Staff Reporter
THE Balearic Parliament approved the budget for 2004 yesterday, It totals 1'859.18 million euros, an increase of 3.5 percent.
Approval came after a three day debate in which 11 partial amendments, petitioned by the Opposition, were made.
The budget was approved by the votes of the Popular Party and Majorcan Union; and the Opposition comprising the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, the Majorcan Socialist Party (PSM) and the United Left/Green Party. The Balearic Health Service, Ib-Salut, will be allocated 646 million euros, and a similar, but specifically Majorcan health body (Gesma) another 28.07 million. Voting by the different parties was carried out according to islands. The process provoked protests from the Opposition, and Pere Sampol, spokesmen for the PSM, asked that the votes of Ibiza and Formentera be considered jointly. The request was rejected by Speaker Pere Rotger. In yesterday's session, two final debates were held to finalise the budget approval. The Opposition had protested about the budget of the Ministry of the President's Office and Sports department, headed up by Rosa Puig. She defended her allocation of 94 million euros which, she claimed, will allow important steps to be taken in helping the handicapped, protecting the under-aged and promoting sports. She quoted the budget of 23.8 million euros, approved for the Balearic Institute of Social Affairs (IBAS) who will be working on policy related to the handicapped. For the first time in the Balearic region, a plan has been established for the setting up and networking of nurseries for very young children who have working parents. Family subsidies were to be increased by 156 percent. The United Left/Green Party spokesman, Miquel Rosselló, indicated that these budgets show that the old debate on whether or not there is a need for a Ministry of Social Welfare just doesn't make sense, because the department of the President's office “changes the name” of the old ministry but keeps “the structure intact”. Rosselló added that in 2004, with the items which he perceived were set out for this Ministry, “there will be no substantial advancement” in relation to social policies over and above those set out in the previous legislature. There was also criticism that the budget doesn't embrace the “large investments” announced by the Balearic government in terms of spending on social services. Whilst rejecting Opposition condemnation of the budget, PP deputy, Miquel Munar, highlighted the need for all parties to agree on a programme to tackle problems that immigration will bring with it over the next ten years.

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