Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Art Of Not Explaining

It was one of those complicated little news stories. It was to do with land planning and environmental objections in Alcudia. To get to the nub of the story, the town hall wants to swap part of some land earmarked for development in one part of the municipality so that there can be development in another part. Notwithstanding the fact that an environmental commission and an environmental sub-committee object to both developments, the town hall seems determined to press ahead.

If this were all that the story entailed, it might just have been understandable. In the end, the story, as in its English version, appeared much like I've explained, but it missed out a fair-sized chunk, one that can seem almost beyond explanation or indeed comprehension, whether in English, Spanish or Catalan.

This is because it has to do with land planning and environmental regulation bureaucracy. I am personally convinced that very few people reading about this in Spanish would have the faintest idea what it was all about. Put it into English, and the comprehension would be even less.

There are things which do need explaining and there are others which are probably best left unexplained. They are too confusing and too technical by half, but such is how administrative procedures are in Mallorca. They almost defy explanation on account of their sheer complexity and in the way that a rule for one thing conflicts with a rule for another, largely dependent on how many administrations are involved, of which there is an abundance.

Just to give an idea, there is PGOU, there is POOT, there is PORN, there is PTM, there is ART, there is ZEC, there is ZEPA. To say nothing (and oh how one would prefer not to have to) of the likes of ZGAT and PIAT. What does any of this stuff mean? Some is, on the face of it, comparatively straightforward. A PGOU in essence is a municipal urban plan, but straightforward it rarely or indeed ever is. Not when there is a POOT (tourist accommodation quotas), a PIAT (vaguely similar), a PTM (the overall land plan for Mallorca) or, God forbid, a PORN (natural resources plan) to take into account. Which is before one even starts on the possible implication of, for example, ZEPA (bird protection zones). And how can one overlook PHIB, the Balearic Islands hydrology plan? That's water to you and me. There may be a simple explanation as to why there is a lack of water at present, but things are not simple when one delves into the hydrology plan and its far-reaching tentacles that cover every single drop of water on the island, thus rendering aspects of a PGOU, for instance, unworkable.

If all this is difficult enough to explain in layman's terms, don't think that those to which it all applies find it any easier. One often hears of the need for "legal certainty", so that town halls, businesses, whoever can proceed with whatever project they have in mind without ending up in court. Which is what normally happens anyway. It's not surprising if no one can tell his POOT from his PORN.

Mallorca has long since disappeared up a posterior crammed with acronyms. Constipation has thus ensued because there are that many plans for this, that or the other thing that everything grinds to a halt. And once it all does, no one is much the wiser because explaining any of it would take so long that anyone attempting to read an explanation would very early on lose the will to live.

Not everything is mercifully as complex and confusing as land regulations. Take politics, for example. Hang on, what am I saying? Not confusing. Well, some of it probably gets over-confused and over-explained. Is it really necessary, for instance, to have to refer to PSOE as the socialist party? It's not as if PSOE is a recent phenomenon; it's been going since the middle of the nineteenth century.

But it's when one gets down to all the various parties, groupings and combinations that some explanation is perhaps necessary. Can one, for example, just refer to Més and say no more? Perhaps so, and in some ways it's best not to say anything more because the explanation involves trying to get across what it means by nationalism. And this creates its own issue. Més is a nationalist party, which sounds right-wing but isn't where Més is concerned; it's the opposite.

If it were the case that every plan, political party or whatever required explanation, you would never get to the story which is being reported. But perhaps this is how they like it - the various administrations and parties. Transparency is supposedly a mantra these days, but opacity rules. Anyone want to know what a PORN actually entails? You'll be sorry you ever asked.

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