A kiss for Bel Busquets from Biel Barceló; Busquets is due to succeed him as vice-president.

14-12-2017Joan Torres

Naive Barceló
Last week's news was dominated by the now ex-vice president and tourism minister, Biel Barceló. When the news broke of his free trip to the Dominican Republic, he sought to justify it by insisting that he had gone in a private capacity. He had been invited because an edition of the sports programme, to which he has been a contributor over the years, was to be filmed there, even if he wasn't to feature.

It rapidly became clear that he was in deep trouble. The Globalia group of Air Europa and Be Live Hotels had in effect paid for him to go and to stay. Any chance of there being a period of reflection over the affair was to be impossible. He had to go, and if he hadn't gone, then Podemos would have forced the issue. He insisted that he took the decision to resign. This may have been the case, but he would have surely been left in doubt as to his course of action by President Armengol and by his party, Mes.

It was, we concluded, evidence of unforgivable misjudgment on Barceló's behalf. A cry of corruption was an overstatement. "Naive, stupid, ill-considered"; his credibility had been shot to pieces.


Corruption closure
Corruption in the true sense was drawing to a conclusion in a coincidental way. There was closure on the infamous "caso Andratx", the corruption case that blew up at the end of 2006 when the mayor of Andratx, Eugenio Hidalgo, was arrested because of illegal planning permissions.

The "caso Andratx" was to have an unforeseen impact. In essence, it was the trigger for many of the corruption investigations that were to follow. The last trial related to the case was on Monday, the same day that Maria Antonia Munar appeared in court for the final time. The one-time president of the Council of Majorca faces no further sentencing on top of the fourteen years to which she has been condemned.


Rentals places and fines
The Council of Majorca's land department is responsible for the zoning decisions that will determine where additional holiday rentals places (beds) can be. The relevant councillor, Mercedes Garrido, revealed that only 30,000 of a total availability of 43,000 places will be for rentals. Hotels will get the lion's share of the remainder.

It was always going to be the case that not all of these places would be for rentals, but the number was something of a surprise. Meanwhile, the process for determining the zones had become, in our view, a case of "colossal complication"; rather like the rentals legislation, therefore.

Biel Barceló's final act in parliament was to announce that Airbnb and TripAdvisor will face urgent proceedings for violating the rentals law. Perhaps he had been attempting to deflect attention by making this statement. Even if the government does impose hefty fines, there will almost certainly be a legal challenge.


Questionable research
Barceló's other ministerial responsibility - innovation and research - has barely been mentioned since his departure. Prior to the affair blowing up in his face, there was news of the creation of the Balearic Islands Research Institute, which will benefit from 300,000 euros of tourist tax revenue.

We were somewhat sceptical as to what this institute might achieve. The lowest amount of public funding for research by Spain's regions is made by the Balearic government. If there is to be genuine commitment to innovation and technology in order to effect economic diversification, there needs to be much heftier public spending.


In other news, Chris Froome, in Alcudia for training with Team Sky, attracted a great deal of media attention for the wrong reasons; the Binissalem snail, "Tomeu", was finally not selected for a genome sequencing project into left-handed genetics; and two Senegalese nightclub bouncers in Arenal rescued a man from a very cold sea. Quite why the man had ever gone into the sea (it was at night) was unexplained.

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