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Palma’s White Elephant

Last Saturday, Mateo Isern, Palma’s new Conservative batle (mayor) was handed over the reigns to Palma’s Ajuntament (city council) by outgoing Aina Calvo. The first calamity the new alcalde will have to deal with on his first day of duty, i. e. today, is Palma’s latest white elephant, the Palau de Congressos (Convention Centre). One day earlier, last Friday, Acciona had pulled the stops on the 125,000,000 € building site over alleged unpaid bills to the tune of 27,000,000 € and halted all work by pulling out some 200 men from the site. Acciona is the Congress Centre’s contractor.

No doubt, much of the blame will be laid on the ex-alcaldesa as well as the also outgoing President del Govern de les Illes Balears, Francesc Antich. But, let us not be fooled. The ill-fated decision to have the Palau de Congressos built in the first place was made under the previous government of Jaume Matas and the then alcaldesa, Catalina Cirer. Matas, if you care to remember, was also responsible for two more white elephants in Palma at the time, the Palma Arena and the Palma Metro. Thankfully, one more white elephant of Matas’ making did not make it to the delivery room, an equally ill-bespoken Palma Ópera.

I am in two minds about all of this. Of course it is very sad to witness such repetitive incompetence at the hands of our elected leaders but, it is also quite amusing to be a spectator to the foolish acts of our wise men (and women). If only these foolish acts would not be so forbiddingly expensive.

The photo was taken in Palma de Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 10th, 2011. The time was 16:50:59. The illustration was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of Wikipedia. The page shows an illustration by William Wallace Denslow for Three Wise Men of Gotham, from a 1901 edition of Mother Goose.

Thank you very much.

3 replies »

  1. As one over over 100 event organisers here in Mallorca, I have to take issue with your implication that the Congress Palace (when finished) is other than a great thing for Mallorca and her economy.

    Business visitors to the island (with us at least) typically spend around 5-600€ per day (as opposed to All-Inclusive visitors worth, indirectly perhaps 20€ per day).

    Again as perhaps 1 of a 100 organisers we would expect to bring 2-10000 business occupied room nights to the island. The numbers are, of course, highly speculative, even maybe pure guesswork but try the maths. Say 5000 (room nights) x 500€ x 100 organisers. Revenue to the island of 1 billion euros!! Let me be out by a factor of 10 and anticipate as little as 100 million euros of derived revenue per year.

    We know this volume is there – however it goes to Barcelona (etc.) right now where Congress facilities already exist.

    Olives and All-Inclusive will not lift the island out of it’s budget deficits – quality, business, visitors will.

    Paul –

    • thank you, paul, for your comments.
      no-one questions some good reasons for a convention centre in mallorca. your remarks and arguments prove my point, though. the city mandarins have obviously used the same thought process as you have with speculative – and wrong – calculations, guess-work assumptions and one-sided justifications. i have always argued against the location of the palau de congressos, the absence of viability studies and market research, as well as the lack of cost control and responsible auditing. am i the only one who is not surprised that barceló, the hotel group and instigator of the project which clashed from the beginning with city of palma building and zoning regulations have pulled out halfway through the construction process? perhaps they know their figures better than you do. and let’s not forget that any white elephant is always a welcome excuse here in spain for misappropriation of funds, kick-backs and plain swindle. i would not be surprised if the centre, once completed, would be investigated in court just the same as every other matas-induced project in palma has done so far.
      i do not have all the answers but, that should not stop me from criticizing where others do wrong.
      best regards,

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