Become Filthy Steenkin' the Falklands

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 7/12/2011 12:01:00 AM
To say British tabloids have output of variable quality is an understatement--witness Rupert Murdoch's fine mess--but the Daily Mail recently ran an interesting feature on the British Falklands. Ever since the 1982 Falklands War between the UK and Argentina put this remaining piece of Empire in the world's consciousness, I've kept tabs on developments there.

Aside from its jingoistic/quasi-strategic value, the Falklands are not quite as barren as certain pop entertainers make it out to be. Indeed, as the article notes, the Falklands are doing quite well, thank you--arguably better than Britain itself. While oil finds may see the Baa-rain [get it?] name become apropos, granting fishing rights has proven to be a money spinner for the Falklands for years and years. Hence--pardon their other pun, not mine--the squidionaires. With farming becoming pretty lucrative in recent years on top of everything, well, it's not such a bad way of living down South:
The once-barren rock, defended at the cost of 255 lives during the 1982 war, is undergoing an economic revolution. In the past, the name ‘Falklands’ summed up images of a windswept archipelago covered in thousands of sheep and penguins, and populated by a rugged rural people rather cruelly dubbed ‘Bennys’ by British soldiers after the simple soul in Crossroads.

But in the nearly 30 years since the war, the place has undergone an astonishing transformation. The population now enjoys a higher average income than the UK, the education and health system is second to none and a booming fishing trade has created at least seven ‘squidionaires’.

In recent days the Falklands, 8,000 miles from London but just 300 from Argentina, have again been in the headlines. Argentine President Cristina Kirchner accused Britain of being ‘a crude colonial power in decline’ as she called for ‘Las Islas Malvinas’ to be returned to Argentine rule. But her sabre-waving is more than just nationalistic pride. For today’s Falkland Islands are a prize indeed.

The prospect of potentially 60 billion barrels of oil less than 150 miles offshore has led to an influx of hundreds of oil workers who have dubbed the remote sheep-filled islands ‘Baa-rain’ after the oil-rich Arab state.
The turning point, as one would suspect, is the post-Falklands War era. "How do you make it safe from the Argentines?" was probably a goal for British leaders seeking to consolidate their dominion over these islands. As you'd suspect, making the place not only economically sustainable to populate but even bountiful in certain respects does help:
The islands’ economy was transformed after the war. Before 1982, the annual GDP was just £3.9 million. The economy was based on the production of wool – there are 250 sheep for every resident – but plummeting prices in the Eighties caused mass emigration. Farms were owned by absentee landlords. There was no international airport, few proper roads and nightlife was non-existent.

After the war, the British Government backed a 200-mile exclusive fishing zone around the Falklands (which locals had been demanding for years) that enabled the islanders to start selling lucrative squid and fishing rights to Japan, Spain, Russia and Korea.

Today, the islands have an annual GDP of £90 million. There is no national debt and the Falklands government has £103 million in savings which generate a further £5.1 million in interest each year. Booming fishing and tourism industries earn £42 million and £7.6 million a year respectively and high wool and meat prices means agriculture brings in a further £6.4 million a year.
You have to give credit where credit is due. They even have a tourist authority that brings the punters in. One of the top draws, evidently, are wartime tours. Generally, the Falklands present an interesting cultural counterpoint to the rest of South America for travellers in that part of the world. As the Brits would say, it's bloody impressive for a bunch of islands with less than 5000 persons for a population.