Falklands : ELECTION MANIFESTO OF MIKE SUMMERS
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 11.06.2011 (Article Archived on 25.06.2011)
The substance of my manifesto for this by-election does not differ substantially from those of the four previous elections I have contested.
ELECTION MANIFESTO OF MIKE SUMMERS
The substance of my manifesto for this by-election does not differ substantially from those of the four previous elections I have contested. Although individual issues will come and go, the basic requirements to take care of the economy, be robust and pro-active in foreign affairs, and to protect the social structure of the community remain the basis of my approach to Government.
There are a number of challenges which are obvious to us all. In a world economy that is struggling we have seen our public finances come under pressure through reduced income from reserves and investments, exacerbated by persistent reductions in illex license fees. Inflation is rising sharply, particularly affecting the lower paid. The Argentine Government continues to be oppressive and seeks every opportunity to try to undermine and unsettle our economy and daily life.
But there are also exciting opportunities. The new drilling round has already provided new business opportunities and new jobs. Tourism will continue to offer good prospects, particularly for smaller businesses, the fishing industry retains significant potential to expand further if given the right support, and the service sector in Stanley has seen sustained growth over the past few years, and will continue to make a major contribution to economic development.
Government, Structure and Democracy:
The role of Government is to provide the framework and structure within which we can all work productively; to provide the community services which we all require and benefit from, to maintain a safe and orderly community, and to provide the environment within which all businesses have the opportunity to flourish. Getting this balance right is the key to our success. In this area the promotion of sea and air links free of Argentine interference is of high importance; whilst some of this work needs to be done out of the public eye, we need to be talking to the public about the realistic options. A blanket of silence leads many to think nothing is being achieved, which I feel sure is not the case.
We should have confidence in our own ability to run our own country to the maximum extent possible. This starts from the top, and elected Members must not only create the strategies and policies which form the mandate for the Government, but also explain them fully and clearly to the electorate, and take responsibility for them. I thought the days of the elected opposition were gone, but now I'm not so sure, and clear leadership by the elected Government needs to be reasserted.
I will continue to be a prime mover in openness and transparency of Government, and perhaps the key lesson I have learned from my failure to get elected at the General Election is that we failed to communicate adequately with the general public. I don't believe this aspect of Government has improved since then, and significantly more effort needs to go into providing information on policies and programmes.
The Economy and Economic Planning:
Our economy remains strong, with significant reserves and no borrowing. And whilst public finances have been stretched in recent years by reduced revenues and excessive demand, the economy continues to grow and we enjoy an excellent standard of living.
The Economic Development Strategy, which is an ititiative I helped to start in the last Government, is a key piece of work, and I will strongly support the maintenance of a strategy document that is ambitious but realistic; that is affordable without risking our reserves; that enhances the local ownership of all businesses but allows controlled inward investment; that challenges the Government to provide a regime that is supportive of business development; that challenges the private sector to take on the responsibility for growth and new investment; and that overall delivers the type of egalitarian society that I believe we all aspire to.
I will continue to push for public sector spending budgets that show a surplus in order to maintain the real value of reserves; a succession of balanced budgets will not do this. Investment in the future, through properly directed education and training programmes, provision and maintenance of essential infrastructure and support to industry are the key priorities. There has been no progress on the privatisation of parts of Government, and this requires re-energising.
The new ITQ system has begun to encourage some restructuring, but there is further to go. The current review of resource rents and the introduction of economic efficiency tests will be important in formulating the correct strategies to enable local companies to fully control their own businesses. They are not and should not be designed to force companies to take non-commercial decisions, but to give them more control over the resources entrusted to them, and to maximise local commercial benefit.
Tourism. The tourism industry is a major employer of both full and part time workers, particularly in the summer months, and it makes significant contributions to the retail sector and to Camp businesses. New investment will be required in sites and facilities for both land-based and cruise vessel tourism, but the initiatives and investments must be private sector led. We have a unique product to show off, and tourism is a valuable tool in getting a wide range of people to see the Islands as we really are.
Oil and Minerals. The opportunities offered by the exploration for and extraction of oil and gas, continue to grow. It will remain my policy to promote Falklands owned and Falklands based business in support of the industry, and finding mechanisms to give priority to local enterprise. We must not allow ourselves to be persuaded that only foreign companies can provide the services required by the industry, and work positively on policies that will give priority to Falkland Islands companies.
Camp. I am a strong supporter of rural development and re-population of the camp, but am disappointed with the lack of support for the RDS. I am delighted to see the abbatoir doing so well; I was one of the initiators of the project, and supported it through times when others could not see its worth, and I will continue to support it for so long as it continues to make a positive economic contribution. This needs to be supported by continuing investment in improved grazing and animal genetics to generate better income in both wool and meat industries.
The level of aggression of the Argentine Government is at its highest level for many years. There can never be any compromise on our absolute right to self-determination, and with the continued support of HMG, and the right to self-determination enshrined by the UN Charter, we have a solid base.
However it becomes ever more evident that we will need to do more for ourselves in the international sphere, not just the “soft” PR like the CPA, but getting out into the key capital cities in Europe and other key countries to make sure our message is fully understood. For many years now I have represented the Falkland Islands overseas; in the UK at official level and in Parliament, in Europe, and at the UN, and in international conferences. I believe that I can continue to promote the Falklands message to a wide audience, and defend our right to live in peace in our own country.
It is essential that to support the right to self-determination, we help the UK to help us. That means acting decisively, but responsibly and in measured terms to threats from the neighbours; it also means maintaining the widest possible support in Parliament, and developing stronger relations with the European Community and other key allies
Social Development Issues:
We have a strong community and a good way of life in the Falklands, and that needs to be protected. Much of what is good comes from maintaining an egalitarian society, and ensuring that the more vulnerable sectors have our support when required. I am not convinced that the introduction of new payroll taxes and additional personal taxes on individuals who cannot afford them, is the way forward. The lower paid in the private sector have been hard hit in recent months, and whilst there has been a deal for lower paid Government workers, those in the private sector suffer worst. I would work hard to readjust tax thresholds upwards, to take more of that group out of the tax net.
The country needs a constant source of skilled labour to fill jobs, particularly in the service sector, and I will continue to support a measured and controlled approach to immigration. New arrivals however must take time to adjust to our way of life, culture and our moral values, before they can become permanent residents. It is disappointing that the new points system has not been used take in the people we need. What is required is a clear set of policies on targeted immigration, and clear instructions to those parts the public service charged with implementing them, so that we can move forward.
I strongly support the delivery of high quality primary health care free of charge to all residents, though the increasing costs mean that priorities have to be set and adhered to. Nevertheless continued high levels of investment in primary and preventative medicine will be required to maintain a healthy society.
Equally I am a strong supporter of education policies which provide opportunity to young people to do the best they can, and provide the training necessary to adults to achieve their potential. But again not everything is affordable, and priorities have to be orientated towards those subjects and courses that have relevance for the Falklands, and can help Falkland Islanders play a full role in their own community, instead of recruiting from overseas.
I would like to urge electors to vote for the candidate who you believe has the ability, commitment and energy to implement the strategies and policies that are necessary to take our country forward. If elected I will serve as part of a team with an important job to do. I have a track record of not just talkling about things, but getting things done, and standing up to outside parties if that is required. I am not afraid to take difficult decisions where they are required for the national good, and to discuss freely and openly the policy options available to us, and to take responsibility for the decisions we make.
I apologise in advance that I will be away from the Islands during the election, with the Falklands team in the Isle of Wight, but hopefully we will all be representing the Falklands there to the very best of our ability.
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