I am Janet Robertson and I am standing for re-election because I care passionately about the Falkland Islands, because I believe that I have a lot to contribute and because I would like to see some outstanding projects in Government through to completion. Further, if I am successful on 5th November, I will be resigning from my current post at CFL so that I will have more time to dedicate to a job that requires commitment, focus and forward-thinking.
Politics and Foreign Affairs
The right to self-determination is a phrase we use constantly in the Falklands. This is because it is central to our political culture, our sense of identity and our principle defence against territorial claims by our neighbours. I believe wholeheartedly that we are entitled to that right and that we exercise it as well. Further, it is a right legally and morally defended by the United Kingdom. It is critical that we have the confidence to believe that we have a power over our own existence and future and that the uncertainty of the 70’s will never return, because we simply won’t let it. We must continue to proclaim this right in international forums, and challenge the claims to territorial integrity made by Argentina.
We must also do justice to the Constitution to ensure that we make all efforts to have a fair, principled and open Government. There is still work to be done to bring more meaningful debate into the Legislative Assembly and the public arena. Sufficient progress was not made on this during the last Council but it is important that we continue to look for a means to do this within our current political structure.
Finances and finding the right mechanisms to ensure long-term growth in the economy will continue to be central issues for the next Government. Whilst we are still in a relatively healthy position financially, with no national debt, a positive balance of payments and reserves in the bank, we are facing a time of decreasing licence revenue, greater expectations, higher costs and the effects of the world financial crisis of 2008. In these challenging times it is more important than ever that we concentrate on planning for the future: in setting realistic long-term and medium-term objectives and avoiding the waste and stagnation that arises out of short-term thinking. That is why it is vital that the EDS continue to be supported through appropriate funding of the Policy Unit which is tasked with the co-ordination of the strategy and for obtaining the national statistics which will inform the process.
There has been a great deal of work put in by officers into business plans, budget management and strategy documents, such as the Islands Plan, over the last couple of years. At times this must seem like a thankless, bureaucratic task, but it gives managers, Assembly members and the public, the tools to focus on key objectives and to ensure that planning is coherent and integrated. It links the budget process to the Islands plan and goes a long way to avoiding the last-minute, ad hoc, uninformed decisions in final deliberations of the budget which have featured all too often in the past. More work is still required, however: to avoid managers being taken by surprise by decisions taken at Budget time in relation to their Department, they must be given a final opportunity to defend and adjust their proposals.
The private sector is key to the future development of the economy. After so many years discussing the need to shrink Government and bolster the private sector through privatization, it is hoped that serious inroads can be made into that area now that it is a central objective for a Government officer. I am wary about the effects of privatizing essential services, such as energy or water supply, but I believe that there are some areas that have serious potential in this regard. It is important, however, that it does not lead to inflation and greater costs to the consumer or to Government.
I firmly believe that a new port, or at least a re-modelled port, is an important element for the future development of our main industries. It is disappointing that so little progress has been made on this in recent years, that in 2009 we still haven’t even got an agreed short-list of sites – and there is still much to do. Key elements will be affordability, financing and a design that suits the needs of both the Tourism and Fisheries industries. It must also be subject to Island-wide consultation as a project of this size and cost will affect everyone in one way or another.
An exciting capital project that is also still languishing with little real progress, but of much potential value to Tourism, is the Dockyard site. As a focus for visitors to Stanley in an attractive and historic part of town it is much needed and will provide benefit to local residents as well. We know that the Falklands are a costly destination for cruise-ships and land-based visitors alike, so we must ensure that the experience for them is memorable and represents value-for-money.
In thinking about growth and development in the Islands, we need to consider the whole of the Falklands: Stanley, Camp and the Islands. Whilst it is encouraging to see how the results of diversification into Tourism and the provision of animals to the meat processing plant are beginning to really pay-off in some areas, there is, nevertheless, critical work to be done by the Rural Development Strategy group to identify the policies which will bolster the economic and social needs of Camp. Secure and affordable freight arrangements and tariffs, good standards of telecommunications, serviceable roads and access to aviation services are central to development in Camp – without them further depopulation and a downward economic trend will be inevitable. I believe that some imaginative thought should be given to how we can encourage growth of a second population centre on the West to mitigate isolation and improve economies of scale and to offer the people of the Falklands an alternative should they wish to live in a more rural environment.
Good education must always be the keystone to securing the future of the Islands by ensuring that we have a well-trained, skilled workforce. The fruits of past investment are already paying-off: it is heartening, for example, to visit the hospital and to see in place a physiotherapist, a doctor, a radiologist, a sister and the manager of the pathology lab all home-grown, highly professional and very well thought of.
Good educational standards are important to achieving this: a relevant and varied curriculum, good discipline, and strategies to encourage aspiration in our school children will help them to achieve the results they will need to go on to further education and training of their choice. But this is one element: education on its own does not make a career; it needs to be balanced with experience in the work-place and for those professionals who wish to broaden their horizons, the means to achieve the right platform for development. An example of this is in the Education Department itself: a few years ago, a teacher applying for the post of Head of a School was told that they did not have sufficient experience to be able to aspire to the post. It is encouraging now to see a local Deputy Head in one of the schools: it represents a stepping-stone into higher management and the potential for our first local Head.
This trend must grow and we must do what we can, in this small community, to provide real career choices and pathways for our young people. Opportunities to provide stepping stones in both the Government and the private sector is important, but so is the need to ensure that our children are receiving good careers advice and that their educational paths and career choices once away from the Islands are monitored and promoted to potential future employers in the Islands. This is one area that remains under-developed and would benefit from some serious focus. It was clear at a recent public meeting that many of our students felt the same and that their ties with the Islands, to the schools, information about potential jobs, skills shortages and new developments are weak.
I would still like to see major school events, such as Sports Day, held at a time when parents and the community can attend, support and encourage our school children. I am aware that this idea is not popular with everyone, and ultimately it has to be a community and school decision – not an Assembly one – but as a working parent I have had real reason for feeling that I have missed out on important events in my children’s school lives and some of their triumphs (and disasters). The popularity of the Prize-Giving events, now held in the evenings, is a good move in the right direction and suggests that I am far from alone in feeling this.
I believe that a good universal health-care system is of utmost importance as it provides the inhabitants of the Islands with a sense of security in an area that is of high priority for all. Further, it is quite clear to me that we will be unable to attract people to come to the Islands, and indeed could lose some of our own to other countries, if we do not provide it. We want First World standards in health-care but this does come with a cost, an ever-rising one as more effective treatment and drugs are developed. We have to choose between retaining a totally free system of health that due to budget pressures is in danger of being whittled away too much at the edges, or maintaining, and even improving, our current care-options, but accepting that in order to do that we will have to find means of contributing something towards it. We have perhaps been spoilt in recent years. Few of us questioned paying MSL at the time but it is now harder to return to it having been without it for such a long time. It is clear that all funds go into the central coffer – that is an unavoidable and constitutional requirement; nevertheless, it is not beyond the capabilities of our Government to ensure that any revenue raised in support of Health should be attributed to the Health Department budget.
The community and policy makers will also need to think about provision of care for our vulnerable people, our disabled, our elderly and our children in care. They all require different strategies and thinking that is commensurate with a modern constitutional democracy. Good care for the vulnerable can be extremely costly and it is unlikely that in such a small community we will ever be able to meet the standards in place and possibilities available elsewhere. Nevertheless, we must address it and try to move away from the case-by-case, at times ad hoc decision-making that can lead to unfair, inconsistent and unsustainable outcomes.
Review of Government
Whilst some of the immediate effects of that process have been controversial, it is critical that other recommendations of the review are focused on and developed. Otherwise it will have been a painful and pointless exercise. A more vertical, tiered structure of government must lead to a more efficient and focused management at top levels of the civil service, and crucially, it must provide flexibility within the system to provide career pathways and stepping stones to top level jobs for our young professionals wherever possible. The Review refers to a Workforce Development Strategy for local staff to address career and skills development including training programmes and secondments. Due support must be given to this element of the review and re-energizing performance management principles in the immediate future.
This Manifesto is a slightly longer version of the one broadcast of FIRS recently and seeks to draw out some of the points I made then. If anyone would like to ask me further questions, or discuss any issue at all, then please don’t hesitate to call me on 21782, 51782 or e-mail me on email@example.com
“I will fight the good fight for the benefit of the Falkland Islands and its people, I will defend the good and oppose the bad and I will do so with honesty, with integrity, with vigour and with vision.”
That is my pledge.
Tags: Candidate - Stanley