Headlines: Where was FIG action on oil spill asks Falklands Conservation?;Balancing budget is 'ever more difficult'; Ferry sails south; Holiday credit going?; TV/radio no charge.
Where was FIG action on oil spill asks Falklands Conservation?GOVERNMENT has taken little affirmative action to deal with "...one of the worst oil disasters to hit the Falkland Islands," say Falklands Conservation. The Korean trawler, Ocean 8,caught fire and later sank in Berkeley Sound on May 19 carrying with it a reported 137 MT of gas oil and heavy fuel oil. The majority of oil on board is fuel oil, a heavy and sticky persistent oil. A Falklands Conservation representative said this is, "...a monumental disaster for the environment of Berkeley Sound, and incredibly still continues to leak into the area." northern shore from Diamond Cove. "Thick black oil is evident, intoxicating the kelp and devastating marine life associated with it. The high-tide mark along the sandy beaches and rocky shores shows a distinct residue of heavy oil," said a Conservation representative. "Waterfowl, shags, gulls and penguins carry on feeding along the coastline, foraging in the oily waters, oblivious to their impending premature death from the effects of oiling. It is unclear how many birds will die, but it is estimated to be hundreds and even thousands." The Falklands prides itself on the pristine environment with an abundance of wildlife, which is a major selling point for the tourism industry. Volunteer Point, Kidney Cove and the Berkeley Sound coast of Murrell Farm and Long Island are three of the four top sites for cruise ship tourism, and could all suffer as a result of the sinking. The heavy oil is persistent in the environment and is not going to disappear unless it is cleaned up. Continued on page 3. Balancing budget is 'ever more difficult'"BALANCING the revenue and expenditure budgets, is getting ever more difficult, and the Islands are likely to face unpalatable decisions," admitted His Excellency the Governor Alan Huckle in his Address to the Nation before Legislative Council this week, He added, however, that government finances, "...are in a reasonably healthy state with no borrowing and levels of disposable reserves in excess of the target of 2Â½ times annual operating expenditure." Speaking of the difficulties he said, "With government revenues flat and increasing cost pressures through inflation and increased expectations, the forecast shows no sign of improvement. We need to act now to increase revenue and decrease expenditure, since eating into reserves is not an option." To this end, the Government has begun the implementation of a Medium Term Financial Plan which seeks to increase revenue by £500,000 per annum over the 07/08 budget, and to decrease expenditure by the same amount from the same base, over the next five years. The Governor said: "Achieving this will not be easy, but it has to be done." Government spending, he said, must be targetted towards the most important areas, and growth and cost savings must be preferred over consumption. "The Treasury has already set some demanding targets, which will involve difficult, and sometimes unpalatable decisions. We shall apply the 'user pays' principle wherever it is reasonable to do so, and we shall review various schemes for means testing, including family allowance, holiday credits, and further and higher education living allowances. We shall engage in public debate to determine where savings can best be made. "But, the economy is not all about Government finances, said the Governor, "We need to pro vide incentives for growth in our key industries. We must, therefore, maximise economic opportunity in the fishing, tourism and agriculture industries, and in services to these, as well as in hydrocarbons exploration. We shall engage with the private sector to identify where growth opportunities are and how they can best be achieved." He added, "Falkland Islands companies make up a thriving business community that continues to express confidence in the economy. "It is the Government's role to ensure that business can thrive with as little government regulation and interference as possible. We are committed to that and will this year seek to move services currently provided by the Government into the private sector where that can be done without disadvantage to the private citizen. We shall publish a "green paper" on this, after consultation with the private sector." News in brief Ferry sails southCONCORDIA Bay is still making good time towards the Falklands having set out on the final leg of the journey south. The cross sound ferry left Port Elizabeth in South Africa yesterday heading across the Atlantic towards Montevideo, confirmed Work Boat Services Manager Adam Cockwell. At New Haven, work on the excavation to the entrance of the berthing area has been slowed, due to hard rock being encountered which has increased the risk of it not being ready for the Concordia Bay's arrival in early July. Attempts to blast the hard rock had not been successful said Engineer Bob Hancox, however, following a site visit on Wednesday he reported that a new method of drilling had been devised which was time consuming but would hopefully keep things moving. Holiday credit going?THE Holiday Credit Scheme may cease from July 1, this year, if the proposal is accepted by Executive Council today (Friday). The scheme would however remain open for three years for access to credits already accrued. Adult Falklands residents currently receive 26p per day from the government as part of the scheme, while children receive 13p per day. TV/radio no chargeA COST for radio and tv services will not be added to the service charge. Financial Secretary Derek Howatt confirmed in his Appropriation Bill to the LegCo Budget Session this week, that the proposal to recover part of the cost of both radio and tv services funded by government, and for it to be added to the service charge, was not approved by Executive Council.