By Andrew Ede

The rogue ministry of education

Governments in the Balearics have established a pattern of having at least one rogue ministry per administration. Under the last lot it was tourism. For almost three years prior to the Unió Mallorquina being ejected with great force from the coalition, it was the UM’s bailiwick to pilfer as it wished. It was a ministry that was dysfunctional because tourism was the last thing on most people’s minds. Under the current lot the baton of dysfunctionality was handed to education.
Questionable competence and mad policy have provided us with a rich vein of knockabout comedy, but it is a ministry that had not been compromised by scandal. Until now.
Let’s go back a little further than a week and to education minister Núria Riera standing up in the Balearic parliament and announcing her wish for there to be an “educational pact” with the opposition in order to “reclaim society”. This reclamation, an attempt one supposes to restore public confidence in an educational system that has been ripped apart by a trail of governmental and union destruction, was to receive a severe knock back only two days after Riera’s announcement. Making a pact with the opposition was going to be tough when the ministry itself was breaking its own internal pact.
Miquel Deyà has been the one constant among senior advisers in the ministry. He was the “strong man” at Núria’s side when she was catapulted onto the ministerial throne vacated by the horribly out-of-her-depth Joana Camps. He was made education director-general. He lasted two months before resigning, citing the convenience of “personal reasons”, a euphemism which always hides an alternative explanation. And so it proved.
Deyà’s personal reasons, he later explained, were to do with his declining a request (some might say demand) from Núria and Xisca Ramis, the director of the SOIB employment service and Partido Popular mayoral candidate in Lloseta, to transfer a teacher with PP affiliations from Minorca to Majorca.
In itself this might not sound like grounds for resignation, but there was more. Xisca Ramis, said Deyà, wanted the teacher transferred as he was to play a key role in her campaign to be elected as mayor. This wholly non-educational purpose was the principal reason for him resigning. Deyà went on to explain that when he discovered that Xisca was seeking other means of ensuring the teacher’s transfer, he phoned her and gave her a piece of his mind. “Who do you think you are?” It then emerged that the post to which the teacher was to be transferred was to be created specifically for him. Deyà, on the grounds of cost, could not approve this.
Riera has denied any irregularity, and President Bauzá has weighed in on her side. “She has told me she has not committed any illegality, so my support (for her) is total.” The unions begged to differ, and on Thursday the main teachers’ union, STEI-i, was off to the prosecutor, and not any old prosecutor. The union handed in a document for the attention of anti-corruption prosecutor Pedro Horrach, claiming, among other things, that there had been a peddling of influence and suggesting that the whole saga was just “the tip of the iceberg” of irregularities in hirings made by the ministry.
Taking cover perhaps, Núria cancelled at the last minute a meeting with the educational community in Arta. “Agenda issues” had got in the way, it was said. For Núria, these issues are increasingly difficult. She entered the ministry with a degree of goodwill. She offered a more sympathetic presence to both her predecessors - Rafael Bosch and Joana Camps. She might indeed have secured an “educational pact”, but such a hope is now as distant as it had been. Serious allegations have been levelled at her and Xisca Ramis, and where the unions are concerned they are allegations symptomatic of a rogue ministry.

The Infanta issue

Prosecutor Horrach might be minded to consider the irregularity allegations, but last week he had weightier matters on his mind, and they don’t come much weightier than the King’s sister. What are they going to do about the Infanta issue?
The moment of truth looms ever closer, as does the potential handing out of sentences in respect of the tedious caso Noos affair. One says potential handing out of sentences because, as seems normal, there appears to be a presumption of guilt without there having been an actual trial. Cristina’s husband, Ignatius Dung, as a friend of mine has dubbed him, is set to go down for nineteen and a half years. Why not just round it up to twenty? All the neater.
Cristina may well escape the fate of Majorca’s own princess, Maria Munar, and end up in clink. Horrach has consistently claimed she has no case to answer, and he reiterated this the other day. It was “legally impossible”, he opined, for the Infanta to have committed tax offences which have been alleged.
Nevertheless, and this is one way out of the embarrassing pickle that Cristina’s involvement has caused, she would need to hand over 587,413 euros for crimes she didn’t commit. For Horrach, however, there is the inconvenience of Judge José Castro seeing things rather differently.
He, the judge, can open a trial against her, though it remains difficult to understand how such a trial could proceed when the prosecutor doesn’t himself have a case to make, just as it would be difficult to know what would become of the Infanta were she to go on trial and were she to be convicted.
 I mean, where would they put her? Is there the equivalent of the Tower in Spain?

The H&M “spectacular”

Assuming Cristina does indeed avoid trial or worse, when she is next in Palma (if she would be inclined to ever come again), then what better than a spot of retail therapy? Things are really hotting up on the high streets of Majorca. Or rather in the as yet unbuilt giant S’Estada Mallorca Shopping centre.
We already know that Primark is to finally land in Majorca - not until June 2016, so you will still need to get back to the UK to get the dirt-cheap socks and what have you - and we now also know that H&M will be there with Primark in this new shopping paradise.
H&M already has two stores in Palma, but they will be eclipsed by a new store which the company promises will be “spectacular”.
As the developers of the centre, Carrefour Property, claim that it will become the “key point for shopping and leisure in Majorca”, where does it feature in the grand ambitions for Palma as its own shopping paradise, attracting tourists by their thousands and their credit card spends leaping into four-figure amounts? It is obviously in Palma but not in the city. Near to the airport is not quite the same thing.
So will all those cruise-ship passengers be greeted by coaches which will whisk them off to S’Estada and leave the city shops empty? Neither Primark nor H&M will be objecting.


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