by Staff Reporter
THE announcement of an increase in the discount on inter-island flights to 38 percent made by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in Minorca over the weekend, has been welcomed, but it is generally considered to be insufficient.

Jaume Matas, leader of the Balearic government, congratulated Zapatero for his decision to increase the discount, although he warned that “there is no point in raising discounts if fares go up and we do not have the communications that we need.” He called on the central government to declare the service with the Peninsula of public interest, and to guarantee air transport in good conditions and an affordable price.

Matas said he welcomed the increase in the discount, because it showed that the central government was “sensitive to one of the chief problems of the Balearics,” but, he pointed out, it was not the 50 percent increase which the socialists had promised.

Josep Oliver, chairman of CAEB, the Balearic business federation, welcomed the increase, although he said it was just “a timid step” towards a 50 percent discount.

The 38 percent discount will become effective next year. The Majorcan Union (UM) party also welcomed the announcement, but its spokesman Miquel Nadal, said that it was “insufficient.” He said that instead of a discount, it would be better to set a price per ticket, so more airlines would operate in the islands, and it would prevent companies which receive a subsidy for the discounts from putting up their prices. Balearic sports minister Rosa Puig called on Zapater to introduce the 50 percent discount for residents in January 2005, instead of waiting for 2008, the year it is expected to come into force. She stressed the need for the discount to “paliate the financial efforts people have to make to travel between the islands or to the Peninsula.” Miquel Ramis, the Partido Popular spokesman in the Balearics, was the severest critic. He said he viewed the announcement with “scepticism” because Zapatero's “fine words are not always accompanied by deeds.” He pointed out that the announcement had been made only after the fares on the inter-island flights have gone up twice in the last year, and criticised the central ministry of public works and transport for having approved the fare increase “without consulting the joint committee” (of central and regional government representatives).

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