Dear Sir,
I have been reading reports in your paper about traffic congestion and until I had to drive to Portals Nous yesterday, I did not realise how little knowledge people seem to have when driving.

Does anyone know why we have three lanes on a motorway? Well, you would not think so, I am just driving past the airport where the motorway changes to three lanes, but for some reason the middle lane is full with people going slower than the inside or the outside lane.

Why on earth do not the people in the middle who want to remain at 50kph move over and let the people who want to use the three lane motorway for the purpose it was built.

Yours Sincerely,

Steven Brown. Manacor.(by email)

“We tourists too are horrified...”

Dear Sir,
Thank you to your correspondent C. Sebastian, Santa Ponsa (letters, Thursday), for some good common sense regarding tourists and the island of Majorca.

I like to think of our family as some of the “lovely tourists who respect the island and its people”, and like many residents, we tourists too are horrified to see the concrete jungles that have been built on some parts of the island and that still planning permission is given for even more of these ugly places.

Unfortunately it's these concrete jungles that draw the kind of tourists you would really prefer not to have. Why on earth would any sane person want to holiday in these areas, where all you can see are man made structures (often badly constructed) and all you can smell are hamburgers. The only happy hours seem to be the ones in the bars - but that's another problem.

We've noticed Majorcans like to build great restaurants in inaccessible and often remote places, where the food is great and the views unbelievable while a cool breeze keeps the temperatures down. No wonder the tourists get herded into the concrete ghettos with palm trees - you chaps want to keep the good stuff for yourselves. I'd mention some restaurant names but we too have our favourite places! But there are “good” tourists and we come back to island year after year and we encourage our children to bring their families here on holiday too - in spite of the rising prices and the strikes last year and the airport from hell. Simply because we do love the island.

Like the residents many of us only want the best of Majorca and also the best for Majorca.

Christine Morris. Manchester. England

Retraining unemployed builders to collect the eco tax

Dear Sir, Majorca is shortly to start a building freeze. A great idea. From where I sit I can see twenty-three cranes scarring the horizon.
The workers are busily using up the permits issued before the freeze starts.
This said, does anybody have an answer as to what these hundreds, or is it thousands, of people are to do for work when this happens?
Are they to be asked to leave quietly to the mainland or wherever they come from, or could they be re-trained to work in our blossoming tourist industry - perhaps collecting the eco tax?

The joke will be on us, those who live here, if those in charge do not address this issue. I doubt it will just go away.

Yours sincerely,

Shaun Bottle. Son Ferrer

Spain is Hell, say Immigrants...

Dear Sirs,
Immigrants to Spain from third world countries such as Cuba are not the only ones “left hanging in the air ” by Spain's bureaucrats Tomas Bárbulo, El Pais, Feb. 27th, 2002.

Most bureaucrats are simply slow, but some of Spain's “funcionarios” go further.
My Spanish lawyer recently lodged an appeal over import duties imposed by the Aduana (Customs and Excise) in Majorca on my German car when I moved here. He also appealed import duties embargoed from my bank account, but on my (non-resident) father's boat. A fine was added because I refused to pay taxes on someone else's property. Moving to Spain has cost me, a European citizen, three million pesetas (18'000 euros) in import duties. Bureaucrats in the Aduana de Mallorca, however, refuse to answer the appeal made by my lawyer. Just what do these bureaucrats have to hide? Why should bureaucrats care to exceed their mandate and impose taxes arbitrarily if they themselves are not somehow benefitting themselves? Are they on a “profit sharing” deal?

Or is it simply a lack of professional training and knowledge of administrative skills, pertinent to a democratic society? Is the whole institution in a state of chaos? Surely it cannot be individual or, worse still, institutionalised xenophobia? Does the Palma Aduana also refuse to answer appeals from Spanish citizens? I am sure their refusal to grant the citizen his right to a legal appeal procedure did not start with me. Law in a democracy must follow procedure with the right of appeal. The Aduana deny all this. How many years has it been going on? Does the Jefe of the Aduana know of this violation of Spanish law committed by his administrators? Does central Government condone their conduct or are they still ignorant of it?

Are these considerable funds extorted from European residents actually registered in any formal accounts sent to Madrid? Or is the money going to some slush fund for local politicians and bureaucrats? Why does the Mallorca MEP, Carlos Ripoll, refuse to help European residents? Does he know something about the destination of these funds? All possibilities come to mind when a local Spanish Government office refuses to follow not only European but also Spanish law. Obviously, this is no way for a young democratic country, a member of the European Community, to aspire to the heights of a non-corrupt, objective and professional civil service.

The King, in his recent Christmas Address, requested citizens to be vigilant when dealing with Spanish public offices. In the absence of any response to our appeal from the Aduana, my lawyer has now appealed to the “Defensor del Pueblo”. This is a Spanish, post-Franco institution, formed to ensure that her bureaucrats no longer act above the law. Let's see.

Letter by Dr. G. Bonsall published in El Pais.

Yours truly

Dr. G. Bonsall. Port d'Alcudia

Coach strike woes
We have all seen the figures and the bottom line is that we are facing a slowdown in tourism. If the tour firms are reducing their programmes basically it means that we are facing an important reduction in tourism. Things may pick up but the tour operators have made it clear they do not expect the market to perform as it has done so over the last two or three years. Now, I think there are many reasons for explaining this state of affairs, but no-one here mentions last summer's awful coach strike. And it was awful. Every letter we have received this month from readers regarding tourism mentions the weekend summer strike which hit 350'000 tourists. Even though the coach drivers were to blame the local government acted too little, too late. Things at Palma airport could have been much better if a contingency plan had been introduced. The British and German media were also there in force. If you want to see the coverage the strike received in Britain just put Majorca into the BBC's website. People may say that everyone is accustomed to industrial action but not when you are on holiday.

If the Balearic government wants to know why tourism is dipping perhaps they should go back to early July 2001. Strikes like that should never happen and unfortunately the Balearics are paying the consequences. I get the impression that the strike is an even bigger issue than the tourist tax for many holidaymakers. Coach drivers are threatening more industrial action this year but this time the government must intervene and make sure an agreement is reached at the negotiating table.

Jason Moore

Kyoto lite

It is hopeful sign that President Bush is turning his attention again to domestic issues that were understandably put on hold on September 11. On Thursday he gave his answer to the critics of his arbitrary rejection last March of the Kyoto Protocol for halting the growth of the so–called greenhouse gases that cause global warming. A year ago Mr Bush sounded as if he didn't believe global warming existed, or was a problem; now, apparently, he recognises that it's there and something needs to be done about it – but his solution goes no further than offering tax–breaks to industries and utilities which instal equipment that cuts down the offending carbon dioxide emissions. Under this scheme no one would be required to do anything by law and it is a safe bet that the industries which are the worst offenders are likely to be those which will do least.

The danger in this approach is that, since the United States produces 25 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases, some other countries – China and Russia perhaps – will think it not worth adhering to the tough reductions required by the Kyoto Protocol. If this were to happen the hard–won commitment of all the other industrialised nations might begin to unravel. Although most environmentalists were critical of President Bush's proposals some reactions were more positive, seeing them as a recognition by the United States that a problem does exist and, even, as a sign that in time Washington might see the wisdom of joining the rest of the world in tackling it.



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