Friday, November 24, 2017

What Podemos Really Want - Tourism

Just think about it for a moment. A political party which is not actually in government insists that there should be a "political audit" of a ministry and that this particular party should take part in this audit.

A government should accede to processes of transparency but it should do so without demands and threats being made. This is what Podemos are doing. They have stepped back from voting with the PP and others in censuring the tourism minister, Biel Barceló, but are instead now wanting to control his ministry. Given the issues that have arisen at the ministry, the principle of auditing isn't in itself wrong, but the manner in which it is going to be done is.

Leaving aside allegations of suspicious practices at the ministry, Barceló - as we know - has presided over key items of legislation and of ongoing policy. We knew at the start of the current administration that there would be a tourist tax and that holiday rentals would be subject to new regulation. What we didn't know was the detail. We need to ask ourselves how much both policies have been determined not by Barceló but by Podemos. And the questions are germane. If voting were to go in a certain way in 2019, the current pact could be returned. Podemos, under the new general secretary, Mae de la Concha, have said that they will enter the government. If they were to, a prize - the prize - would be tourism.

Barceló has hinted that there may no longer be the need for a tourism minister or ministry because of the transfer of responsibilities to the island councils. Even if this were to be the case, there would still be a brief, and in the hands of Podemos, I would suggest that tourism in Mallorca and the Balearics would be open to great damage being caused. And if tourism at the island councils were to likewise become Podemos fiefdoms, the grip would be tightened further.

Consider the progress of legislation and policy. Did Barceló himself want to double the tourist tax? His statements suggested that at one time he was undecided as to whether there should have been any increase let alone a doubling. Podemos entered the equation in a forceful manner. Their agreement for the 2018 budget rested with an alteration to the rate of the tax - an upward alteration, a doubling.

With the rentals legislation, it was Podemos who initially blocked it. They did so because of an insistence on including the clause about emergency housing. This can in effect mean that bans on rentals can be enforced on the pretext of there being a crisis in the availability of regular rented accommodation. Palma and Ibiza Town have been specified in this regard, but that doesn't mean that this provision couldn't be applied elsewhere.

The Podemos attitude towards tourism and to its components has been made clear enough in the past. The party's parliamentary spokesperson, Alberto Jarabo, once referred to Balearic hoteliers as "ventriloquists in the shadows". The chief Podemos tourism thinker is a chap called Eric Labuske. His vision for tourism entails a fifteen-year strategic plan that would incorporate "social, cultural and environmental values", however these might be defined.

With the political audit, Podemos would assume virtual ministerial powers. Following the next election, these may no longer be virtual.

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