The population in the Balearics is growing seven times faster than the rest of Spain and, by the year 2044, there will be over one-and-a-half million people living in the islands. Official figures corresponding to population growth in the Balearics between 1991 and 1998 suggest that the population will double over the next 44 years. Leading academic at the University of Barcelona, Jordi Maluquer, explained yesterday that it will take mainland Spain some 500 years to catch up with population growth in the Balearics. Maluquer, trying to emphasis the enormity of the situation in the Balearics, admitted that while growth figures are in the thousands, no one is talking about a population boom, but he pointed out that, in the context of 700'000 people, a rise of 40'000 is a significant increase. Maluquer's colleague at the Balearic University, Carles Manera, who last week addressed the local parliament about the situation, says that by the year 2044 there could be more than 1.5 million people in the Balearics, which by then would have been honkongised. Manera says that the fact the Balearics can double its population in 44 while the mainland needs 500 years is very significant. The director general for the Economy, Antoni Monserrat, fears that the honkongisation of the Balearics could happen as soon as 2013 and he is asking Brussels for more economic aid in order for the region to cope with the massive population growth. While historically population growth has been fuelled by people moving to the island for relaxation and recreation, it is the economic growth and demand for workers from abroad which is driving the population boom. Monserrat forecasts that within the next 20 years, 560'000 new jobs will be created which in turn means that some 400'000 people from outside the Balearics will be needed. One of the biggest victims of population growth is the environment and natural resources, which some say is already under threat at the hands of the tourist industry.