THE new leader of the Balearic government, Jaume Matas, gave a keynote speech this week to celebrate his 100 days in office. It was a rousing affair and the party faithful were impressed. (Matas received a standing ovation but stop-watches have not been introduced into Spanish politics as yet so I can't tell you if it lasted for three or four minutes or even six. Perhaps next year?) What struck me about the speech was that Matas was looking back not forwards. One hundreds days is not a milestone, it is not even a start. He claimed that it was the dawn of a new era and that things were changing for the better after four years of depression under the last administration led by Francesc Antich. Depression? Well, I know that the so-called rainbow coalition certainly had their faults but I wouldn't say that I was depressed during their four years in office and I don't think the islands were depressed either. There was certainly a downturn in tourism but I don't think the so-called depression reached the BMW or Mercedes dealers on the island or that the property boom came to a halt. I would say that there was a new air of optimism when Matas came to power but that has since melted in the long hot summer and we are still waiting for the government to get into gear. Plenty has been promised but Jim will fixit Matas has still not delivered and the tourist tax is still in force. It will finally be scrapped at the end of this month six months after he came to power. So what has he achieved in 100 days? Not a lot. Plenty of promises but few actual policies. I also doubt that much is going to be achieved over the next 100 or even 200 days either because the Balearics is gearing up for the general election campaign. Former Balearic President and now leader of the opposition Francesc Antich has been offered the opportunity of becoming an MP for the opposition socialists and the word on the street is that Sr. Matas could return to Madrid as a Minister if Mariano Rajoy (the man who will lead the Partido Popular into the next elections as replacement for PM Jose Maria Aznar) is elected. As we know Matas served as Minister for the Environment and his landslide victory in the Balearics has won him plenty of points with the party. What we do have is a stable government with a majority which is good. But Matas (if he's still here) must use this majority to push through legislation to transform the tourist industry which has been in decline for many years. Visitors numbers have risen but our principal industry has fundamental problems. More all-inclusive hotels will mean fewer bars and restaurants and more unemployment. The leading tour operators say that the industry is changing and Matas and his team need to embrace these changes and look to the future. The days of the package holiday, the bread and butter of these islands, are coming to an end. The summer season gets shorter every year.
Now is not the time for celebration, now is the time for hard work and dedication and plenty of forward thinking. These islands are in the same state as they were 365 days ago. Put the champagne on ice Mr. Matas and let's celebrate when things are changing for the better and the Balearics is once again at the forefront of the tourist industry.