Parliament in session.

The annual debate about general policy started in parliament yesterday. It will continue today. The debate is of particular significance because it is the last one before the election next spring. As such, it is as good as marks the start of the election campaign.

Top of the agenda, as has seemed to have been the case ever since the current government came into office, was the new special economic regime (REB). President Armengol stated her government expects to close the negotiations on this with Madrid and sign the accord for the REB in November. "We are working together in reversing a situation that has dragged on for decades. We are therefore achieving results," she told the house. "United, we are advancing with the greatest speed towards getting an REB that will give a definite boost to modernisation and economic competitiveness in the Balearics."

Armengol referred to efforts the government is making in respect of employment, with a 25% budget increase scheduled next year for getting the over-45s back into work. She observed that the level of unemployment within this age group has fallen 43% since the government took office in 2015. By the time of the election, she expects there to have been a 60% reduction.

The president stated that the Balearics was the first region of Spain to recover the level of employment that had existed prior to the economic crisis. "We have reduced registered unemployment 29% and we will finish (in May next year) at an unemployment rate of around 10%."

She also spoke about a plan to attract younger people back to the Balearics, those who have left because of a lack of opportunity. The first phase of this plan envisages the return of some 500 people aged below 40. The government will provide financial aid of up to 15,000 euros in order to foster "stable recruitment" for those who had emigrated.

On education, Armengol said that there will be six million euros for the under-threes next year and that the total education budget will exceed 1,000 million euros for the first time. In 2015, when the government took office, it was 775 million. "We understand that education is the key," she stated in emphasising the number of new teaching posts. One thousand teachers were "dismissed" by the previous government. Under her administration there are now 1,150 more posts than there had been.

With regard to health, the president said that there is to be a new hospital; discussions are ongoing with Felanitx town hall regarding this. She added that the system of prescription co-payment by pensioners will be scrapped.