Former vice-president of the Balearics, Rosa Estaras, has been an MEP since 2009. Within hours of her telling the Bulletin last week that the hotel and restaurants sectors will find it extremely hard to conform with the new lockdown phase-out plan announced by the Spanish government on Tuesday, both sectors spoke out, slamming the proposals as impractical and not financially viable.
As a result, as Estaras warned, many hotels, bars and restaurants will not be rushing to open over the next few weeks. "Unfortunately, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has gone about the lockdown the wrong way. There has been a severe lack of dialogue with other parties, even within his own coalition, hence there has been no proper coordination.
"He has not properly consulted his medical advisors with regard to his phase-out plan. Any, if not all decisions, taken by any political leader regarding combating and dealing with the virus pandemic have to go hand in hand with medical advice and the health service. But he has not listened to medical advice and has come up with a plan to ease the lockdown which does not make sense. He has confused the population and has done very little to help businesses get back on their feet and kickstart the economy.
"It’s a plan floored by contradictions. Let’s just look at his plans for the tourism industry. What is the point of hotels being allowed to reopen when all communal areas have to remain closed. Who is going to pay to stay at a hotel when the only facility they can use is their bedroom? The whole beauty of coming to the Balearics is to be able to enjoy all the wonderful activities and attractions the region has to offer. If people can’t go out, can’t go to the beach to sunbathe or swim, what’s the point?
"There are huge overheads which hoteliers have to meet, staff and suppliers to pay, not to mention taxes and other fiscal outlays which the government has not eased properly. And the same goes for the bars and restaurants. I can’t see many rushing to open for similar reasons. Being able to open only terraces for 30 per cent capacity is not financially viable. He clearly has not done his numbers because they don’t add up.
"Kickstarting the tourism industry is going to be extremely challenging, if we don’t have any international flights. There has not been a serious debate with the autonomous regions or countries like the United Kingdom and Germany with regard to how best to approach reopening the industry.
"I've put a three-point plan to the European Commission regarding the tourism industry and these are are creating a flight corridor to and from Covid-free countries; an injection of EU money into the industry; and that the EU makes tourism a key industry, starts taking it more seriously and giving it more prominence, considering it is the livelihood for tens of millions of people across the EU in summer and winter. But here in Spain, there has been a total lack of dialogue and transparency, and the government’s approach has dented the country's confidence and left the business sector with no clear roadmap to follow.
"Sanchez has made this phase-out up as he’s gone along. Every day we’re fed another bit of information as the government discovers continual mistakes in the plan. Even Sanchez's own ministers have given out misleading and damaging statements, such as there being no tourism until the end of the year. This is not the kind of message Spain should be giving out, never mind it being incorrect.
"Over the past six weeks, the government has behaved irresponsibly and abused its powers. It’s used the lockdown to attack the judiciary, alter the penal code, attack the monarchy and, which is of great concern to the European Union and will be looked into eventually, ignored the union’s democratic civil rights, such as the freedom of movement.
"Most opposition parties have backed the lockdown in the sense that action had to be taken to combat the virus, but they also put forward a series of extremely sensible proposals to help make the whole process easier, but they were not listened to and any advice is still falling on deaf ears. This is why my party, the PP, have made it clear that when Sanchez tables a motion for another extension, they want more clarity if they are going to support him.
"And Sanchez has been foolhardy by pointing his finger at the European Union for not having done enough. A few weeks ago, Brussels approved a one billion euro economic and social aid package, and even more has been set aside for special needs with more steps going to be given the green light over the course of this month.
"While the country asks where Sanchez is going to get the money he has promised from, he is obviously going to have to look to the EU. But considering that Spain has the third highest deficit in the European Union, which has even made a special effort to offer the UK all the help possible as a 'brother country', despite Brexit, he should have got his house in order first before going begging to Brussels."