The new holiday law debate. | R.L.

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By Hugh Ash

Biblically-speaking, loving thy neighbour may be commendable, but it does carry attendant risks, which is why judges are regularly asked to rule on disputes arising from brouhahas over the garden fence.
 Meanwhile, taking the New Testament decree perhaps a tad too literally is, apparently, the cause of one in five divorces in Belarus, though long, Arctic winters are a contributory factor – an interesting, if rather baffling stat…unless I’m being naïve.
 So here’s the thing: if, for instance, your neighbour wanted to rent out their house for a few months in summer, as is common here in sunny Spain, how would you feel about it?
 Would you say a) Good luck to them and it’ll be nice to see some fresh faces around here;
b) Don’t blame them for seeking an extra income stream, especially in these hard times; c) Over my lifeless corpse – they’ve already got a Merc or Beamer and I haven’t.
 Knowing the foibles of human nature, my guess is a good many otherwise tolerant folk would select option C and resent like heck someone – even a decent neighbour – cashing in on an asset by dabbling in a little, light free enterprise.
 Or, as Shakespeare’s Iago framed it so succinctly in Othello, ‘It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock.’
 Yet, like it or lump it, in a Westernised, free-market economy we all depend of invention, incentive and enterprise to exist. So, even if you don’t personally produce, market or sell a commodity or service, you’re entirely reliant on those who do.
 Money makes the world go round and governments rely on taxes generated from buyers, sellers, employers and employees to fill their coffers and repay their citizens with public sector essentials, like hospitals, schools, roads, pensions, benefits, et al.
 So, I hear you understandably ask, what has this rudimentary explanation of capitalism to do with neighbourliness?
 Until now, I could happily answer: nothing.
 But, here in the Balearics – one of Europe’s premier tourist playgrounds – that historic status quo is about to change dramatically.
 In its disputable wisdom, the islands’ government is introducing new legislation that’s as bizarrely complex as it appears bonkers and, frankly, an invitation to divisiveness that gives a wholly fetid interpretation to the meaning of ‘neighbourhood watch’.
 To my layman’s comprehension, it firstly forbids owners of semi-detached ‘chalets’ – no, not those pretty, slopped-roof dwellings perched on Swiss mountainsides, even if they have a cuckoo clock over the mantle-piece – and properties built after 1960 from letting to vacationers, without having prior, written approval of their neighbour.
 The necessary documentation, signed by said occupants of adjacent property, must then be lodged with the Ministry of Tourism as proof of consent.
 Secondly, if at any time in the indefinite future a said neighbour, who had previously agreed to such rentals, has a change of heart, mind or whim, they can summarily withdraw permission without appeal.
 Now, before NIMBYs set about me with verbal cudgels, let me I’d be the first to complain if my neighbour – whether homeowner or renting holidaymaker – indulged in wild, noisy, partying into the wee small hours. A recourse against such inconsiderate, anti-social antics already exists; it’s called phoning the police.
 So, the real question to be asked is: what possible, logical purpose is served by imposing superfluous and draconian legislation on what seems to me a perfectly legitimate service to vacationers, so long as all taxes and health and safety requirements are met?
 Further, one has also to wonder who benefits most from virtually eradicating a sector much desired by visitors, who bring Balearic businesses – restaurants, bars, shops, overpriced car-hirers and tourist attractions – a huge cash infusion when the flagging local economy is in direst needs of it?
 I’ll leave that answer to your own, rich imaginations.
 In its defence, local government claims it is losing billions by allowing the private rental sector to flourish, since an unknown number of property owners – especially foreigners – are tardy, remiss even, in being forthcoming over rental incomes.
 That, then, is an entirely different issue and purely a fiscal one that can be easily addressed by monitoring the market more efficiently, introducing a proper registration system and tax collection.
 But amputating your arm to cure a hangnail is hardly a rational solution.
 Meanwhile, this half-baked policy is not only likely to lose the Balearics valuable tourists, it’s also predicted to impact detrimentally on a real estate sector that’s only just eking its way out of long recession.
 For all this peninsula’s winsome charms, what sane, overseas investor – with an eye to supplementing their property purchase via summer rentals – would want to drop a shedload of cash here, knowing they’re handcuffed by a loopy law that flies in the face of free enterprise?
 Spain’s notoriously byzantine customs and practices already make for a ridiculously over-loaded bureaucracy – even simply buying or selling a car is a onerous chore. So adding further tinder to the blaze of needless laws appears utterly wrongheaded.
 Sooner rather than later, then, I reckon someone with a full set of marbles in their cranium will take the Balearic Government to task in Brussels apropos its latest leap into absurdity, not that I place much faith in the convoluted mechanics of the EU.
 Nonetheless, in this writer’s humble opinion, the new law appear to be a restraint on trade and totally against the founding principles of the Common Market.
 Indeed, they hark back to a darker past, when brother was set against brother and, for all the nation’s attempts at collective amnesia, such ignoble history cannot be erased.
 Today’s offering from the Ministry of Silly Thoughts – a.k.a. Tourism – is hardly Francoist, but it’s nonetheless an inane, anti-freedom and anti-enterprise law, appearing to favour vested interests.
 And, more to the point, it’s likely to sow the seeds of disharmony in many a Balearic street, setting neighbour against neighbour and creating Big Brother-style intimidation.
 It also ignores one of the cardinal rules of politics: bad legislation is worse than no legislation at all.
 
To read more of Hugh Ash’s comments, follow his award-winning, online blog – Views From The Mallorca Pier – at hughash.wordpress.com.