night of tourism under the previous government, the recipients, one imagines, would have been different. The "new" tourism of the PP was the founder of beach clubs, of resort transformation. The usual suspects would have been paraded by the PP. It is most unlikely that the hotel chamber maids collective would have been honoured.

It was a night to celebrate sustainability, to represent the "new" tourism. A world away from awards to royalty. Yet, who else received a Fomento award last year? Among them was Liberto Rigo, a veteran tour guide from the "Excursionist Group", a creation by the Fomento a hundred years ago, and one dedicated to patrimony, heritage, culture and nature. Old meets new.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 27 September 2016

Morning high (7.10am): 19C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 28 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 29 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 30 September - Cloud, sun, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 3 increasing 4.

Looking fairly cloudy as sun up approaches, but forecast to be sunny later on, with just an outside chance of a spot of rain this morning.

Evening update (20.15): All good really after some morning cloud. High of 27.4C.

Galicia Lessons: The End For Sánchez?

Regional elections in Spain, because they are not all held at the same time, can be viewed as a test of a public opinion about the national government. In Spain at present, however, there is only a national government by default, one that is nine months on from when it should either have been confirmed as re-elected or ousted. Are, in these circumstances, the elections in the Basque Country and Galicia relevant? Do they say anything about the national government?

They most certainly do. More importantly, they say a great deal about the pretenders, one of whom is PSOE; the PSOE that Pedro Sánchez leads. This is not the PSOE of the whole country, however, and the results loosen his grip - already tenuous - ever more. The knives of Andalusia, in the hands of Susana Díaz, are being sharpened on the stone. How long can Sánchez carry on?

Consider the numbers. In Galicia the regional version of PSOE suffered its worst ever result. It ended up with fourteen seats in the regional parliament with slightly less than 18% of the vote in a four-way fight. En Marea, effectively Podemos by another name, also gained fourteen seats but with a higher share of the vote - just over 19%. Both were eclipsed by the Partido Popular. Alberto Núñez Feijóo will continue to govern with an absolute majority.

In the Basque Country, the socialists suffered major losses - seven seats gone, leaving them with nine. The PNV, habitual leaders in the region, have insufficient seats for an overall majority, but could hook up with the PP (or PSOE) and establish a parliamentary majority.

While Feijóo's win in Galicia will be taken as enhancing Mariano Rajoy's moral right to remain as national prime minister, it needs reminding that Galicia is very firm PP territory - and Feijóo territory. The loss of one PP seat in the Basque Country places a rather different spin on things. Perhaps the strongest message to come from the elections, where the PP is concerned, is that Feijóo has strengthened his case for replacing Rajoy.

Rather than a test of public opinion for Rajoy, the elections were a poll on the ambitions of Sánchez and PSOE to attempt to form an "alternative" government of the left. These are surely dashed, if indeed they have ever truly been realistic. Díaz had made it clear that they weren't, given the fact that PSOE have only 85 seats in the national Congress.

A surprise with Sánchez is the fact that he's still in charge. Reflect on the charge sheet. A failed attempt, an awfully failed attempt at investiture, followed by a second election at which PSOE lost more seats in Congress. Yet he still believes he can form a government, seemingly egged on by the likes of Balearic president Francina Armengol into adopting a model of government akin to that in the Balearics - one that quite plainly isn't functioning. Armengol is deluded and so is Sánchez. With the batterings in the Basque Country and Galicia, his time must surely be up.

If this proves to be the case, the PSOE "barons", marshalled by Díaz, will manoeuvre a situation whereby there is a pact with Rajoy and the PP (or possibly with Feijóo and the PP; this may be the price Rajoy has to pay). For Francina Armengol, who must have been observing the results coming in with increasing horror and alarm, such a national manouevre would be terminal. Podemos wouldn't stand for it, while Més seem ever increasingly alienated from Armengol.

If PSOE were the big losers in these two elections, what about Cuidadanos? This party is more and more like an annoying terrier, snapping at the heels of others. It is shooed away but keeps coming back, yapping and yapping but never getting its way. Its leader, Albert Rivera, had been looking at the prospect of a post-election alliance with the PP in Galicia. They failed to gain a single seat. A share of the vote that was little more than three per cent ensured that they would fail, just as they also did in the Basque Country.

What may now dawn on the C's, whose support has been eroding, is that their aspirations to be a national party run up against nationalist interests in specific regions. Even the conservative nationalist instincts in Galicia and the Basque Country appear disinclined to embrace a party which started as a regional Catalonian organisation (with avowed anti-nationalist sentiments) and has attempted to become a national force. Regional parties aren't supposed to behave like this. The C's have got above their station. They are liked less and less. Their time may well have come and gone, leaving Podemos, with its internal divisions, as the genuine "alternative".

Díaz, Feijóo and others will make damn sure it never is.

* This article was written before Sánchez announced that there are to be "primaries" for electing the secretary general, i.e. that he is putting his position to the test.

Monday, September 26, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 26 September 2016

Morning high (7.15am): 17.8C
Forecast high: 24C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 27 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 28 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 29 September - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): North-Northeast 3.

Some cloud observable as sun starts to rise. A mix of cloud and sun expected for the day. The week to come - pretty much the same with maybe the occasional shower. Staying warm as October approaches.

Evening update (20.00): Not too bad. Plenty of sun but some grim-looking cloud late on. High of 26.8C.

Humanising Tourism: Cala Millor

If you go hunting on the steam internet, you can unearth old copies of local publications: local, as in a municipality's or even parts of municipalities. One of the pearls (pun intended) to be found is a copy of Manacor's "Perlas y Cuevas" (pearls and caves) dated 17 September, 1983. The cover of this edition is interesting for different reasons. One, almost incidentally, is that there is a photo of the first president of the Balearics, Gabriel Cañellas: he'd become president on 10 June that year.

Cañellas was thus a symbol of the new democracy, albeit that it had taken over seven years from the time of Franco's death for autonomous government to arrive in the Balearics. Of further interest is the name which appears under the title: the magazine's director, i.e. editor, Rafael Ferrer Massanet. And why is he of interest? Well, for one thing he had set the magazine up in the early 1960s. Another was that he was a considerable writer, journalist and historian. Among his interests was the study of the Civil War, in which - where Mallorca was concerned - Manacor had played a significant role. It was Manacor's coast - Porto Cristo - where Captain Alberto Bayo's Republicans made one of their landings in August eighty years ago; the mission was of course to prove to be a total disaster. The other landing was at Punta Amer in neighbouring Sant Llorenç.

He was also a lyricist and penned the words to "hits" by one of the leading Mallorcan pop groups of the 1960s - Los 5 del Este, whose fame was initially acquired in Cala Millor. With such titles as "Sí, sí, sí", their collected works were typical of the time: light, undemanding pop that would never give the censors cause for concern.

The picture one has of Ferrer Massanet is of a highly cultured man - he also established the first private art gallery in Manacor - yet one who was not turned off by the arrival of tourism. Writers of his vintage weren't necessarily kind to the onset of mass tourism, though most of this criticism was delayed until after Franco had died. "Perlas y Cuevas" was never solely about tourism of course (it is, incidentally, still going), but tourism played a significant role in its coverage. Ferrer Massanet appeared to embrace it, warts and all. In 1969, for instance, the magazine carried a glowing interview with Jaume de Juan Pons, who was responsible for the Playa Moreia hotel in S'Illot. The story of that hotel, apocryphal possibly, was that in 1963 he turned up in a Seat 600, took a shovel out of the car and started digging. The hotel opened the following year.

And so one comes to that September 1983 edition. Ferrer Massanet was still the editor, his name, as it had always been, under the title. But what else do we see on that cover? There is a photo - black and white. A coastline. Buildings, some several stories high. It's Cala Millor. Yet, why is Cala Millor featuring in a Manacor publication? The headline tells the story - "Bahia Cala Millor" (Cala Millor bay). The resort has its own odd story, but it doesn't extend to being in three municipalities: only the two - Sant Llorenç and Son Servera. What we in fact see is more than Cala Millor, because here is the conurbation that emerged on the east coast, one that crosses the border of Sant Llorenç into the Manacor part (the larger part) of S'Illot.

That particular issue was marking the fact that the tourist fiestas were taking place; the fourth time that they had been staged. One assumes that it was Ferrer Massanet who wrote on the cover about travellers whose lives might be full of traumas being able to forget their problems. Why? Because Cala Millor would allow them to. In addition, under the heading "Bahia Cala Millor" it reads ... "and the humanisation of international tourism".

That one word, humanisation, can now perhaps seem strange. In the context of current debates regarding "massification" and "saturation", here was a tribute to the humanising qualities of mass tourism. The photo was evidence of that tourism, the conurbation of the bay of Cala Millor.

One might say, well it was 33 years ago. It was indeed, but by 1983 there was a full-scale debate going on about the future of tourism and of the legacy created by coastal developments. The photo of Cañellas was, with hindsight, not so incidental. The first regional government set about attempting to legislate for what were being perceived as errors of the past. Where Ferrer Massanet was concerned, or so it appeared, those errors were not as great as were being argued. "Sí, sí, sí", Cala Millor, the human face of Mallorcan tourism.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 25 September 2016

Morning high (7.30am): 17.1C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 26 September - Rain, sun, 24C; 27 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 28 September - Sun, cloud, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 2 to 3.

Clear sky early on but unlikely to be clear later. Warnings still in place for rain and storm.

Evening update (19.15): Well, so much for the yellow alerts. Spot of rain in some parts, but a spot was all that it was. Nice and sunny otherwise. High of 27.4C.

The Balearic Not-Government Is Revolting

The government and not-government (aka Podemos and increasingly also Més) indulged in their parliamentary navel-gazing and picked out some unpleasant fluff that has accumulated since June last year. The governmental state of the Balearics, we discovered, was far from the consensual love-in that sweet and friendly Francina has been insisting that it is ever since the fateful day that agreements were signed for the "government of change". So absent is consensus that the Earth Mother, PSOE's health minister Patricia Gómez, can dream up 119 million euros (why 119 and not 120?) for dealing with the decaying pile that is Son Dureta with nary a word in the shell-likes of Més (or Podemos). The Mésites were furious. Not because they're against handing over such a vast sum but because no one had spoken to them. Stamp their feet? Oh yes.

And it got worse. What was the government, in this instance PSOE, doing dropping money-laundering charges against that good old boy, Jaume Matas? Strictly speaking, it wasn't the government of PSOE but the Balearic Attorney's Office. Sweet FA Armengol insisted she hadn't been aware of the attorney's decision, which took some believing, given that the office falls within the ministry of the presidency. The Mésites stamped their feet even harder. The decision was of great political significance, they huffed, and had not been reached through consensus. The navel fluff started to look ever more revolting.

Revolt was indeed in the air. And who better to express it than the Podemos Boot Girl, Laura Camargo (Twitter account @Laurarevolta; description "feminist anti-capitalist"). The Matas decision was "very serious", she declared, and insisted that the attorney put in an appearance in parliament in order to explain himself. Also very serious were the thousands, nay millions of tourists roaming across the fragile landscapes of Majorca and the Balearics. Put the tourist tax up, demanded Her Bootness. And the ranks of not-government were joined by the Mésites in the form of the government's vice-president and tourism minister Biel Barceló. BB responded to Laura's tourist tax demand by announcing that "the price of the ecotax is the tool with which to regulate tourist flows".

So, after all his equivocation and having once said that the tax wouldn't make any difference to tourist numbers, BB finally admitted that it might. If it's high enough. It shouldn't be forgotten that Wild Man Més, David Abril, had some months ago suggested that the tax should have been higher from the outset. What can be expected therefore? Ten euros a night from next year? Twenty? That should sort out the saturation and the collapse of the Palma road network every time there's a spot of rain.

Amidst all the revolt, Francina was able to take herself off and sweetly cut the ribbon at the FAN shopping centre, an event which we were led to believe was to be graced with the presence of Podemos president (speaker) of parliament Xe-Lo Huertas. If she was indeed there, she avoided the cameras. Or perhaps she'd sneaked in to snaffle up some early bargains in Primark. The Podemos take on FAN appeared to be revealed by one of its parliamentary deputies, Salvador Aguilera. He tweeted a question (which was re-tweeted by the anti-capitalist Boot Girl). How much will the campaign for promoting FAN have cost, he asked, adding that the Mallorcan press had "succumbed" to the FAN "phenomenon". 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 24 September 2016

Morning high (6.34am): 19C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 25 September - Sun rain, 25C; 26 September - Rain, sun, 24C; 27 September - Sun, rain, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 1 to 3, mainly East.

Let's see how we get on today. There are amber alerts in place for rain and storm, but the rain of this week - yesterday and Tuesday - has all but missed the northern area. Might be wet going for the Ironman contestants, and not just the swimming leg.

Evening update (19.00): Well, wasn't too bad in the morning, but later ... Wide variance as to how heavy it came down. Sa Pobla, 6.4 litres per square metre. Puerto Pollensa, 39.6 litres. High of 25.3C. Down to 16.8C mid-afternoon. More on its way by the looks of it.

Second Time Of The Year Again: Ironman

It's that time of the year again. Oh, hang on, it's that second time of the year again. The difference is that this time the time is longer. The race is longer. The time for closures is longer.

Ironman. There is no escape from it. For the days leading up to it, the event encircles you. You're trapped (partially) if you want to get into the port. It means a detour. The participants are on the roads and streets and sometimes in the water. They're riding, they're running, they're risking the jellyfish. All because of training. Getting in shape for the mammoth day.

In newsagents, shops, bars, there is the sound of the local tongue mangling the word Ironman. It is not just you, dear English-speaker, who utters the word darkly. Or at times sarcastically. In Eroski, a couple of likely ironmen receive some advice in the local tongue that they don't understand. They laugh, not knowing why. They shouldn't be.

In a newsagents, this is the one that Boulevard runs down in Playa de Muro, there is talk. What is to become of us come Saturday? How will we manage? Ironman, a plague on both thy two races.

Then come the day, and you are trapped. Imprisoned. Incarcerated. For hours upon hours. Ironman tightens its iron grip and refuses to let go. And an eery silence hangs over Alcudia. It is one of non-traffic. The European Car Free Day has just shifted two days. There are no vehicles, save for the occasional siren of a police car punctuating blissful silence.

Given the above, you might conclude that I'm in the anti-camp. In fact, I am not. I appreciate the benefits. The kudos for Alcudia in promoting sports tourism. The financial returns. There's no need for the "studies" that crop up each year to itemise how many millions of euros are generated. Figure it out for yourselves. Take 3,000 participants. More indeed. Double them to take account of partners. Allocate, for example, five days of stay. Multiply by a nightly rate. Then add on the organisers. More family. More friends. It's a back of a fag packet simple calculation, and astonishingly - as witnessed after the May Ironman - the ironmen can strip the shelves of the tobacconists as gladly as any British tourist who otherwise spends no money. But in the case of ironmen, they spend more. The elite may not, but the fun ironmen (if there can truly be such an individual) can throw the beers back with the best of them, demolish a full English or other such delicacy as happily as other tourists. They spend money.

But many are those who curse the day a few years ago when Thomas Cook and the Ironman organisers first descended on Alcudia. They are still cursing, and they want some answers.

Until recently, Ironman, in one of its Facebook guises, has meant the outpouring of f-words and the like. Now, Alcudia town hall has poked its head above the parapet of abuse and engaged. Slightly. A lengthy demand was posted to Ajuntament d'Alcudia - Bon govern. Firstly, it hoped that there would be a response, as there hadn't previously been one. Then it asked, among other things, what the town hall charges to stage Ironman. How does the closure of roads for a private event, came a further question, correspond to the right of freedom of movement under the Spanish Constitution. What about those who are unable to access medical attention?

This was couched in somewhat ironic terms through reference to "bon govern" (good government) and to transparency. Back came a simple reply. Any citizen is, as ever, invited to go to the town hall to discuss the matter. Which was neutral enough not to engage in a Facebook spat. Others supported the lengthy demand and points made, and the overall point was that perhaps the town hall could benefit from being more open. Its response, akin to the automated responses on Trip Advisor by hotels who clearly don't give a damn, was not adequate.

Each year, each twice a year, we go through the same procedure. There is no easy solution other than not staging the event (which would be a mistake, in my opinion). But the town hall could do with attempting to bring those who are discontented more on side. It should explain better. It should apologise for inconvenience rather more sincerely. It should take account of those businesses who lose money rather than just hail those who make money. It should acknowledge the bother caused to other tourists. It should do all these things.

Ultimately, of course, there is the argument that it is only one day - or rather two days a year. Which would be my point entirely. But then I am not everyone. There are too many grumpy people. The town hall needs to respond to them.

Friday, September 23, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 23 September 2016

Morning high (7.13am): 19.4C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 24 September - Rain, sun, 25C; 25 September - Rain, sun, 25C; 26 September - Rain, sun, 24C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 3 to 4 easing Variable 2 to 3.

Cloudy forecast with the risk of heavy rain at some point. Possibility of a storm lasting into tomorrow.

Evening update (19.15): Cloudy more or less all day - sun came out for a time late afternoon - and some light rain in parts accompanied by thunder and lightning. Elsewhere, down in Binissalem, for instance, it threw it down. High of 28.7C.

Francina At The Crossroads

Francina Armengol has called for an "urgent" agreement between her party, PSOE, and Podemos in order that there is a change of national government. She said this - and it wasn't the first time by any means - during the course of this week's parliamentary debate, something which the Partido Popular's Marga Prohens described as a confidence debate for Armengol's presidency and government.

Armengol was bound to have made this call. It could well be that she is thoroughly committed to the principle of a PSOE-Podemos alliance at national level. Equally, it could be that she could say nothing else. Her government depends on the relationship that PSOE has with Podemos. It's as simple as that.

For Armengol to have her wish granted, Pedro Sánchez would need to fend off the assaults from significant voices within PSOE. Andalusia's Susana Díaz, seen by many as the real power in PSOE and a likely future leader of the party, has warned Sánchez that PSOE doesn't have the parliamentary clout to be able to form a government. With only 85 seats in Congress, she has noted, the party cannot govern.

In any moral terms it is questionable for a party with slightly less than 25% parliamentary representation to be allowed to govern, but Sánchez still seems as though he might try. Again. Armengol, for her sake, has to hope that he succeeds. She heads a government with an even lower percentage representation, one enabled solely by the partner that is not in government (Podemos with 17% representation).

The pretence that exists with this government was further exposed during the debate. If applause is a mark of support, then it was in short supply, either from Podemos or Més as Armengol defended the "government of change". Ultimately, whatever Armengol says or does, this government is bound inextricably to the fortunes of PSOE nationally. It might be recalled, for example, that Més had at one point appeared to have been prepared to pull out from an agreement following the 2015 regional election. A stumbling-block was the financing of the Balearics. With Sánchez as prime minister, this would all be sorted. It may have seemed in June last year as if a PSOE national government (with whichever other parties in tow) was a goer. In truth, it never was, and PSOE just finds its support (at the ballot box) more on the wane.

Armengol is caught between the rock of national fortunes and the hard place of local difficulties. She couldn't have envisaged tourism becoming the battleground it has. The tourist tax, and the skirmishes over its distribution and purposes, was never destined to leave casualties. Saturation and its fellow tourist traveller, limits, may well do.

Podemos and Més have both affiliated themselves with the "without limits there is no future" manifesto. Podemos's Laura Camargo pointed this out to Armengol. The president instead insists that limits are not a solution. The three parties are poles apart on the issue. They know it, and any observer of the government can recognise it. Rather than the tourist tax being a defining policy of this government, the headless arguments over tourism numbers are defining it. If any senior figures from either Podemos or Més put in an appearance on the anti-tourist route planned for tomorrow in Palma, the game could be as good as up.

The divisions in the government are such that Camargo attacked Armengol for devoting herself to mere amendments of "disastrous policies" pursued by the PP when it was in power. Direction, Camargo asserted, has not been defined. The fact is that the only direction which counts is one determined by Podemos. The relationship with PSOE and PSOE's dependence on Podemos in the Balearics should make Sánchez stop dead in his tracks. It would be no different if there were ever a PSOE-Podemos national alliance. Like Armengol, Sánchez would be a Podemos play thing, ever exposed to its exigencies.

It isn't as if, however, Podemos and Més don't have their own concerns. For Podemos they are also a factor of national developments. The battle royal between Pablo Iglesias and Iñigo Errejón is one which boils down to Errejón's view - and a correct one - that the electorate needs to be able to trust Podemos more. It could otherwise be that Podemos have peaked and that there is only way for the party to go. At local level, there is the business with one of its main figures, Daniel Bachiller,  and the funding that his laboratory has been receiving; funding which has seemingly produced no results. Camargo believes there is a "campaign". Others will believe it only appropriate that Bachiller is brought to account.

Més, meanwhile, are contending with the consequences of the June general election alliance with Podemos which spectacularly failed to deliver. Armengol has her problems, but her "partners" have them as well. Each is fighting its own battles, and government is thus diminished.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 22 September 2016

Morning high (6.35am): 19.8C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 5
Three-day forecast: 23 September - Rain, sun, 27C; 24 September - Rain, sun, 25C; 25 September - Rain, sun, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 4.

Things are looking rather unsettled. Could be some rain today as well as sun, and greater likelihood of rain tomorrow and over the weekend.

Evening update (20.00): High of 28.5C. No rain, mainly sunny, cloudy now. Alert for rain tomorrow.

What's In A Community?

"Comunidad" or "comunitat", if this is your co-official language preference, has the same meaning as the English "community". The words have each followed the same linguistic path from Latin "communitas" with divergences such as the Old French "comuneté". In terms of human society, it is one of the most powerful words and concepts to have come from Latin. It is the sharing of something in common - a place, a belief, a value, an identity, a government.

When Spain moved into its democratic, post-Franco era, it placed community at the centre of this democratic renewal. Regions, such as the Balearics, officially became communities. In English, because it aids better understanding, it is convenient to refer to the Balearics as a region. A community, in wider social terms, is more understandable in being applied, say, to the British or German communities in Mallorca or to all sorts of other communities. They are on the internet, there is a farming or banking community, a gay community.

All of them are defined by having something in common, as is a political community. But English can stumble somewhat in acknowledging community as an actual political entity. Hence, why region is a convenience. Not, however, that it is inaccurate. The Balearics is still a region, just as Catalonia or Andalusia are. But they are more than this. They are communities. Their official political denomination is "comunidad autónoma" - autonomous community - and their constitutions are enshrined in their statutes of autonomy.

The Balearic parliament has been engaged in a debate into the "state of the community". Linguistically, a trick might be said to be being played here. State has its dual meanings of condition and "nation". A debate into the state of the nation that is the community, that of the Balearics.

To what extent is there a Balearic community? Is the term a form of artifice, a kind of deception to portray the sharing of things in common? A political expedient, therefore, to engineer a sense of common identity? There is undoubtedly greater power in conveying cohesion through community, a greater sense of purpose than merely being an anonymous, if autonomous, "region". But how real is it?

Historically, if one goes back far enough, there was no community. Primitive societies would not necessarily have allowed it anyway, but in the Balearic archipelago there was separate development and evolution. Ibiza entered the Classical World far earlier than either Mallorca or Menorca. Its Carthage association saw to that. Much later, Ibiza was to express its separateness through the identity of architecture, transported to Mallorca only by degree, such as to Cala d'Or.

At the time of the Catalan conquest, Ibiza and Formentera submitted to the Catalan aristocracy in the form of the Bishop of Tarragona six years after the assault on Mallorca by Jaume I. Menorca and its Muslim community accepted the sovereignty of Aragonese nobles two years after the Mallorca takeover. The island wasn't to definitively be "Catalanised" for a further fifty or more years. The events that created a Catalan society in the Balearics are revered mostly in Mallorca. 1229 and all that do not carry the same weight elsewhere.

In far more contemporary times, Menorca held out as a Republican stronghold during the Civil War. In the years immediately before the war, Ibiza and Menorca had great reservations about tentative moves to establish autonomous government for the Balearics during the time of the Second Republic. Both feared that it was a move to give Mallorca dominance.

When mass tourism arrived, the mass mostly descended on Mallorca. Balearisation, the development of the coasts, was predominantly a Mallorcan phenomenon. The magnet for tourism society was Mallorca. It became a global byword in ways that neither Ibiza nor Menorca did. Ibiza experienced its own curious evolution, that of hippy colonies.

While there are common linguistic connections, there are also differences. These are most evident in Menorca, the legacy of British and French influences. Likewise, these occupiers bequeathed architectural styles, at variance with those, say, of Ibiza.

The president of the Council of Mallorca, Miquel Ensenyat, speaking on the occasion of Mallorca Day, referred to the original institutions of autonomy - the islands' councils (with the exception of Formentera, which wasn't to get one until much later). These councils came before the formation of the autonomous community and so the founding of regional government. Ensenyat stressed the importance of the councils in responding to the idiosyncratic needs of the islands.

With that one word, idiosyncratic, Ensenyat spoke volumes. Something peculiar to the individual islands. Specific differences, be they cultural, economic or political.

When surveys are undertaken of identity, they reveal overwhelming identity with the specific islands rather than with the Balearics: this sense of belonging is greater away from Mallorca. So is there genuinely a "community"? Maybe Nel Marti (Més per Menorca) summed it up during parliament's debate: the complete absence of mention of "his" island.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 21 September 2016

Morning high (7.12am): 19.3C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 22 September - Cloud, sun, 27C; 23 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 24 September - Sun, cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3 tending to East 3.

Clear enough early on. Should be ok, although the met agency has suggested there could be a storm in the east of the islands. Not any evidence of this on the local forecast though.

Evening update (20.00): High of 27.7C. Not any sign of any rain.

So Much Saturation, So Little Sense

There's been another survey about saturation. Can you stomach it? Are we not all sick of saturation stories saturating the media? Well, hold it back. Don't rush to the toilet just yet. There's plenty more saturation still to be wrung from the saturated rag of tourism tossed around by agenda-setting politicians and agitators.

It's Gadeso's turn this time. Its survey into saturation discovers, inter alia, that 80% of Balearic citizens have perceived increased saturation this summer, that 61% are in favour of limits on the number of tourists and that 78% are fully supportive of the ecotax. (I am, incidentally, ceasing to refer to it as the "tourist tax"; it is quite obviously a new ecotax, regardless of what certain members of the government have said in the past.)

Let's just take the 80%. It is possible that they do indeed all "perceive" increased saturation because they have genuinely experienced it. Possible, but also subject to influence. When there is so much talk of saturation and/or massification, then that talk is going to rub off. Repeat the message often enough and enough people will believe it and treat it as gospel.

But if we accept that there is increased saturation - and tourist arrival numbers would suggest that there is - why nevertheless is there such agitation, when majority opinion recognises its root cause? This is the insecurity elsewhere in the Med. Gadeso finds that 65% of those surveyed accept this.

It could of course be that this insecurity persists, thus maintaining elevated levels of demand for Balearic tourism. A political response - and an agitator response - is therefore to seek some form of limit. But what happens if and when the insecurity evaporates? Are limits (whatever these might turn out to be, if any) to then be discarded? In all probability, no. The political agenda since the turn of the century has been dominated by a philosophy of control, even of reduction. This started, as noted yesterday, with the old ecotax and with the aims of the former tourism minister Celestí Alomar.

So, it's all a left-wing conspiracy to cut tourism numbers? Correct? No, not entirely. The "quality tourism" agenda has been one of the right as well. By its very nature it implies reduction. A current quantity of some 13 million tourists per annum to the Balearics couldn't be maintained if strict "quality" requirements were to be insisted upon. This agenda was one advocated by the defunct Unió Mallorquina and has even been voiced by the Partido Popular. Carlos Delgado, when he became tourism minister, alluded to potential reduction in the pursuit of quality and so greater returns per head of tourist population.

Regardless of left or right, why does the notion of limits inspire opposition among some? While it is hard to know definitively what "a limit" should be, intuitively one suspects that there should be one. There is only so much strain that small islands can be subjected to. This doesn't have to be a political discussion; merely a common sense one.

The problem is that the debate, such as it is, has already wandered off into radical territory. The Luddite tendency wants more than limits. It is so anti-tourist that it seems to want an end to tourism full stop. It couches its arguments in terms of the "mass" without ever adequately elucidating what "non-mass " might equate to (if anything) or indeed what, economically, would take up the slack.

The government's folly is in having allowed the more extreme views against tourism to have taken hold. With Podemos in the camp, this has not been surprising, but Més have not helped. In so doing, sensible, clear, objective debate is impossible.

A means of seeking limits is through a form of price engineering. For this, read the ecotax. Celestí Alomar seemed to believe that the old tax would achieve this and bring with it the much-desired "quality tourism". Yet, we now have a government, and a tourism minister, which doesn't necessarily equate the new ecotax with limits. Biel Barceló has maintained that the tax will not affect tourism. By implication, that means it will not lead to a reduction and nor would it necessarily prevent an increase in tourist numbers.

But the tax is bound up in this whole debate, leading one to query the coherence of government thinking. It only needs to look at the experience of Catalonia to know that a tourist tax doesn't stop growth in numbers. They have been going up there since the tax came in four years ago, and they were going up before parts of the Med became virtual tourist no-go areas. So, price engineering via a tax, unless it were really onerous, doesn't necessarily work.

A serious, level-headed debate needs to be had. Will an increasingly febrile atmosphere permit it? Doubtful.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 20 September 2016

Morning high (7.35am): 17.8C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 21 September - Cloud, sun, 26C; 22 September - Sun, cloud, 27C; 23 September - Cloud, sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3. Swell of one metre. Rain later on.

Some cloud around first up. Rain, if there is some, more likely in the afternoon.

Evening update (20.15): High of 25.6C. Somewhat iffy. Some rain but not like it was in the south of the island.

No Future Without Limits?

The other day, a group of people gathered near the Cathedral. They stood on steps and unfurled a banner. With a hashtag, it said in translation "without limits there is no future". The "limits" was in red, suggesting a red stop sign, the "future" was in green - the way forward, so long as the red is applied.

What were they wanting limits to? It should be obvious. It's been a theme for several weeks. Tourist numbers. "Massification" of tourism and uncontrolled urbanising put basic resources at risk - water, the countryside, the ecosystems.

Who are these people? By Sunday morning, the blog - - had 600 supporters. Teachers, farmers, activists, professors, psychologists, gardeners, doctors, nurses, engineers, salespeople, architects, unionists, lawyers, social workers, painters, dry-stone workers. On and on. Among the 600 some names stood out. Margalida Ramis, spokesperson for the environmentalists GOB; Jaume Adrover, farmer and spokesperson for another environmentalist group, Terraferida; Laura Camargo, university professor and parliamentary deputy for Podemos; Caterina Amengual, environmentalist (but also the government's director for biodiversity); Ivan Murray, geographer and now no longer undertaking a government-sponsored study related to tourism sustainability; Celestí Alomar, former minister of tourism.

Of these, Alomar is perhaps the most interesting. He was the tourism minister who introduced the original ecotax. Writing in July last year, so at a time when the newly elected regional government was just beginning to talk about a revived ecotax, he considered the circumstances that had led the first PSOE-headed government of Francesc Antich to contemplate and to implement the ecotax.

He said that at that time there was fierce international competition for sun-and-beach tourism. It was competition predicated (and not just in Mallorca) on the medium to low end of the market. As a consequence, it was hard to penetrate a more demanding tourism market. Further consequences were seasonality, a loss of identity and a dependence on large international tour operators. It was evident, he argued, that at the start of the new millennium there had to be a strengthening of the Mallorcan tourist product against a coming price war.

The government, therefore, looked to redefine the model of "mass" tourism. More value added to traditional sun-and-beach; diversification of tourist products; an emphasis on sustainability rather than the short-term; action against the consumption of resources; environmental conservation; a smoothing of the flow of tourists.

Above all, and here is maybe the most revealing of all his observations, was that social support was needed in order to reverse a trend by which tourism was being ever more rejected by the resident population. This trend had been brought about by "massification" and the burden being placed on the environment.

In 2001, Alomar famously, or infamously, said that in a few years the "Ballermann" (Arenal) would no longer exist. Package holidaymakers should only make up 20% of all tourists. Instead, there should be independent travellers, golfers, culture-seekers, nature lovers. It was these comments that enraged many Germans. They were no longer wanted by Mallorca.

The ecotax was finally introduced in time for the start of the 2002 season. History is easily rewritten. The ecotax failed because the Partido Popular came to power the following spring and scrapped it (it actually ceased to be at the end of the 2003 season). The tax may have been detested in some quarters, but the slump in tourism in 2002 was principally because of a marked fall in German tourism: the market enraged by Alomar's comments. By 2003, that German tourism had all but recovered.

No one can say what might have happened had the old ecotax remained in place. The revival that occurred in 2003 could well have been an indication. Or it may not have been. But inherent to its introduction, and one can detect this from Alomar's observations, was a reduction in tourist numbers. It's debatable if there would have been one as a consequence of the ecotax, even if he believed that it was a means of disengaging from a price war.

His thoughts about the original ecotax from some seventeen years ago show that little is new. Much of what was thought then is being said now. The current and additional dynamics are well-known, and one of them is the nature of the political narrative. It is unsurprising to see several Podemos names in addition to Laura Camargo on the list. The narrative gives succour to "movements". And some names on the list will be taking part in the two days of activism in Palma later this week.

Alomar had, in 1999, hoped to reverse a trend towards the rejection of tourism. He has now put his name to one of the movements fostered by the current narrative. On Saturday, the activists will hold an "anti-tourist" route starting from Es Baluard. People are invited to go along "dressed as a foreigner".

Monday, September 19, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 19 September 2016

Morning high (7.13am): 18.7C
Forecast high: 27C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 20 September - Cloud, sun, 27C; 21 September - Cloud, sun, 25C; 22 September - Cloud, sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Variable 2 to 3.

Due to be quite cloudy for much of the day. Still pretty warm though. Forecast remaining consistent for the week - possibility of rain from tomorrow to Friday at least.

Evening update (20.00): High of 29.6C.

Anarchists Say No To Cruises

With Palma continuing to buckle under the pressure of the cruise hordes, we learn that the tourism ministry is planning to offer "incentives" to cruise operators in order to prevent their ships all turning up at the weekend. Instead, said tourism director-general Pilar Carbonell, the ships should come during the week so that the weekends can be "decongested". 

And what might these "incentives" be? Pilar couldn't say, and besides they wouldn't be available until 2018 at the earliest, as schedules have already been firmed up for next year at least. Whatever they might be, Pilar wants to avoid there being repeats of situations where eight ships arrive at the same time. But wasn't it a midweek day when there was all that fuss about the number of ships in May? And is it my imagination, or are Sundays often quite light when it comes to ships? Still, if the government can ensure there are no ships at the weekend, then no one needs worry any longer about whether the shops are open or not.

The cruise thousands who may or may not descend on the capital this coming Friday and Saturday had better take note and ensure that they avoid the Plaça del Pes de la Palla. Which is where precisely? Near to the Sant Francesc basilica, that's where, and so not far from the Cathedral. And why should they avoid this square? Anarchists, that's why.

During last week there was an announcement of two days of whatever taking place in the square. Anarchists, left-wingers and environmental organisations will be having what appear to be conferences under the theme of, more or less, the city is for those who live there, not for those who visit it.

Tourism is a scourge, suggest the anarchists, and they seem to reserve particular contempt for the "invasion" by Nordic countries, some sort of current-day Viking re-enactment that is leading to the Nordics buying up all available property.

So, cruise passengers beware, especially those from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and presumably also Finland. Don't venture to that particular square or indeed to other parts of the city that will be part of an "anti-tourist route".

Sunday, September 18, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 18 September 2016

Morning high (7.28am): 15.9C
Forecast high: 25C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 19 September - Sun, cloud, 27C; 20 September - Cloud, sun, 27C; 21 September - Cloud, sun, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Northeast 4 to 5 easing East 3. Swells to two metres. Rain about.

Some rain during the night. More likely this morning and then brightening up later. Outlook for the week is unsettled - fine tomorrow and cloudy with occasional rain for the following days.

Evening update (20.00): Nothing much of this rain. Some sun, quite a lot of cloud. High of 24.9C, but it depended where. 

Mallorca's Roman Link To Catalonia

One day, two thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine years ago, the people of Mallorca woke up and discovered that the island had been occupied by the Romans. The mission under Quinto Cecilio Metello had been ordered by the Roman senate, and so in 123BC Mallorca entered its Roman era.

When actually in 123BC did this occupation occur? As we now move beyond the middle of September, it is feasible that it happened a few days ago 2,139 years in the past. Bearing in mind that calendars were not quite as they are now, it has nevertheless been suggested that the best time for sailing to Mallorca from Rome was considered to have been between the end of July and the middle of September. Perhaps somehow, someone can establish that it was 12 September, and so this would give a further reason to retain that date as Mallorca Day.

The arrival of the Romans wouldn't have come as a complete surprise to the Talayotic period Mallorcans. It wasn't as though there wasn't contact prior to 123BC. Indeed, it might be asked why it took the Romans so long to formally take the island (and Menorca) over. They had long taken charge of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica and had established themselves on the Iberian peninsula around one hundred years previously.

There were perhaps two principal reasons. The Gymnesian islands of Mallorca and Menorca don't appear to have been looked upon as having had much going for them. What comparatively little there was wouldn't have equated to a great deal in terms of any fiscal returns that the Romans (or anyone else) might have wished for. Mallorca was poor, so much so that it isn't totally clear how payments were ever made to the Ibizans, who operated the economic powerhouse in the archipelago back in those days.

Trade there most certainly was, though, between Ibiza and Mallorca, even if it was mostly one way. Pigs were one source of export, there was also wine and there were mules, but otherwise it has been suggested that remuneration was made through the export of men, and the slingshot warriors of the island in particular, whose skills were certainly highly prized.

The trade with Ibiza had existed for centuries before the Romans took over. A principal Punic site in Mallorca is the islet of Na Guardis near Colonia Sant Jordi which operated as a type of factory, and it dates from around the start of the fourth century BC. But evidence from Mallorca's Talayotic sites indicates that the trade was older, at least two centuries older.

Ibiza had come under the control of the Phoenicians when a port was established in 654BC. It was later to be under Carthage, the former Phoenician city state (Rome's name for Carthaginians was Poeni, which was derived from Poenici, an earlier form of Punici and so a reference to the founding of Carthage by Phoenician settlers). The extent of Phoenician-Carthaginian influence on Mallorca, however, has been somewhat exaggerated. There was some, but the principal link was the trading one with Punic Ibiza.

A second reason, therefore, for hypothesising why the Romans were as late as they were in colonising Mallorca probably has to do with the fact that Carthage didn't fall until 146BC. With this, the Romans established dominance in the region and acquired far greater naval skills. There was no one to oppose them taking over Mallorca, though in truth there never really had been.

There was by 123BC a great deal of strategic sense in having control of the Gymnesian islands. (Ibiza was federated to Rome.) There was also the convenience of having a stopping point on the way to Hispania and to Hispania Citerior in particular. This was the eastern part of modern Spain, with the Roman administration centred on Tarragona in Catalonia. In 123BC, for administrative purposes, Mallorca came under the orbit of Hispania Citerior. It was therefore run from Catalonia.

In all the discussion of Roman times in Mallorca and of events centuries later with the Catalan invasion of the thirteenth century and indeed today's Catalan-oriented politics, it is easy to overlook that 2,139 years ago Mallorca not only became Roman it also became, if only administratively, a part of what was to become Catalonia.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 17 September 2016

Morning high (6.33am): 17.9C
Forecast high: 26C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 18 September - Sun, rain, 24C; 19 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 20 September - Cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): Southwest 3 to 4 veering Northwest during the morning and increasing Northeast 5 to 6 in the afternoon. Rain and storm expected.

Starting out well enough but there is an alert for heavy rain. Likelihood of more rain tomorrow.

Evening update (20.00): None of the rain that was promised. Quite a lot of cloud. Some sunny spells. High of 27.6C.

Promoting Culture: Where's The Strategy?

Having dismissed the suggestion by Podemos that no money should be spent on tourism promotion, the regional government has come up with a new line of funding. It is going to promote cultural tourism. One presumes that even Podemos can't disagree with this. Or can it? Hordes of tourists will now be overwhelming obscure museums on the island, adding further to the myth of tourist saturation.

What a curious business this is. It is one which demands that the press is invited to witness an official signing ceremony. A "protocol" has been established between two ministries - tourism and culture - and from this there is an agreement. Signed, sealed, delivered by Biel Barceló and Ruth Mateu. It was as if they were signing a peace treaty.

PR nonsense. Why can't representatives from two ministries just sit round a table without making a ballyhoo about spending up to 600 grand on "internationalising" the culture of the islands via a "tourism strategy"? It's nice to know that there is a strategy. At least in theory. Why also does this protocol only run until the end of next year? What's the thinking with that? It must be strategic.

Barceló says that the only season that the government wishes to promote is the winter season: a misleading concept as it refers to more than winter. Such a statement is presumably designed to alleviate the fears of Podemos and the summer saturation propagandists (of whom, of course, Barceló is one). But there is nothing new behind this statement. Winter tourism has been the chief beneficiary of government promotional spend ever since Carlos Delgado and the Partido Popular took the knife to this spend. The austerity policies of José Ramón Bauzá decreed that promotional investment should be cut dramatically, and it was. Delgado and his then sidekick, Jaime Martínez, were going to be focusing on the winter.

The budget for promotion is miserly. What investment there is (around three to four million) goes towards travel fairs, forums and blogger and fam trips. It isn't as if summer is totally neglected, however. Much of the business done at the major travel fairs is for the summer. The government is party to only so much of this. Otherwise they are occasions for business to talk to business, though at present there is very little actual need for summer discussions.

Tour operators from the UK, Germany and Scandinavia are hoovering up hotels and hotel places with such rapidity that their Spanish counterparts are being left with scraps to fight over. If and when it is announced that domestic tourism to Mallorca next year is in decline, this won't be for lack of demand. It will be due to supply. However, the domestic market might not decline. Why not? Because it is finding alternatives. Which market is one of the most significant in driving demand for holiday rentals? The Spanish. Here's one reason for so-called saturation. And which market finds it easiest to come with its cars and clog up the roads? The Spanish.

Promotion for the summer isn't necessary at the moment. This isn't to say that there shouldn't be any. Even at times of summer tourism bonanza, it is important to keep the name out there and in the "front of mind" of the tourist punter. This doesn't require vast sums. Some well-conceived social media initiatives can achieve this. What do we get from the tourism ministry in this regard? Nothing.

The Balearic Tourism Agency (ATB), responsible for promotion, is a peculiar institution. In its former guise - Ibatur - it was at the heart of the corruption scandals that engulfed the Unió Mallorquina. Renamed, it has since then given an impression of ineffectualness. The only director to have ever made strong public statements about the need for and power of social networks was Mar Guerrero. She resigned because the job wasn't as had been said on the tin. Funding was cut off. This was almost six years ago.

So now we come to this latest initiative, to which the ATB is a party. And what will this "strategy" for cultural tourism entail? One aspect is getting more producers to come and film on the islands. Fine, but strategy demands that there is a structure, for which there has to be the right financial mix. Both Barceló and Mateu admit that there aren't the tax incentives for filming as there are in other parts of Spain. So they are coming up with a "strategy" without knowing if they have the wherewithal to implement it, while only having an agreement for fifteen months. Can anyone explain the sense of this?

Friday, September 16, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 16 September 2016

Morning high (6.53am): 19.2C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 17 September - Rain, sun, 26C; 18 September - Sun, rain, 24C; 19 September - Sun, cloud, 26C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 3 veering Northwest 4 during the morning, occasionally 5.

Decent enough day on the cards, but tomorrow looks as if it's going to be wet with rain possibly lingering into Sunday.

Evening update (20.15): Clouded up somewhat late on. Good enough otherwise. High of 27.9C. Looks like rain tomorrow.

Matas And The Scandals That Won't Go Away

So, Jaume Matas may escape a further term in prison if he spills the beans. He would know that he potentially faces a far longer stretch than the nine months he spent in Segovia prison for peddling influence in arranging illegal payments to a journalistic cheerleader. The Son Espases Hospital affair eclipses even the Palma Arena case in terms of the money that was involved in the project. The cost of the contract is almost incidental, however. The links to alleged illegal funding of the Partido Popular are most certainly not.

Reaction from politicians with parties other than the PP (from which little or nothing is being heard) ranges from the phlegmatic to the apoplectic. While all this reaction suggests that Matas shouldn't avoid doing time, there is an acceptance that Matas holds a key - possibly the key - to revealing the secrets of this funding. These politicians won't know exactly what Matas knows. They will be capable of hazarding shrewd guesses, but the knowledge resides with the justice system and the anti-corruption prosecution service in particular.

While Matas was in prison, he appeared by videoconference link at a hearing into Son Espases. This was the bizarre occasion when his head was bandaged. He apparently had an ear infirmity and was therefore unable to hear the questions being put to him. Before he left prison, he was visited by the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, Pedro Horrach. It was said at the time that he exercised his right not to say anything. It now appears that things were rather different and that Matas was all ears. The origin of a deal to spill the beans was during that meeting with Horrach.

Why is Son Espases so important, and important enough for the national anti-corruption prosecution service to back the regional service and so Horrach's deal? It has everything to do with funding of the PP and with work on a remodelling of its headquarters building in the calle Génova in Madrid. The allegation is that the award of the contract for the construction of Son Espases was rigged in favour of the company OHL, the president of which is Juan Miguel Villar Mir, a long-ago minister of finance (in the period immediately after Franco's death) and the recipient of a marquis title from the former king in 2011.

The charge is that it was Matas who rigged the award. In the end, OHL didn't get the contract. This was after suspicions about the contract appeared in the press. Matas intervened and the award ultimately went to the rival consortium. But Matas, it is said, didn't act independently. He was under instruction from the PP nationally.

A famous envelope containing instructions that the tender board was to follow has been referred to often during investigations. The then health minister, Aina Castillo, has testified that she was given this envelope - without knowing its contents - to be passed on. Matas was the one who gave her the envelope, but he - the allegation is - was given it by the formal national treasurer of the PP, Alvaro Lapuerta. Matas, it is understood, is prepared to state this in court.

OHL and Villar Mir come into the story because Luis Barcenas, another former treasurer, has testified that Villar Mir was a major funder of the PP. He gave the party a significant sum - 300,000 euros - for its 2011 election campaign, but he has also come under investigation for payments in cash amounting to two million euros. An implication is that he paid for work at the headquarters.

Barcenas is also crucial to this whole affair. The infamous "B" accounts which he supposedly operated - undeclared income and payments - have been the subject of investigation by the national high court. A judge, Pablo Ruz, concluded eighteen months ago that the PP had used this "B" system between 1990 and 2008. Both Barcenas and Lapuerta were cited by the judge. Moreover, the judge said that according to Barcenas's accounts, Villar Mir had delivered over half a million euros between 2004 and 2008.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of Matas avoiding prison, the revelation that he might do comes at a bad time for the PP. While Matas was involved in corruption from several years go - it is now nine years since his second and final period as Balearic president ended - there are more up-to-date scandals surrounding the party, not least in Valencia, where Rita Barberá, the former mayor of Valencia, is facing allegations of money laundering that relate to the time just before the elections in spring 2015.

The additional backdrop of course is the ongoing uncertainty with the national government. A reason for this uncertainty has been the rise of Podemos and Ciudadanos, both of them taking firm aim against corruption. The PP's moral authority for government takes a constant battering. Matas, and what he might have to say, diminishes that authority ever more.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 15 September 2016

Morning high (7.00am): 18.4C
Forecast high: 29C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 16 September - Sun, cloud, 27C; 17 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 18 September - Rain, 25C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 2 to 3 veering East 3 around midday.

Clear enough early on but set to cloud over. Prospect of some rainy weather over the weekend increasing.

Evening update (22.45): High of 29C - bang on the forecast money.

The Lost Soul Of Mallorca

For three days from tomorrow, the Hotel Formentor becomes the location for high literary culture. They're holding the ninth annual Formentor Conversations. They'll be conversing about ghosts and lost souls in purgatory over the weekend.

They also hand out an award. The Formentor Prize for Literature is going this year to the Italian author Roberto Calasso, whose oeuvre is characterised as considering the relationship between myth and the emergence of modern consciousness. His work will feature during the conversations. Works by other authors will include those by the likes of Dickens ("A Christmas Carol"), Henry James, Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allan Poe.

Low brow this gathering most certainly is not, while its surroundings are those of the distinctly high brow: the hotel itself, at which you could have parted with up to 1,000 euros a couple of weeks ago to see the American violinist Hilary Hahn; the nearby La Fortalesa, which will forever now be known as Roper's house; the Villa Cortina, the object of much controversy, now seemingly being made legal so that the one-time executive president of Repsol can live in it.

Literary tradition runs deep in Mallorca, albeit for the casual observer of the island it may as well not exist. Language, let's be blunt, doesn't help in this regard. This is a tradition that has generally not gone and will not go beyond borders. But it is there nevertheless, and Formentor plays its role. Arguably the most famous Mallorcan poem took a pine from Formentor and made it highly representative of the Mallorca School of poets: Miquel Costa i Llobera's "El pi de Formentor", written in 1875.

Costa i Llobera died in 1922. He was witness therefore to the early days of  Mallorca's tourism that grew in the years of the twentieth century prior to the Civil War. This was a tourism that was essentially high brow. It had to be in those days - travel was for the wealthy, and in its touristic version it was predominantly for the culture-seeker and the cultured, notwithstanding the occasional Bohemians. The Formentor Conversations are, therefore, like an echo of those distant days, not least because the founder of the hotel, the Argentine poet Adan Diehl, looked upon his building as a haven for the artistic and literary minded.

The Conversations, with their allusion to that past, are an example of the striking contrasts of this island. This is civilised Mallorca, one of culture, refinement and no small amount of money. In a touristic sense it is the complete opposite of the conversations held about Magalluf. Yet that allusion to the past and to what supplanted it when mass tourism started makes even more stark the extent to which Mallorca was transformed by its "industrial revolution".

There are all sorts of examples of the ways in which societies have undergone immense change over a comparatively short period of time - parts of the Middle East, for instance - and in Mallorca's case this transformation has occurred over the period of only two generations. It is an experience that has been lived by many and one that can perhaps be all too easily overlooked.

When researchers recently asked about current-day opinions regarding tourism - a survey in light of "saturation" - it was notable that the older generation felt the saturation sensation most acutely. Notable but not surprising. Here is a generation which, as an example, can recall how at the end of the 1950s Can Picafort had a couple of small hotels, a series of tracks made from sand, and a row of dunes. Now, it is a resort of high-density urbanisation. There aren't the dunes. They were flattened.

It was this process of "Balearisation" - the unprecedented development of the coasts - which contributed to Mallorca's one-time reputation. A further process of gentrification has shifted that reputation dramatically, but this makes it also easy to overlook how Mallorca was once shorthand for naffness.

The Formentor Conversations are an extreme and somewhat obscure manifestation of the extension to this gentrification, a desire to attempt to reclaim some essence of former times. There are things that cannot be reclaimed - the dunes that were built on, for example - but others can be. And one is a degree of civility. A further one is a spot of respect.

There is a tendency to argue that Mallorca should be grateful for the legacy bestowed upon it by mass tourism. There is gratitude, but here is a word that can disguise a patronising demand for servility. In the global economy, tourism no longer works as it once did, with the destination and its people expected to lump whatever was thrown at them.

Mallorca has a right to decide for itself, and within the context of current debates regarding saturation and sustainability, it may well do. Consequences of Balearisation will remain, but the lost soul of its purgatory can be reclaimed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 14 September 2016

Morning high (6.35am): 22.8C
Forecast high: 28C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 15 September - Sun, cloud, 27C; 16 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 17 September - Cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): West 4 to 5.

Maritime forecast suggesting possible storm early on, though nothing for land. Due to be cloudy later in the day.

Evening update (21.00): High of 30.9C. Cooling off notably later. Windy. Change is afoot.

The Balearic Government's Football Logo

What is the purpose of a logo? In general terms, it exists in order to be readily identifiable with an organisation: it is the immediate visual identity where the public is concerned. Furthermore, it conveys attributes of the organisation and these in turn support attributes inherent to the brand.

These sorts of explanation, replete with reference to the brand, are applicable in the business world. Logos can be big business and attract big dollars (or any other currency). I have some recollection, for example, about Wolff Olins once getting an absolute stack for coming up with a new-look British Airways logo.

The world's leading logos are highly recognisable. Take Apple for example. Or Nike. While recognisable and memorable, it's a matter of conjecture as to what they actually "say" about the brand or company. The same can be said for Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Google. They are very, very well-known, but do they mean anything to the average punter other than being instantly recognisable?

Marketing speak is what explains to us the purpose of the logo. And businesses are, in essence, all about marketing. The logo is thus essential, because marketing has deemed it to be so, regardless of how meaningful or not it might actually be. So we get the whole deal with logos where businesses are concerned. But what about governments?

One of those very well-known logos, Google, was to whom I turned to enquire of it the purpose of government logos. After three pages didn't reveal any obvious answer, I gave up, stopping only to check out Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Helpfully in English, it explained that the logo was to "enhance the ministry’s corporate governance and to bring about a change in the staff’s mindset, by returning to the original purpose of the government services on health, labour and welfare that meet the public expectations".

Here, at any rate, was some clue as to purpose, if only in the Japanese health ministry.

My reason for asking Google was that, and you are almost certainly unaware of the fact, the Balearic government has a new logo. You will be reassured to learn that this didn't cost top dollar (euro). Only 9,000 euros have been handed over to a Mallorcan designer Lluis Llabrés, of whom we learn that he has worked with "foreign" governments and chef extraordinaire Ferrà Adriá. And what has he come up with? Well, it's a shield, similar to one that has hitherto featured but in a sort of reddy-mauve colour with a diagonal white stripe. Underneath this is "Govern Illes Balears" in a suitably minimalist typeface and then a further stripe but in that mauve colour (I think red-violet might be what a swatch would tell us).

To be honest it looks like something that would be on a football shirt. There is in fact a vague resemblance to Stoke City's badge without any reference to "The Potters", which is probably just as well.

Why, you might ask, has the government felt the necessity for it have a new logo? You will not be surprised to learn that one reason is because the previous one dates from the time of disgraced ex-president Jaume Matas. (One wonders how much that cost, but let's not go there.) Otherwise, there is a practical reason. The Matas version with more heraldic-style shield was multi-coloured. The new one will mean savings on printing costs, which is fair enough.

But then we get to the guff. Greater sustainability might be afforded through less strain being placed on printers' inks, but what do we make of the two colours - the red-violet one and what is basically black - being colours "sustainable and extracted from fruits cultivated on the islands"? Eh? Perhaps this is a reference to certain types of fig. Otherwise, who can say.

Moreover, the new design is "much closer and more open to the citizenship", and the citizens - in an era of digital communications - will be better able to understand it. Perhaps the citizens will be, but the Partido Popular isn't convinced. Why is the government spending nine grand on a new logo when it has vowed that a key objective has been the "rescue" of the citizens? This was a question from the PP's Marga Prohens, who was clearly unaware that this rescue is partly being aided by a logo that is more understandable to them.

But then the PP also wanted to know why it looks like the logo of the Generalitat de Catalunya, which in a way it does, except for the shape, which is football-club shield-shaped.

Will the citizens now all identify with this logo? Will it explain the attributes of the government? Will it encourage loyalty? How can one possibly say? What is the purpose of a government logo? Only the Japanese seem to know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 13 September 2016

Morning high (6.03am): 20.7C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 6
Three-day forecast: 14 September - Sun, cloud, 29C; 15 September - Sun, cloud, 26C; 16 September - Sun, cloud, 27C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East-Southeast 2 to 3 increasing 4 around midday.

Another warm day coming, but note how the UV is now dropping. The earlier forecast for rain tomorrow seems far less likely. There is a change on the way, though, with lower temperatures from Thursday.

Evening update (19.45): A high of 32C. 

Too Much, Too Little: Cabrera's Organisation

When the Cabrera National Park was declared in 1991, a trust was established in line with national law. The trust exists to guarantee the integrity of the park, which consists also of the smaller Conills island and a series of islets as well as the surrounding sea. The president of the trust is appointed by the national government, with the environment and fisheries ministry making the proposal. There are representatives from national ministries other than environment. The development ministry is involved through transport, communications and public works. The education ministry has a role, so does tourism. And then there is the ministry of defence. Cabrera has belonged to it since 1916.

Also on the trust are three representatives of the Balearic government, one apiece from the Council of Mallorca, Palma town hall, the University of the Balearic Islands, the fishermen's brotherhood and the national institute of oceanography. There are two more - both from conservation associations.

This trust, with its diverse representation, is to be presented with a damning report from analysts. It is based on a simple technique - a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. From what has been so far revealed of this report, there is a great deal to do with the weaknesses. Together they generate key threats - the risk posed to the park's reputation and its entire marine area.

There will be those shifting uneasily in their chairs when this report hits the table for discussion. The trust may not have operational responsibility, but it does oversee the organisation. The main question from the revealing of all the weaknesses is: what organisation? And from this stems further questions regarding efficiency and effectiveness of management, cooperation and coordination, lines of communication and centres for decision-making.

The analysis has highlighted a total mess of organisational structure, and that is because the structure is, like the trust, diverse. Its component parts comprise: the regional government, which through the environment ministry has overall responsibility for the park; government agencies and companies; Palma town hall. On top of these there is the ministry of defence, because it owns Cabrera, and Ses Salines town hall.

Administratively, Cabrera belongs to Palma. Despite the distance, it is classified as falling under the Palma municipality. Yet, let's consider what happened in February this year when the regional environment minister, Vicenç Vidal, made an announcement at the Cabrera information centre. The institute for natural areas (Ibanat), which is one of the government's agencies active in the park, was to invest just over 225,000 euros for certain infrastructure improvements. Who was to receive this money? Palma? Yes, but only some 130,000 euros. The rest was going to Ses Salines.

This division of investment made some sense in that Ses Salines was to receive aid for information signage, a cycle park and the tarmacking of a rural road: Colonia Sant Jordi is the main port that serves Cabrera. Well, it made some sense, but then it also made very little. Which is essentially the thrust of the report. There are simply too many administrations involved with Cabrera. The organisation is such that no one seems to be clear who does what or why. And when it comes to the provision of money, the budget has declined markedly since the regional government assumed control of the park some five years ago.

The report's findings hint at Cabrera being symptomatic of organisational confusion, inefficiency and ineffectiveness that affect Mallorca's coastal areas. They may not specifically be noted in the organisation or the trust, but there are yet further administrations who have their say, such as the national Costas Authority and the regional Ports Illes Balears (Colonia Sant Jordi's port is under its control).

How often do we hear of issues that stem from the involvement of all these different bodies? Cala Varques in Manacor has been a classic example, and there the Guardia Civil and National Police are adding to a mix of regional government, Council of Mallorca, town hall and Costas. There are other cases. Take Alcudia, for instance. Depending on which part of the municipality one is talking about, the town hall is involved with - and usually at loggerheads with - the Balearic Ports Authority and the Costas Authority. But then it also has to deal with the Council of Mallorca (main roads), Ports Illes Balears for its small ports of Barcares and Bonaire, the regional government, e.g. with the laying of electricity cables, and both the government and the Council of Mallorca when it comes to decisions regarding land use.

The upshot of all this is that it can be and has been that nothing gets done, while there are inbuilt mechanisms for conflict. And Cabrera appears to be one of the worst cases. A national park and an apparent symbol of everything environmentally righteous in the Balearics, and it is failed by the disorganisation created by too many organisations.

Monday, September 12, 2016

MALLORCA TODAY - Weather Alcúdia and Pollensa 12 September 2016

Morning high (6.30am): 21.2C
Forecast high: 30C; UV: 7
Three-day forecast: 13 September - Sun, cloud, 30C; 14 September - Sun, cloud, 28C; 15 September - Sun, cloud, 28C.

Sea conditions (northern Mallorca; Alcúdia and Pollensa bays to 20.00): East 2 to 3.

Still pretty hot today and tomorrow. Although the forecast temperatures from Wednesday are high, the Aemet agency says that there is likely to be a notable fall from midweek. We'll see.

Evening update (20.00): High of 31.9C.

Is The Pope A Mallorquinista?

There was some funny old stuff cracking off last week. Take the visit of Real Mallorca bigwigs to Rome and an apparent attempt to sign up the Pope beyond the transfer window. The Holy Father declined the temptation to decamp to the Son Moix and end Mallorca's goal drought, but instead was delighted to receive a Mallorca shirt to add to the vast range that adorns the bar at the Vatican. Or this, one assumed, was the purpose of the gift. What else would a Pope do with such a shirt? Wear it in bed? There must be such a bar, therefore, to which the visiting priesthood are invited to make use of the Vatican's Sky dish, sample the ample selection of international beers and add football shirts from many nations.

Or was there an alternative purpose to this visit by the Real Mallorca delegation? Was the shirt part of a secret mission on behalf of the island's diocese to seek papal forgiveness for the naughty bishop and to allow him to continue to bless the club's less than spectacular fortunes? Were Monti and Maheta thus despatched in the knowledge, courtesy of the diocese, that the Pope does like his football? He must do. He is Argentinian after all. Alas, the sacrificial offer of the shirt ended in failure. The naughty bishop was defenestrated. Not literally thrown out of the window, but packed off to play with the reserves in Valencia.

While Monti and Maheta were engaged in mission impossible, a performance artist no one had ever heard of was making a statement. The message went something like the Balearics are on the point of sinking into the Med under the sheer weight of accumulated tourist numbers and environmental groups berating tourists at every available opportunity. The stats office needs to start producing figures to show the ratio of environmental organisations/agitators per head of tourist population; it must be edging towards one to one by now. There's saturation for you.

Anyway, whoever this artist chappy was - Hugo was in fact his name - he determined that the performance required the symbolic use of vast beach towels, which didn't look anything like beach towels. More like sheets, of the type some lookies prefer. It was all to do with saturation by tourists, as if anyone was not already aware that there supposedly is such a saturation. We are saturated by saturation statements, so Hugo inadvertently added to the saturation. Such was the power of his message, from what one could divine, that there was no one there to witness his performance apart from the odd press photographer. So much, therefore, for beach saturation: El Molinar beach at any rate. He really should have nipped along the coast to Arenal and spread his sheets out there.

It did occur to me to wonder if he had permission from the Costas Authority to engage in such occupation of a part of the beach in the style of superyacht louts taking over Cabrera. He probably didn't need it, given that the space occupied was no greater than that taken up by a typical Mallorcan extended family which invades a beach on a Sunday. But had he, it would have been very doubtful that any environmentalists would have denounced him.

Ultimately, though, Hugo betrayed a certain lack of appreciation as to what full-on beach saturation by tourists (also known as Mallorcan residents) looks like. Beach towels there are, but they are obscured by the contents of Toys 'R' Us, some of Ikea, the entire crisps section in Eroski and most of the nearest vendor of inflatable dinosaurs. And getting all that lot on to a beach is what one could describe as a real performance.