“It has been an important year for Balearics”

It'S been an historical year for the Balearics. So says government leader Francesc Antich, pointing out that the year ends with more money for the islands as well as full responsibility for the national health service and employment.

-What do you think of the year which is coming to a close?
It has been very important for the Balearics because historical steps have been taken. We have a new system of State finance and although it is not the one which we would have preferred it does recognise our grievances over population. We have obtained the transfer of responsibility for health and employment and have raised the level of home rule. We have set up an Economic and Social Council, an Energy Plan and have protected Ses Salines of Ibiza and Formentera. I think we can be content.

-However, in health matters we are still at the bottom of the list when it comes to per capita finance, do you think that is right?
We are not happy with the system of financing the health service, I admit, but I do not want to enter into a war of figures. Every region can give the figures it wants to, while we confine ourselves to giving real information. We know that the central government has not included investments in any region when agreeing on finance, and the Balearics are equal to the national average in investment per person, according to the central health ministry.

-How will people notice the change in the health service on January 1.
The first thing we hope to do is exercise health care from the prinicple of proximity, and this means that we have a much more realistic vision of the problems. We want to get the unions involved, and they already know the first steps our government will take. We intend to get Son Llazer up and running, improve staffing levels, improve casualty wards and solve the problem of waiting lists.

-Does the government plan to introduce the tourist tax in 2002?
Madrid has appealed against the tax at the Constitutional Court and we intend to apply it as soon as possible. It is true that after September 11 there has been uncertainty at an international level, but in principal, judging from the facts we have, next season will be very good. We have not decided to suspend or moderate the tax, which has been suspended by central government decision.

-Is maintaining a good relationship with the opposition a pending matter?
It is pending, and we have tried to solve it on many occasions. There is a willingness to agree on major matters, but it has been difficult to maintain a good relationship.

The Balearic leader also described Maria Antonia Munar, president of the Council of Majorca, as a loyal member of the governing coalition, “although that does not mean that there have been no internal discussions.” And as to his predecessor, Jaume Matas, “I was pleased about his appointment as minister but disappointed at his attitude. He doesn't even want to give water to this Community.”

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