Chief Executive of the Falkland Islands gives his Final Legislative Assembly Speech
Chief Executive of the Falkland Islands Keith Padgett, gave his final Legislative Assembly Speech on Thursday 22nd September. Keith completes his post as Chief Executive on the 6th October when Barry Rowlands will then take up the post.
- First, I must thank honourable members for their kind words. I’m sure they are not entirely deserved but they are gratefully and humbly received. As most people will be aware, I rarely speak in the Assembly nowadays. In times past, the Chief Executive would introduce and explain Government Bills in this Chamber but this function is now generally carried out by the individual portfolio holders, in line with developments and enhancements in local democracy. The Chamber is now more of a political forum and therefore, in recent years, I have refrained from expressing my opinion unless specifically asked for it.
- However, since this will be my last meeting in this Chamber, I would like to say a few words. I have a few observations and some personal comments to make but I also have some words of advice. Please feel free to ignore them; I won’t be offended (I never have been in the past!). I also note that I am not now protected by Parliamentary Privilege so the skeletons must stay in the cupboard until my memoirs are published. However, none of the things I am about to say should come as a surprise anyway. I have said them all before in one place or another but I think they’re worth repeating.
- Some of you may know that I passed a personal career milestone in January earlier this year. I was first employed in Local Government in the UK in January 1976; which is over 40 years ago. When I started in the Treasury here in 2001 there was an abacus on top of one of the cabinets in my office and, believe it or not, I actually knew how to use it! I have been in the public service (and politics) in one way or another for over 2/3 of my life. I think it’s therefore time for a break! I will be retiring when my contract finishes here in just a few days’ time. Early next year Val and I are planning to set sail into the wide blue yonder for a few years in search of new adventures. For some reason Val would like to sail somewhere rather warmer than the South Atlantic but who knows, we may well sail into Stanley Harbour at some point in the not too distant future. Hopefully the public jetty will be finished by then.
- Mr Speaker, when approaching retirement it’s not unusual to look back on your career. I started work as an office junior, in the basement of Barnsley Town Hall. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to University so instead I enjoyed 8 years of night school after work and eventually qualified as an accountant. I must confess that accountancy was never my dream profession but it did come with certain financial advantages so I was impatient to progress. Some people probably mistook that impatience for ambition but, in reality, I simply felt that I could be as good as the next guy. If he or she can do that job, then so can I; so why shouldn’t I go for it? I moved through the ranks pretty quickly and as a result, I firmly believe that; whatever your background; whatever your qualifications and whatever your hopes or aspirations – you need to have faith in yourself! Anything is possible if you believe in yourself and apply yourself to achieving it. I guess this is my first piece of advice.
- My second piece of advice as I embark on the next stage of life, as an old fogey, is that you should make sure that you enjoy life. It’s too short for you not to! This might sound odd coming from someone as inherently miserable as me but I would urge all those listening to separate your work life from your private life – Don’t confuse the two. By all means enjoy your work as much as you can and certainly give your all at work but remember that it is only a part of your life. My closest friends know that I regard work as something necessary to finance what I do with the rest of my life. After all, as my wise old grandfather used to say “if work was so great they wouldn’t have to pay you to do it!”
- Anyway, back to my career history – I moved around the UK a fair bit and worked for several local authorities of all political persuasions (red, blue, yellow and even green). I always tried to give impartial advice (sometimes at the expense of my own ideals) and the exposure I had to a wide range of political thought has served me well. I was always careful that the places I worked were interesting. I never wanted to commute to and from London or any other large city for that matter. This approach had its limitations for me financially but I gained greater rewards in many other ways.
- To cut a long story short, 4 ½ years ago I was fortunate to be appointed to my current role as Chief Executive of the Falkland Islands Government. I have been proud to be in this post. It has also been an honour and a privilege to be a member of the Legislative Assembly for the last 8 years. I have worked with some tremendous people over the last 40 years and none better than my colleagues here in the Islands. I have met a huge range of wonderful people from all walks of life and from many different countries. In many ways I feel that this job is unique and I am lucky to be one of only a handful of people that have done it. I’m proud to have worked alongside my colleagues here. We have an excellent workforce and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to each and every one. I would urge Honourable Members and my fellow Directors, managers and supervisors to look after them.
- Mr Speaker, Val and I came to the Falkland Islands over 15 years ago. FIG has been my longest employer but also Stanley has been my home for longer than anywhere else. Therefore, and I know that some might feel I am a few generations short of being able to say this but, as far as I’m concerned, I’m a Falkland Islander. On our travels we hope to visit most if not all of the other Overseas Territories. We will take with us a Falkland Islands flag to hoist when we arrive and we will act as unofficial ambassadors for the Islands. Indeed we should be sailing into Gibraltar next summer if all goes according to plan so we will hopefully catch up with colleagues and acquaintances there.
- Much has been written about the welcoming nature of the residents of these Islands and rightly so. However, there are some (fortunately only a small minority) who seem to think that ‘incomers’ are an invasive species; intent on messing up the lives of those whose ancestors made the Islands what they are. All I would say to them is “remember, your ancestors were once incomers too!” If the Islands are to develop and the economy is to grow, the Islands need more people and new skills. There are only 2 ways to get people – breed them or import them! The former option may be more enjoyable but the latter is definitely quicker (and probably cheaper!)
- Mr Speaker, these are exciting times for the Falkland Islands. I have seen huge changes and many improvements in my years here and hopefully this will continue. I would however like to make a few general observations. I would stress that these are my own thoughts and views. They are not intended to be statements of Government policy (though hopefully they will not be interpreted as conflicting)
- Firstly, I have always advocated a prudent approach to financial management and investment. We have been extremely fortunate to see economic wealth accumulate; initially from fishing and more recently from oil exploration. This wealth has made many things possible. We have first world services and the Government is generous in many areas. However, public policy-making needs to be done carefully and responsibly. The business of Government is easy when there is lots of money available. Spending it is not a problem and there will always be plenty of new initiatives and ideas around. However, unaffordable and unsustainable policies must be avoided or painful spending and service cuts might be the result.
- Secondly, thought must always be given to the long term. If the Islands are to have a sustainable future then consideration must be given to how current and future wealth can be used for long term benefit. Otherwise, even the riches that oil might bring could easily be frittered away. That was the harsh lesson set out for us by many of those we met in Shetland when we visited in 2012. Many other ‘oil rich’ areas of the world have experienced difficulties as a result of ill-advised fiscal policies. Hopefully, the Falkland Islands will have the opportunity to establish something of lasting value. I would therefore urge that something like the Norwegian hydrocarbons policy model is developed and a Sovereign Wealth Fund is established as soon as possible. Of course we all know that some of the aforementioned revenues have indeed been put aside but they are not yet sufficient for long term sustainability. There are also increasing calls for a larger proportion of those reserves to be spent now, which would compound the issue.
- Thirdly, and whilst on the subject of hydrocarbons, we must be careful that we don’t jump to conclusions. It is becoming commonplace to hear people talking about how the hydrocarbons wealth should be spent. Unfortunately, we don’t have it yet and, at the risk of being accused of being typically pessimistic, there are no guarantees in life. In recent years there has been a considerable amount of time devoted by me and many others to the development of a hydrocarbons industry in the Falklands. Members of the Government’s Corporate Management Team have been working extensively to protect the interests of the Falkland Islands and our natural resources. We have been striving to find a responsible and equitable way of encouraging development, to the Islands benefit.
- This has not been a simple task or an easy one. We had to engage external specialist resources to assist us from time to time. After all, we are not oil specialists but the representatives from oil companies are. Furthermore, some of them initially thought (and perhaps still think) that we are simple yokels that can be quickly dealt with and quietly ignored. I can assure you that the next time those individuals were in my office those views were quickly dispelled! However, I would highlight that, with the imminent departure of a number of senior members of staff, a large part of the Government’s current development team will be replaced and a huge responsibility will be left with those that remain and replace us going forward. Of course none of us are irreplaceable but I would urge those involved in ongoing discussions to maintain the policy principles we have consistently promoted. Otherwise the dismissive predictions of those oil executives may yet come to pass!
- For the record, I am as keen as anyone to see an oil industry develop here. It would be a huge boost to the economy and would allow investment in many much-needed facilities and initiatives. However, I have been intrinsically involved in FIG’s finances for over 15 years and I am confident that we don’t need oil to have a successful future. Of course it could be tremendously beneficial but the bottom line is that the Islands can and will continue to prosper and grow with or without oil. My primary goal has always been that, when the final negotiations with oil companies are complete, the proceeds from the industry must be to the benefit and the long-term future of the Islands, not just company shareholders. As far as I’m concerned, a bad deal would be worse than no deal. In the final analysis, if a mutually beneficial situation cannot be achieved, the oil should be left in the ground (or under the sea) until conditions are such that a full and proper return for the Islands can be realized. We should not let the concerted actions of a few individuals override the national interest!
- Finally, we should all be aware that one potentially negative by product of oil wealth is unfortunately corruption. I don’t mean wedges of notes carried around in brown envelopes; I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that will happen. However, experience from other places suggests that wealth can encourage undesirable elements that may not have the same high standards of business or social ethics that we aspire to. As a society we need to ensure that our laws and business practices maintain appropriate probity and good governance.
- Mr Speaker, from some of the issues I have mentioned you might be forgiven for thinking that I am critical of the Falkland Islands. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Islands and the people that Val and I have come to know have been very good to us. We will be truly sorry to leave. We have made many friends in the Falklands and I’m sure that our friendships will continue long after we have left. We also have friends in many other parts of the world as a result of living here. We have enjoyed our years in the Islands and I hope we have in some small way made a positive contribution to the lives of people here. I wish our fellow Islanders well for the future and I sincerely hope we will be back one day.
- I would like to wish the incoming Chief Executive Barry Rowland every success with FIG. He is due to arrive in the Islands very shortly and I hope that everyone will give him the same welcome and support that they have given me over the years. If he enjoys his time here half as much as we have then he will find his time here productive, satisfying and enjoyable.
- In closing, I would also like to particularly thank those I have worked closely with over the years. This includes my former colleagues in the Treasury (some now long gone), my fellow and former directors on CMT and of course Nic Granger as the Honourable Financial Secretary. This is Nic’s last meeting in this Chamber too and I would like to wish her every success for the future.
- Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, it has been a pleasure working with you.
Keith Padgett, Chief Executive for the Falkland Islands, 22nd September 2016.