The Balearic parliament had its annual debate about government policy on Tuesday and Wednesday, one of those rare occasions when parliament actually sits for more than one day. It was clearly all too much for the speaker of the house, Vicenç Thomàs, as one photo appeared to show him asleep.
Debate about policy was somewhat misleading, as this was a two-day declaration of the election manifesto on behalf of President Armengol’s PSOE party with a cursory nod in the direction of the two other parties of the coalition, Més and Podemos. It was a manifesto in the sense that it had next May’s election in mind, and so the debate offered the chance for the president to announce the great giveaway budget for 2023. Record spending next year will surpass all the previous record spending that she has presided over. Up by 15%, the coffers will be overflowing, courtesy – as is the case with much Balearic spending – of someone else’s money. Extra cash from the Spanish government and the EU will allow the budget to rise by 700 odd million euros next year.
Slowdown and the “social shield”
We have been introduced to the notion of the “social shield”, which will be paid for by the budget and is intended to protect many citizens, self-employed and businesses from the worst that inflation might cause. Armed with this shield, the minister for tourism (and economic model and employment), Iago Negueurela didn’t seem too perturbed by forecasts of economic slowdown. Everyone else was, but not the minister, pointing as he was to record September employment figures. Yes, but September isn’t January, for sake of argument.
Recession impact on tourism
And looking ahead to next year, worries were being expressed about the impact of likely recession in Germany and the UK on 2023’s tourism season. Antoni Riera, technical director of the Fundació Impulsa for Balearic competitiveness and productivity and guru-like economic figure, observed that “slowdown in the German and British economies is not at all reassuring for the Balearics, since these two markets are vital for the entire tourism industry”. Goodness me. Really? Would never have thought that.
Trains and trams
The presidential and PSOE sort-of-manifesto otherwise brought good news for future passengers on the Palma tram and the Manacor to Arta rail line. The budget will include 30 million euros to get started (restarted) on the latter, while Prime Minister Sánchez was in Palma on Monday to gladly inform us all that there are twenty million euros to get going next year on the tram from Palma centre to the airport.
Although 2026 has been mentioned as the year when the tram will finally become operational, no one can be absolutely certain that it will. The Balearic transport minister, Josep Marí, admitted that Madrid is still negotiating with Brussels over 185 million that are needed.
Tax benefits finally materialise
The prime minister, whose visit the day before the debate in parliament was probably not a coincidence, was also able to announce that, once and for all, there are to be tax benefits under the special economic regime (REB) for the Balearics. Worth around 350 million euros, this announcement took the wind out of the sails of opposition parties who had refused to attend a meeting that President Armengol had called for Monday to discuss the general economic situation. “Photo opportunity, propaganda,” they cried, and one of them – the Partido Popular – later insisted that the REB deal had been all of its making at some time in the past.
Cannibalistic tourism of excess
As the president reeled off a long list of items for budget spending, somewhat lost among all these were ten million euros to buy obsolete hotels and other establishments which, so it was implied, are a cause of “tourism of excess”. In Magalluf, part of which is covered by the tourism of excess decree, there was a reminder that establishments aren’t in themselves necessarily responsible for behaviour deemed to be of excess.
It was believed that a young British female tourist had taken the cannibal drug, which hasn’t been heard about for a few years. She was screaming and making as if to bite people. Police had to hold her down on the ground so that medics could administer tranquilisers. Doormen on Punta Ballena said that the kids were taking “something strange”. One remarked that the girl’s behaviour was “terrifying”. It takes a great deal to terrify a Magalluf doorman, but this did.
Christmas lights and fiesta concerts
Budgets were meanwhile partly on the agenda in Palma. The town hall didn’t say how much this year’s Christmas lights will cost, but it did give a date for the switch-on – November 19, a week earlier than last year. This did perhaps seem slightly odd, given all the need for energy-saving. The town hall has been turning the lights off at, for instance, Bellver Castle, but here it was bringing forward the Christmas lights.
The city’s administration was able to reveal that 430,000 euros are to be spent on the night of concerts in squares during the Sant Sebastià fiestas in January. Here’s hoping that the town hall has rather better luck with these concerts than it has since 2020. Covid did for the party in 2021 and this year, although some 2022 concerts were rescheduled for the spring. In 2020, prior to the pandemic, Storm Gloria coincided with the night of concerts, ripped through Palma and resulted in cancellation.