One of the more controversial aspects of the tourist tax was announced yesterday by the local government as the local farming industry is to receive more than five thousand million euros in grants over the next three years. This money will be used to help crop and livestock farmers. Local minister for tourism, Celesti Alomar, said yesterday: “this is the first time in our history that money from one industry (tourism) has gone to help another (agriculture).” Alomar went on to say that it was an alliance for the future and would make a major difference to the Balearics. Minister for Agriculture Mateu Morro said “farmers are in need of financial help. They are also going to play a key role in the development of these islands. They will also protect the countryside.” But the tourist industry maintains that all money raised through the tax should be ploughed back into the industry by improving resorts and upgrading tourist facilties. Alomar said that the money from the tourist tax would enable farmers to increase the profitability of their businesses. One of the first tasks which will be carried out will be to plant hundreds of fruit, almond, carob and olive trees. For planting each tree farmers will receive a grant of 18 euros. Alomar said that the tourist tax would also be used to finance a more environmentally friendly form of agriculture. The minister for tourism also announced a more ambitous project. He said that a series of farms would be bought in the Campos area and transformed into training centres in an effort to encourage more young people to stay on the land rather than switching to new professions. The local government's vision is that the agricultural industry will become more versatile and prosperous thanks to tourism. For the last 20 years the industry has been in a state of decline with thousands of people leaving to work in the tourist industry. The government's aim is to reverse this state of affairs. Alomar said that he hoped that the agricultural and tourism industries could complement each other. The tourist tax still remains controversial with many awaiting a verdict on its legality. The Balearic government is confident that it will not be ruled illegal. Hoteliers maintain that it is an unfair tax which will reduce their competitive edge.

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