By Humphrey Carter

THE Spanish government's plan to part-privatise a selection of Spanish airports was not welcomed by the Majorcan Chamber of Commerce yesterday.
Included in a number of new budget squeezing moves announced by the Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero yesterday is the part-privatisation of some of the country's airports.

He said Madrid would allow private companies to take up to 49 percent stakes in airports and airport services starting with Madrid and Barcelona airports.

The government believes the airports authority AENA could be worth up to 30 billion euros.
Spain's public sector deficit is expected to come in at around 9.3 percent of GDP this year, a little less than 100 billion euros hence further austerity measures are needed.

But, the President of the Majorcan Chamber of Commerce, Juan Gual de Torella, who has been behind efforts by the Balearic government to secure a role in the management of the region's airports, said that the model unveiled by Zapatero is not the solution he and the Balearic authorities had been hoping for.

Gual does not even believe that the model is the most suitable for Spanish airports in general.
The President of the Chamber of Commerce said that Spain should be basing any part-privatisation of its airports on others already in place across Europe.

What the Balearics is proposing, and claimed earlier this year that it was close to securing, is the involvement of public and private organisations and businesses in the running of Palma airport, the country's third busiest.

Gual stressed the importance of having local agents involved in order to ensure that Palma airport, for example, is managed with the best interests of Majorca at heart.

The main theory of the Balearic model is that Palma airport is managed in a way that it meets the needs of the island by working directly with the island's main markets and the airlines.

At the moment, the Balearic government, or rather the Ministry for Transport, has to submit requests for new air links to AENA, which, as the Transport Minister Gabriel Vicens explained to the Bulletin last year, is a long and frustrating process which quite often results in nothing.

That is one of the reasons the Balearic government has recently established the new air routes commission in order to act as a bridge between the airlines and European destinations which either want new or increased frequencies to the island.

And, as far as the Chamber of Commerce and the Majorcan business community as a whole is concerned, the only way forward for Palma airport is for local agents to be involved in the management of the airport.

Gual said that each and every airport in Spain has different objectives and, while the proposed part-privatisation of the airports has yet to be officially approved at government level, he intends to make the most of the window in the meantime to try and persuade Madrid to reconsider its part-privatisation model.

He said yesterday that he intends to begin consulting the various parties here in Majorca in an attempt to draw up a Majorcan vision for the running of Palma and other regional airports which will be more suited to the local infrastructures and requirements which can then be put to Madrid for consideration.


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