Malvinas: the price of colonialism

The British government has reported these days that it has completed the remodeling work on the airstrip at the Monte Pleasant military base at a total cost of 7 million pounds, which is added to the (official) annual expenditure of more than 60 millions that the United Kingdom spends in Malvinas.

This base, the cornerstone of the British colonial presence in the region and which violates United Nations resolutions, was built in 1985 at a cost of 200 million pounds, 750 million at current values.

Numbers. Now, let’s look at the cold numbers. As we said, the United Kingdom currently spends more than 60 million pounds a year for the maintenance of one of the last colonial vestiges in the 21st century, ignoring what the international community indicates, which is the negotiation with Argentina to resolve the dispute over sovereignty.

These 60 million pounds are paid by taxpayers more than 12,000 km away from their homes and imply an additional cost of about 30,000 pounds per year for each inhabitant born on the islands. Twice what a UK citizen needs to not be considered below the poverty line.

Today the British state spends £450 a year per child to provide one meal a day. Only 3.5 million children out of 8.4 million public school students are entitled to this meal, according to British regulations. It should be noted that one in four children in the United Kingdom is in a situation of poverty according to the latest official statistics and that they are pre-pandemic.

Likewise, almost five million households had to appeal to the “Universal Credit”, a State aid for those who are without work and/or below the median income (190 pounds per week per person, according to private studies) with an average amount £85 a week (although for more than half of the households receiving this aid, the real figure is £64 after deductions).

Bearing in mind that homelessness in the United Kingdom is established at an income of less than £95 a week and, according to private studies, the basic cost of living being £120 a week, we can see that this State aid is insufficient.

In that same, almost eight million families received another state aid called “Cost of Living Payment” to alleviate the increases in all prices, which are around 301 pounds and are received a maximum of three times a year.

Another piece of information is the famous “Food Banks” (“establishments that provide food for a minimum of three days to people who are in an emergency situation”, according to the definition of “The Trussell Trust”, the main NGO of Food Banks in the Kingdom Joined). In the past year, 1.9 million meal packs have been distributed, half of them to children, at an estimated cost of £59 per pack and counting.

Needs. These numbers are a tiny sample of the social situation that the United Kingdom is going through and the needs for which the British population lives every day and where every penny counts.

Now, with what the United Kingdom spends to perpetuate its position in the Malvinas Islands and taking those 60 million pounds as a real number, we can see that, with this money, for example, some 150,000 children in British public schools could have access to a free meal every day of the year. It could also make permanent the temporary £20 increase to “Universal Credit” that had been granted during the pandemic and would later be removed, lifting many households out of destitution. Likewise, more than a million food packages a year could be granted in the Food Banks. It would also imply that more than 200,000 households access the Cost of Living Payment.

Yet while the number of people below the poverty line and state welfare benefits are insufficient, the British government spends millions of pounds a year simply to renege on its international obligations and maintain one of the last vestiges of colonialism in the century. XXI, while avoiding negotiating with Argentina, a State that celebrates 40 years of democracy, and that has forced itself internationally and internally to respect the way of life and the interests of the inhabitants of the islands.

Argentina has always shown a spirit of cooperation, good faith and respect for the interests of the islanders. Many of them know it. The fact that the current inhabitants of the islands do not constitute a separate people with the right to self-determination does not mean that they do not enjoy other rights or that they cannot be heard. Of course, they are rights holders, both individually and collectively.

In the 21st century there is no longer a place for colonialism. The British government must be responsible to its citizens and resolve, once and for all, this dispute that has been going on for more than 190 years.

*Facundo Rodríguez, Lawyer in International Law, Master in International Relations and Professor of International Law.

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