Sunday, 27 July 2008

Ode to Despair: The St. Helena Independent

A few weeks back the St. Helena Independent reproduced one of
my blogs.

It is time to repay the compliment with a review of its latest issue.

My impression incidentally is that the St Helena Herald is a less gloomy read than the Independent. It certainly seems to have more pictures of Saints who carry on smiling whatever storm clouds are hovering above - less a newspaper and more a parish magazine? Perhaps I need more time to reconsider that sweeping judgement - but hey this is a blog, and anyway today I am focusing on The Independent, not The Herald!

St Helena Independent

The St. Helena Independent has not made for cheerful reading of late - and the doom and gloom does not emanate solely from Mr Cairns Wicks.

The island is very vulnerable to increases in fuel costs, since virtually everything consumed has to be transported from the Cape.

Massive increases in electricity, petrol and diesel prices have also been announced. (1)

A succession of problems with the RMS have increased the feeling of vulnerability.

Irrespective of the planned airport, the island will need a new ship for freight - and given the long lead time, plans need to be started soon. Unfortunately as we all know, H.M.G. has got its own problems, and St. Helena is likely to be a long way down the pecking order for scarce resources - and, as Napoleon himself observed, things move slowly on St. Helena.

Ode to Despair

I thought that The Independent's Ode, suitably enclosed in a black border, was worth reproducing.

The section on expatriates caught my eye. I picked up a little of this resentment during my trip earlier this year.

I imagine that the salaries and expenses are standard for those working in other dependencies, and probably less generous than those for employees of private sector firms working in remote areas of the world. Nevertheless the disparity of treatment is bound to cause concern in the present circumstances.

I do wonder what percentage of the £1.5 million cost of hiring expatriates is spent on the island. I fear that much remains in bank accounts in the UK and elsewhere, although it will show on the records as money spent on St. Helena.

As I read this and a piece by Mr. Cairns-Wicks (see below) I couldn't help thinking that the French contribution to the island and to its economy is not appreciated. The French Government and the Honorary Consul currently generate local employment on building and maintenance work, and the French properties are the key to the tourist potential of the island. One wonders what state they would be in had they been in British Government hands.

From Mr. Cairns Wicks' latest article:

family life has been torn apart
by enforced separations as family mem-
bers go abroad to work for a decent
wage. We are now being faced with hor-
rendous price rises which encompass
every facet of St. Helenian life. The price
of every imported item is escalating due
in part to the shipping costs and subse-
quent duty and import charges, our hos-
pital service is seriously short of trained
staff and our education system is short
of teachers. Our infer structure is in a
mess, our roads, water supplies, reser-
voirs and drainage system are suspect.
Some engines at the power station will
require replacement in the near future;
furthermore it is by no means a fail safe
unit as if one engine fails, we could be
in trouble as many huge freezers con-
taining essential supplies will stop work-
ing. It is now most urgent that a number
of our forts, emplacements and time
honoured features receive aid to repair
and secure them against the ravages of

Comment would be superfluous.

I will close with a recent quotation from the Governor, who is in a position that I for one do not envy!

Finally let me return to the oil situation: you
will doubtless know the story of King Canute,
the English king who is remembered as sit-
ting on a beach getting wet as the tide came
in. He is often mistakenly imagined to have
thought he was powerful enough to resist
the tide. In fact the opposite is the truth –
he was showing his court that his power was
limited and there were certain matters he
simply could not control. From letters in the
local papers it is clear that some of you be-
lieve that your Council has the power to re-
sist the huge wave of oil price increase; I
believe we can no more do that than Canute
could command the waves. What we have
had to do is painful, but it means that we
remain on course for a more promising fu-



1. Petrol now costs a staggering £1.57 a litre. Electricity costs 15p per unit for the first 400 units, 25p for the next 401-1000 band, and 30p for consumption greater than 1000 units. Domestic consumers also pay a standing charge of £20 a quarter.

1 comment:

Bakromspoeten said...

Reflected thoughts on difficult matters. I read your blog occasionally, and it makes interesting reading on the Saint Helena topic. Keep on this good work. :-)