Friday, March 31, 2017

The Contracts Of A Pact

Pact. The Spanish media refer to the pact ("pacto" in Castellano) as a convenient shorthand. It overcomes the constant need to explain that the Balearics is governed by two parties which are in government and one which isn't. It's an odd pact. One of convenience, which is just as conveniently labelled a pact.

There have been previous pacts. They have comprised fully paid-up governmental political parties. The pact before the current one fell apart. There was a de-pact impact. The remaining members of that pact, once the Unió Mallorquina (UM) was booted into corrupt touch, were PSOE and the Bloc, which itself was a pact. Its prime constituent was the PSM, i.e. Mallorcan socialists. They are now the main force behind Més, a further pact within a pact. Confused? It's hardly surprising.

The high ground, morally and politically, was occupied by the pact survivors. They surveyed the wreckage of the de-pact. It had mostly been inflicted on the tourism ministry, from which a succession of UM ministers were removed (two of them are inside). The Bloc part of the two-thirds pact was gifted former UM terrain. Not tourism but environment. Such was the continuity of pact policies that the PSM overturned certain UM decisions. It was evident that the pact had not been singing from the same environmental hymn sheet.

Pact members essentially have their own domains. This is how they are kept sweet (hopefully). They pursue their individual agendas and then, under the collective harmony of consensus and dialogue, seek to inflict them on the others. The current pact has, as a consequence, had numerous conflicts hastily renamed consensus and dialogue. Podemos has caused nearly all of them. These, though, have been policy conflicts. There is a further dimension. Crisis.

The local media love a crisis as much as a pact. Podemos has seemingly survived the crisis brought about by the now former speaker of parliament Xelo Huertas. The need has arisen, therefore, for a new crisis. We have one - Més. And for old time's sake the tourism ministry isn't a million miles away from it.

This, one should stress, is not a crisis of UM magnitude. We are not talking thievery. It is a crisis that is above board but one which nevertheless falls under a category marked "fishy". In local terms it is also labelled "a dedo" - handpicked.

To try and summarise, the Més crisis has to do with contracts awarded by Més politicians, to the fore of whom is Biel Barceló. The tourism minister (also innovation and research and government vice-president) has an old chum called Jaume Garau. His company ran the Més election campaign. It has been revealed that this same company has been awarded half a dozen contracts valued at a little over 150,000 euros. They include one for studying tourism satisfaction (cost 21,500) handed out by another old chum of Barceló's, the director of the Balearic Tourism Agency, Pere Muñoz.

The largest one (over 55,000 euros) was for a study of Balearic business fabric. It was awarded by the vice-presidency. Others - all for 21,500 euros - have been for the environment ministry (Vicenç Vidal, Més), a deputy mayor of Palma (Antoni Noguera, Més), and two for the transparency and culture ministry (Ruth Mateu, Més). With the exception of the study of the business fabric, they all apparently fall under a system of awarding small contracts which don't have to be advertised or put out to tender. The contract amounts, which are all the same, do appear to comply with a value that doesn't require a tender. In fact, Barceló has explained that all of the contracts were offered to other companies. He admits, though, that it "doesn't look good".

The Partido Popular, for one, agrees that it doesn't look good. Barceló has reminded the PP that under President Bauzá, Gaura was also awarded contracts (total value slightly higher than the six Més contracts). The PP accepts this but points out there was no possible conflict of interest. And it is the relationship between Barceló and Garau which goes to the heart of the "crisis". In a nutshell, he's being accused of favouring his mate.

The government, meanwhile, is requesting information from the relevant ministries (and presumably also Noguera) about the contracts. It will want to assure itself that they complied with ethics and transparency. This in itself, though, sounds a little odd. Barceló is, after all, the vice-president. Is he to scrutinise himself?

There isn't any suggestion of anything illegal. There is also general agreement among political parties that Garau and his company are highly professional. The issue, though, is one of perception: one of not looking good.

Is it a crisis? Is the pact about to suffer the de-pact impact? Unlikely. But Barceló should know all about contracts with questions attached. He made a habit of asking the PP about its.

Index for March 2017

Baltasar Picornell - 5 March 2017, 19 March 2017
Bauzá versus Company - 26 March 2017
Brexit and British holidaymakers - 17 March 2017
Children's football match violence - 23 March 2017
Competitiveness in the Balearics - 24 March 2017
Corruption investigations - 3 March 2017, 16 March 2017
Count Rossi and Civil War - 8 March 2017
English language - 15 March 2017
Fira del Ram - 13 March 2017
Flights' increase at Palma - 25 March 2017
Holiday compensation claims fraud - 1 March 2017
Hotel prices and tour operators' row - 18 March 2017
Holiday rentals and property - 22 March 2017
Més and contracts - 31 March 2017
Paying for Son Dureta - 2 March 2017
Pop-up hotels - 21 March 2017
Pottery - 6 March 2017
Resort redevelopment - 14 March 2017
Sa Pobla church organ - 27 March 2017
Spring and Mallorca promotion - 20 March 2017
Sustainability and tourism - 9 March 2017
Terraferida and Airbnb rentals - 28 March 2017
Tour operators and hotel prices - 12 March 2017
Tourismphobia - 11 March 2017
Tourist tax - 4 March 2017
Transport policy - 10 March 2017
Trilingual teaching - 7 March 2017
Valtonyc and free speech - 30 March 2017

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