The increasingly beleaguered vice-president and tourism minister Biel Barceló received some welcome support yesterday from President Armengol. She praised him for the fact that all senior officials involved in cases of suspected corruption have left their posts.
The vice-president, she told parliament, "has given all the explanations", while the government itself has demanded ethical standards that no previous government has applied.
Despite this, the Partido Popular's Marga Prohens said that regardless of what might happen through the judicial process, Barceló had generated more problems at the tourism ministry and that he was now a burden for the government. Xavier Pericay of Ciudadanos believed that the vice-president was "politically disqualified" because of the allegations against several senior officials under his command.
Responding to Prohens' assertion that the main economic activity in the Balearics requires a minister who is "not tainted", Armengol said that she was content with the performance of the tourism ministry. Its policies are lengthening the season and increasing the quality of tourism.
These, she continued, will result in a redistribution of wealth, thanks in particular to the tourist tax and to the hotel sector's collective bargaining agreement. The government, according to Armengol, had promoted the agreement for a 17% wage increase over four years.
Undeterred by this defence of Barceló, Prohens attacked the "ridiculous" holiday rentals regulations, which do not lead to a reduction in the cost of residential letting, and drew attention to hoteliers' negative forecasts because of the doubling in the rate of the tourist tax. Barceló, she concluded, was creating "a continuous crisis for the government".
Back came Armengol, who suggested that the PP spokesperson should not be offering any advice to the government until her party has returned all the money it owes to the regional community's public funds.
Specifically on the tourist tax, Prohens asked the president if she believed that it is appropriate to increase it. The tax, she argued, is "dedicated to raising cash at the expense of the citizens and of those tourists who visit us". Prohens added: "You want tourists' money, but without tourists this will be impossible."
Armengol once more insisted that the government is interested in "the quality and not the quantity of tourists" and in tourists spending more during a longer season. And all this, she maintained, is precisely what the government's policy is achieving. The tourist tax, said Armengol, has a 1.2% impact on tourist spending, while the price of hotel rooms has risen by 11%. She then considered the numerous environmental improvements that will be made courtesy of the tax.
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