It’s being said that you have to go back some seven to eight years since there was last such a stand by business against the Balearic government.
In September 2013, only a few days before the largest protest ever held in Majorca - the one against the TIL trilingual educational policy - José Ramón Bauzá backed down from a quarrel that he least needed. He was losing much of general society as it was, and not just teachers, so he could ill afford to be at loggerheads with the Partido Popular’s key business constituency as well. It was important to have seen how the tourism season evolved, said Bauzá, who had postponed the introduction of so-called green taxes. To have brought them in in the middle of the season wouldn’t have been the “most appropriate” thing to have done.
Buoyed by a better season and signs of post-financial crisis economic improvement, the president announced in September 2013 that the taxes were being withdrawn. These had been aimed at hire cars, packaging and large retailers. They had been presented as green taxes when they were really simply an attempt at increasing tax revenue. The government finances had got into such a mess over the course of the crisis that by 2013, for example, the debt had risen enormously. This was because of Spanish government bailouts and is a key reason why the current debt is so high.
Economic improvement was spin. Bauzá had bowed to pressure from business, but this had been only from a sector of business, such as the retailer associations. Business did take a big and united stand against the Bauzá government, but it has now taken a much bigger one against the Armengol government. The smaller retailer associations, Afedeco and Pimeco, are but two. There are many others - the Confederation of Balearic Business Associations (CAEB), the Pimem federation of small to medium-sized businesses, the Balearic Transport Federation, the Majorca Hoteliers Federation, the Association of Hotel Chains, the Asima association of industrial estates, the CAEB restaurants association, the Anged national association of large retailers, the Balearic association of real estate services, the Pimem restaurants association.
The Balearic association of building materials businesses, the Asodib association of supermarkets and distributors, the Aviba association of travel agencies, the ETV federation of holiday rentals, the association of children’s playgrounds, the association of construction materials industries, the Aseda national association of supermarkets and distributors, the union of the self-employed in the Balearics, the Simebal doctors union, the Abone association of nightlife businesses, the Habtur association of holiday rentals, the Fomento del Turismo de Mallorca (the Majorca Tourist Board) ... . The list goes on.
A letter signed by all these associations was sent to President Armengol and was made public on Friday. It starts by acknowledging the difficulties facing political leaders, but the tone changes quickly. “We started badly and we got worse.” There is insistence on an efficient vaccination plan that will see up to 70% of the population vaccinated by June. Only with this sort of percentage, “can we look to the future with relative optimism”. “If you are willing to commit to this plan, we will be by your side.”
The letter goes on to turn the knife, and in this regard isn’t solely directed at the government. The associations call for a “grand pact” of political forces, but they clearly doubt that this is possible. “Are the government and opposition not aware of the chaos from which we will not emerge for many years? Do you really believe that by going to parliament every Tuesday to trade insults you are covering the bases? Do you really think that you elevate politics when you turn your adversaries into enemies?”
There are harsher words still. “There is no doubt that there are two worlds - the political world and the rest of society; the politician who has not lost any perks over the last twelve months and the rest of the population who are immersed in absolute chaos. Think that behind each company closure there are people, there are families, there are employees. We are not only talking about figures but also souls who in many cases no longer even have enough to eat.”
The stand now being taken by business is of a completely different order to that in 2013. Apart from the fact that it is all-encompassing, it is representative of society’s views in a way that objecting to green taxes wasn’t and could never have been. Particularly damning is the reference to politician pay, while the inability to establish political accord, or even seek to establish it, speaks to the degree to which the islands’ politicians are divorced from everyone else. They are good for no more than trading insults. None, therefore, escape censure, but the chief targets are the president and the government.
Bauzá had lost much of society by September 2013. February 2021 and the same can be said for Armengol.