WHEN Spain joined the European Union in 1986 the Balearic Islands were the richest autonomous region in the country by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per head, but by 2004 they had slipped down to fifth place after Madrid, Navarra, the Basque Country and Catalonia. The economic differences between the richest and poorest regions of Spain have not only remained the same since their incorporation into the European Union, but in some cases have widened. According to the latest figures, in 1986 the GDP per head in the Balearics was 34 points above the national average (134.41) while the other extreme was occupied by Extremadura which, with an index of 65.86 had a GDP 34 points below the national average (100). Eighteen years on Madrid leads the rankings of the regions with the highest GDP per head, 31 points above the national average, while Extremadura still has practically the same gap as in 1986 (nearly 34 points below the national average). The Balearic government has been calling on the central government to provide more funding, pointing out that the population has increased considerably in recent years. It also claims that the islands show their solidarity with the poorer regions of Spain through the high amounts the central government receives from tourism and taxes.
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