The rate of Balearic economic growth fell for the third consecutive year in 2001 and there are serious concerns about the economic outlook for this year. Pointing the finger at poor management by the current left-wing coalition government, the opposition Partido Popular yesterday announced that its primary aim of the first legislature of this year will be to devise and table a series of alternative solutions to the Balearics' economic problems. The Partido Popular's parliamentary spokesperson in the Balearics, the former Minister for Tourism, José María González Ortea, warned yesterday that the economic situation is “alarming” adding that the PP will adopt a positive approach as parliament resumes and try to help solve the problems. However, González Ortea was severly critical of Balearic President Francesc Antich's economic policy and development. Last November, unemployment in the region rose by 57 per cent, the number of mortgages being taken out fell for the first time since 1995, the Balearics finished last year with the largest autonomous government debt in Spain and Gross National Output grew by just 2.2 per cent, with the forecast for this year being 1.5 per cent. The situation, González Ortea says, has reached such an extent that Antich should cut the spin and stop trying to con the general public. González Ortea also drew attention to the damage the coalition government has done to the tourist industry. The authority's approach to tourism over the past few seasons, has resulted in a drop in tourism, holidaymakers spending less time in the region and a drop in profit. But apart from the decline in figures says González Ortea, the government has to shoulder a large portion of the blame for the problems tearing the Balearic tourism industry apart behind the scenes. “Never in the history of the Balearic government has there been such a rift between the government, those responsible for tourism policy and the tourist sector,” he said. González Ortea said that all the indications, in particular the government's economic and tourism policies, are “warning signs” and many business sectors are worried about the immediate future. He singled out the construction industry which, in the face of a sharp drop in activity, is not being given any help by the government. “All these problems have been caused by the government here,” Ortea said “not by central government in Madrid nor by Brussels, which is why it is here in Palma, the solutions have to be found,” he said. “Antich is leading the Balearics in to a cul-de-sac with no way out,” Gonzalez Ortea warned yesterday.

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