By Staff Reporter

THE leader of the Socialist Party in the Balearics and former leader of the local government, Francesc Antich, yesterday voiced “regret” that the new right-wing local government, have announced their intention to scrap the eco-tax, otherwise known as the “Tourist tax”, without being able to present any “serious alternatives”. According to Antich, whose government introduced the controversial levy, this will mean that as of now, the government will not be able to invest 50 million euros a year in environmental improvement and tourist infrastructure. He said: “we were expecting something more responsible” from the new Executive, which, two days ago formally confirmed their intention to terminate the eco-tax during a meeting which was held between government officials and senior representatives from the tourist industry in the Balearics. Eliminating this tax “means the loss of an opportunity of selling excellence and a distinctive tourist product of quality”, criticised the ex President of the Islands' government. He was of the opinion that the scrapping of the eco-tax meant one “step further” towards “another negative era” for the Balearics, referring to increased construction and mass tourism moving ahead unchecked to the detriment of the environment.

The policy of the new government, continued Antich, is directed towards “more motorways, more desalination plants and more concrete buildings”. The loss of income previously generated by the tax will mean less spending on environmental management, or on care of the Balearics' national heritage or on improvement of tourist infrastructure. Regarding the new government proposal to create an Environmental Investment Fund, Antich retorted that one already exists in the form of the eco-tax, but now, given that the tax is to be removed, the question is from where will the Partido Popular raise the finances? The idea of obtaining funds from the State or the European Union are too “generalised” insisted the opposition leader, who again asked “where will the new government get the money from?” Although the Partido Popular has maintained over the past few years that they share the “philosophy” behind the eco-tax, Antich said “we see no evidence of that”, because “there are no concrete or seriously thought-out alternatives”. Antich confirmed that his party “wouldn't go back” on the introduction of the tax that has been legislation since 1 May, 2002. He felt strongly that environment “improvements” and issues of touristic and cultural heritage “shouldn't be subject” to the prevailing economic climate. He appeared convinced that “the problem with this country is that on too many occasions, it seeks refuge in short-term solutions as opposed to longer term restructuring”. Furthermore, he pointed to the fact that complaints from clients about paying the tax have been “minimal”. The secretary general of the Balearic socialists gave a Press conference yesterday morning to speak publicly about the repeal of the eco-tax. He was supported at the conference by Celestí Alomar the ex Minister for Tourism in the Balearics. Alomar drew attention to the fact that by law, the body most qualified to deal with matters concerning the tourist industry, is the Advisory Board for Tourism. If the new government doesn't like the “set-up” of this organisation, then “they should change” the current legislation. Alomar also pointed out, that with the exception of Germany, the number of visitors from principal client countries has risen since the introduction of the eco-tax. The United Left/Green Party coalition also voiced a similar opinion on this issue at the press conference given by Opposition government officials Miquel Rosselló, Margalida Rosselló and Miquel Ramón.