Staff reporter
THE so-called “shadow tax” or “hidden toll” is a system of financing highway development, currently being studied by the Council of Majorca.
Its aim is to secure advantageous methods of financing key roadway projects which are targeted for completion during its present term of office.
The system involves awarding a contract to the same company, not only for the physical construction of the roadway, but also for its maintenance during a pre-determined number of years, as though it were a concession. The works wouldn't result in costs for the ruling Island Council, but in exchange, they would have to pay an annual levy according to the number of vehicles that used the highway system on a daily basis. As such, it would be the Council of Majorca, and not the citizens of the Island who use the roadways on a daily basis, who would pay the tax, explained Antoni Pascual, the Council's Public Works deputy. The Council has already begun to negotiate this means of financing for one of its key projects, the widening of the Palma to Manacor highway. The cost of carrying out these works is in the region of 90 million euros and if negotiations go ahead, the direct consequence is that the Council of Majorca, led by María Antonia Munar, will not have to part with a single euro until the works are finished and vehicles have started to use the refurbished roadway. With absolute priority to be given to the widening of the Palma to Manacor road, the original intention of Antoni Pascual had been to award a contract for carrying out the section of the works as far as Montuïri at the beginning of the coming year. Nevertheless, if the negotiations prove fruitful and the financing plan goes ahead, the councillor would wish to award the entire project to the elected company, including the section between Montuïri and Manacor. The cost of the widening of the Palma to Manacor highway, which will be the first of its kind on Majorca, has already been incorporated in the budgets for the Council of Majorca's highways department for next year. Nevertheless, the amount allocated is insufficient given the enormity of the project. In any event, if the negotiations and the work studies that the Council is carrying out come to fruition, the budgetary funds originally set aside for the Manacor highway could be destined to other roadwork development which the Island Council has on its list. If the scheme is secured as a method of financing, it could possibly be applied to other priority roadway projects.
Antoni Pascual, nevertheless, recognised that this type of financial operation is only usual in cases of projects of great magnitude which are tailored to high volume traffic loads. If the financing scheme doesn't materialise, Pascual acknowledged that the Council of Majorca will have to tone down its ambitious objectives and, as a start, only award the section of the highway as far as Montuïri. In order to address these works, the Council would use its own budget as well as 42 million euros due to it from the highway agreement recently reached between the Balearic minister of public works, Mabel Cabrer, and the councillor for the equivalent department in the Council of Majorca, Antoni Pascual. The budget for the Public Works department of the Council of Majorca for 2004, is 57.4 million euros. The amount is insufficient to cover all the costs that the Council will need to expend on its list of highway projects. Nevertheless, not all of this amount will be destined to roadworks. Of the 57.4 million, 9 million need to be set aside for a fire station and 522'968 euros for the Technical Services department. Of the total quantity (44.5 million euros) that the Council of Majorca will allocate to roadways, not all will be invested directly. According to estimates made by the Council's economic department, investments in highways during next year will reach 29.6 million euros, an amount with which it would be impossible to complete the total list of projects in this sector.

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