Saturday, 24 July 2010

So St Helena will get its Airport - thanks to the "Brokeback Coalition"

So at long last, despite all the cuts that the new Coalition Government has announced, St Helena will get its airport.

The Government thinks that it can reduce costs by shortening the runway - using an engineered material arresting system (EMAS).

The aim is that St Helena will develop a self sustaining economy. Among the conditions which the Government has attached is that
the St Helena Government undertake to implement the reforms needed to open the island's economy to inward investment and increased tourism
Not sure what that means, but fear that the devil will be in the detail.

Clearly it has pleased many on the island.

The Governor and the Honorary French Consul seem to be delighted!

There will of course be some who are not so pleased - there has always been a vocal minority who opposed an airport, and wanted a replacement for the R.M.S. St Helena. It will be interesting to see how the issue of freight will be resolved when the R.M.S. is decommisioned.

Personally, although I can see the advantages of an airport, particularly as regards access to medical treatment, I am a little apprehensive.

The high profile involvement of the billionaire Conservative party donor Lord Ashcroft - embittered coiner of the homophobic term "brokeback" to describe the relationship between the leaders of the UK Coalition Government - leaves me with a few nagging doubts about the future of St Helena.

I couldn't help noticing the following in the Governor's statement about the decision:
There will be many attractive jobs - being an air traffic controller is very lucrative. It is an international job with a salary of over £100,000. The training has been said to take 5 years – so school leavers should be thinking about that kind of thing right now.

At the risk of pouring cold water on people's hopes for the future, I should point out that there may be some senior highly skilled and experienced air traffic controllers at Heathrow and a few other major airports in the UK earning such large salaries, but we are talking here about a small airstrip on a small island which in the future will have to pay its way without handouts from the British Government. A dose of realism is I think called for.

I hope I am wrong. St Helena is a very special place, and the Saints are lovely people who deserve a break. I would be dishonest though if I did not express my fear that the ordinary people of St Helena will not benefit from this development.

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