Friday, December 24, 2010

A matter of priorities

The Daily Mail is trying to salvage some national pride, by pointing out that our gallant French neighbours are having a little bit of problem with their global warming. Parts of the terminal at Charles de Gaulle have had to be closed because of the weight of snow on the roof, while stocks of de-icer fluid for aircraft have got so low that the number of flights has had to be restricted.

Dublin airport has also taken a hit. Until recently, they were not doing too badly, having avoided failure on the heroic scale that has blighted Heathrow. That was until yesterday when an unexpected blizzard caught the airport operator off guard. No less than eight inches of global warming forced several closures, and the airlines have been doing catch-up ever since.

Other than very brief closures during and in the aftermath of storms, however, these episodes are more about money than weather. Shortages of de-icer for instance, are simply a reflection of airport operators' reluctance to invest in bulk storage facilities, and then to tie up money in hold stocks of the fluid. This has left Charles de Gaulle exposed to a strike at the main French factory producing de-icing fluid, forcing the cancellation of half – about 400 – of the flights scheduled for this morning.

The tightness on the purse strings for winter preparations makes an interesting counterpoint, with the spend on other things, highlighted by Italy complaining about a diary being distributed free to schoolchildren throughout the EU. It wants a recall of millions of copies because they do not mention Christmas but do give the dates of other religions' festivals, such as Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, and Sikh, Hindu and Chinese feast days.

Surely the more pertinent point, though, is why they are being produced at all. We really do not need rather sinister organisations such as the Generation Europe foundation, creaming off public funds to produce something like three million copies of the Europa Diary at a cost estimated at £4.6 million.

Spread over the 27 EU member states, this would be small beer, except that it is but one small example of the continuous waste by public authorities. In this case, it is the EU, spending money on propaganda which could be picked up off the website, but it could just as well be any of the member states.

And this is the way the world now seems to work. Money is frittered away on non-essentials, while essential services go short, and are curtailed altogether when the money runs out. Locally, you could even see the absurdity of local council propaganda sheets not being delivered through want of street gritting, omitted because the money has been spent on propaganda sheets.

No longer do we seem to have public administrators who know how to prioritise essential tasks, a failure which – as we now see – has European if not global dimensions.

The pic, by the way, is icicles in Wales – the global warming prison: bars on the windows symbolising how the cold is keeping so many people housebound.