STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
BALEARIC President, Francesc Antich, said yesterday in reference to austerity measures being imposed by Central Government, that “people have to make sacrifices in difficult times” .

In order to contribute towards Spain's drive to bring down its national deficit, said Antich, steps to be taken at a regional level include eliminating the operations of some public companies, and cutting the salaries of civil servants and senior government figures.

The President was speaking at an official ceremony naming Joana Barcelo, previously responsible for the regional government's Tourism department, as head of the newly-merged Tourism and Employment ministry. “This is not a time for applying sticking-plaster measures or introducing policies that are going to be popular,” said the President. “The whole country is now having to make structural changes in government to reduce public spending because we have no choice.” Speaking to union and business association representatives as well as senior government figures who will be working with Barcelo, Antich said that in order to increase productivity and regional economic performance, it was essential for the new ministry to focus on reducing unemployment. This goal alone, said the President, has been the justification for merging the Employment and Tourism departments.

Antich also addressed banks and building societies, asking them to “make an effort” to provide credit to businesses as a contribution to helping economic recovery. Antich urged tourist businesses and hoteliers to “take advantage of the opportunities” which had been given them to reform out-of-date accommodation - a move, he said, which had the support of all political parties.

For Antich, the importance of renewing tourist infrastructure was of key importance to the revival of the Balearic economy and was “far more important” than wrangling over minor town planning details. “Our hotels are our factories,” he said. “The country needs these reforms.” The President said that as part the effort to put the regional tourist offer at the forefront of world demand, he was embarking on Monday on an official trip to Russia with a Balearic tourist business delegation aimed at attracting Russian holiday-makers to the islands.

Whilst praising the energy and commitment of the new Employment and Tourism Minister, Antich did not forget to thank ex Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Merce Amer and ex Employment Minister Pere Aguilo who had both lost their jobs in the cabinet “cuts and reshuffle.” In response to Antich's welcoming speech, Barcelo said: “To go through a crisis like the one we are facing and to emerge the stronger for it, is the challenge facing the Balearic government and its people.” Barcelo who only four months ago had been moved from her position as Employment Minister to Tourism in the wake of a series of corruption scandals that threatened to bring down the ruling Socialist coalition added: “And for me it's an honour.”

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