In 1953, a Spanish film was entered into the Cannes Film Festival. It won the award for ‘good humour’. The film is considered to be a masterpiece of Spanish cinema, an accolade which is especially noteworthy given when it was made.
The comedy plot of the film centred on preparations in a village which all came to nought when a motorcade passed straight through it. In the vehicles were Americans, and the villagers’ welcoming preparations had been in hope of being beneficiaries of American aid.
The film was entitled ‘Bienvenido, Mister Marshall’ (Welcome, Mister Marshall) after the Marshall Plan. (Spain belatedly received US aid, albeit this wasn’t part of the Marshall Plan.)
This title passed into general usage. Essentially, it conveys a warning against being deluded where investment is concerned, and Welcome, Mister Marshall has been raised in respect of the European funds expected to flow into the Balearics and bring about economic reconstruction.
This reconstruction demanded a rearrangement of the cabinet.
European funds have assumed a centrality that they hadn’t previously. They were tucked away in a safe in the bowels of the finance ministry.
They are now a ministry not quite of their own because, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, they have been lumped in with university and culture. Still, European funds command a place around the cabinet table, and the funds manager, the minister, is Miquel Company.
The minister has been asked if there isn’t a risk of a Euro funds Welcome, Mister Marshall.
Everything appears to rely on them. Are we deluding ourselves? Not so, says the minister, whose response would appear to indicate that villages in Mallorca and elsewhere in the Balearics will not need to prepare their 2021-correct versions of 1953, replete with ball de bot (rather than flamenco, as was the case in the film), sobrassada delicacies and groups of schoolchildren reciting folk tales in Catalan.
Euro benefactors will not be sweeping through villages in their motorcades, as - for one reason - the Balearics will not be betting everything on their funds.
As befits a minister new to his post, and especially a post that promises great riches, Miquel Company has been doing the rounds of interviews. In one, he explained that while Euro funds are essential, there will also be a restructuring of the government’s existing funds, those spent by other ministries. “We will all have to do our bit in order to overcome this situation (the crisis) and think about the new, more sustainable, efficient and digital era.”
What does this mean? Are other ministries to be deprived? Seemingly not, but they will need to align spending in accordance with the grand projects for which Euro funds will pay.
The Balearics already have plans to spend 5,000 million euros on these projects, all of which will need to be analysed and prioritised. There are problems to be addressed, notes the minister, such as those to do with transport, energy, housing, water ... . Ultimately, because the EU is insisting on this, projects have to meet criteria for green and digital transformation.
As noted in yesterday’s article, these objectives are shared by the Balearic and Spanish governments as well as by representatives of big business, which - it is hoped - will be pitching in with its own funds as well. In principle, therefore, all seems in good order to facilitate the flow of funds.
There is, however, one potential snag, and that is because there are seventeen regions plus the north African cities all wanting their share of the Euro funds jackpot. To name but one project in one region, there is the Basque Country’s vision of a ‘corridor of hydrogen’, backed by an impressive array of businesses and which wouldn’t say no to 1,300 million of Euro funds.
In theory, there should be enough of this Euro Next Generation kind-of-Marshall Plan to suit the needs of all regions and the Spanish government, but if there is any suspicion that the Balearics might be left welcoming Mister Marshall, the wheels are already well and truly in motion in ensuring not.
As an example of this, President Armengol told the European Parliament’s regional development committee on Wednesday that regions most badly affected by the pandemic should get priority.
That means that the Balearics should get priority.
Nothing has yet been decided and nothing will be decided until Brussels has signed off on the Spanish plan for investing the Euro funds. It is here where some doubts creep in.
Mindful though the Spanish government will be of regions’ ambitions for splashing the Euro cash, a Balearic view is that Madrid does have a tendency to skimp somewhat when it comes to generosity for the islands.
Miquel Company is confident that this will not be the case and that Madrid will be sensitive to the “Balearic reality”. One trusts that his confidence will not be misplaced. He won’t wish to be welcomed as Mister Marshall.