THE Majorcan Railway Company (SFM) will receive 74 million euros under the Balearics government's budget for 2004, confirmed Mabel Cabrer, the transport minister, yesterday. This figure “is the largest ever granted to the railway company since its inception”. The minister was speaking at a Tax and Budget Commission meeting yesterday, where Opposition spokesmen were demanding government investment in the railway network. Cabrer reiterated the need to increase the “safety” of the railway infrastucture on Majorca. It was with this intention that she sought to justify such a large investment, a growth of 165.6 percent in comparison to the previous year. The announcement came just days after SFM sources expressed concern about safety, alleging that drivers were forced to slow down in order to avoid derailing. Investment in safety, claimed the transport minister, will total 25.3 million euros.
In a drive to improve the quality of service on the railways, the Balearic government will commit to spending 25.6 million euros and another 3 million on technical support. Socialist spokesman Francesc Quetglas, the former transport minister, reproached Cabrer for her repeated references to the lack of safety on the railway lines, which he described as a “campaign” to dissuade people from using public transport. Furthermore, both Quetglas and the Majorcan Socialist spokesman, Maria Antónia Vadell, asked the minister to claim funds from central government for investment in the railway, as well as support for the Special Balearic Regime, which addresses issues of specialised importance to the Islands. Cabrer gave assurances she would fight to secure such critical financial backing. Cabrer also reported that a considerable amount of money will be allocated to housing. She spoke of the tax exemption measures which aim to make it easier for young people to get a foot on the housing ladder. The minister signalled that she would try to secure financing for the Balearic Housing Institute (IBAVI) and agreed with Quetglas on acknowledging that this organisation has problems with ensuring its economic survival. Cabrer reported that budgets for 2004 will include a 1.5 percent increase in property tax relief, resulting in the figure rising from 5 to 6.5 percent. Reform and restructuring of homes that are lived in (as opposed to for renting or for property speculation) will fall into the same bracket. The tax relief measure is one from which people under 36 years of age will benefit. The age limit was previously 35 but has been extended by one year.
Cabrer also indicated that the Balearic government will make a deduction of 85 percent on inheritance and gift tax.
The minister added that the budgetary allowance on housing introduced by the new government, has had this built-in tax relief feature for “the first time”. The comment introduced her criticism of the previous Socialist government's failure to offer a higher number of homes for first time buyers. “My predecessors”, claimed the minister, “were well aware of the housing need because forecasts had been made available by the Balearic Housing Institute”. Quetglas, who had held the post of housing ministr prior to Cabrer, claimed that the failure to fully meet housing needs when his government was in power was due to a boycott by Palma city council. The explanation was rejected by Cabrer, who retorted that housing needs hadn't been met in other areas of the Islands either; it was not simply a case of Palma.


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