THE new Balearic Islands government has ruled out repaying
eco-tax to holidaymakers following its decision to scrap the charge from
November 1.

Speaking on a visit to London this week, tourism
minister Joan Flaquer said the vast majority of the money raised from the
controversial tax had already been spent by the islands’ outgoing socialist
rulers.

“This tax has been a disaster,” he said. “Worst of all
is the fact much of the cash has been wasted. Rather than being spent on
environmental projects, it has disappeared.”

Flaquer, and new tourism director-general Eduardo
Gamero, claimed the tax was expected to raise 60 million euros each year, but
only 35 million euros was collected in 2002.

“They have bought 140 properties and sometimes paid
three times the market rate for them,” blasted Gamero. “It is a mystery. People
can make up their own minds why.”

Despite the political scandal, Gamero insisted the new
centre-right Popular Party was committed to improving the environment, but
would pay for projects using money from the Spanish government and the private
sector.

Flaquer claimed the introduction of the eco-tax had
devastated Balearics tourism, forcing up prices for its core UK and German
markets.

“In 1999 our economic growth was 7%, making us the
leading destination in Europe. Now unemployment is rising and we have lost
tourists. Clients should not pay a tax to come here. We want to spread this message
to operators.”