Much has been written in recent weeks about the accuracy of the statistics being banded about to support the campaigns to leave or remain in the European Union. We’ve all heard the claim that “we send £350m per week to the EU” repeated over and over again (indeed it is painted in big letters on the side of Boris Johnstone's bus) despite protestations from the UK Statistics Authority that we only “send” a net contribution of circa £270m after the rebate, and around 35% of that (£95m) comes back to the UK in the form of payments to the UK public sector, so our net contribution is only £175m. But let’s not argue about that.
There is something far more interesting to discuss - Boris Johnstone’s claim in the Telegraph newspaper that “the only continent with weaker economic growth than Europe is Antarctica”.
No doubt Boris felt he was on safe ground when making the assertion that Antarctica has the weakest economy on the planet. But does it?
Its true, the World Bank does not publish GDP data for Antarctica but that does not mean that there is no economic activity on the great white continent. Having just returned from an expedition aboard One Ocean’s Akademik Sergey Vavilov, I can confirm that the Antarctic economy (which was once dominated by whaling) is thriving thanks to science and eco tourism.
Statistics from the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), whose one hundred plus members account for the bulk of tourism in Antarctica, show 39,037 passengers visited the continent during the 2015-16 season – that’s up 6.4% on the previous year – good growth by anyone’s standards.
Then there is science. Argentina alone has 19 observatories, 13 research stations (6 of which are staffed all year round), 13 refuges and 4 other operational bases in Antarctica. One of the bases I visited (called Esperanza) is effectively a small town with a school, a church and a population of ninety people.
And the moral of the tale?
Be careful when quoting statistics and always check your facts!
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog which is meant be a light-hearted diversion from the rather more serious issue of the EU Referendum. To read more of my blogs visit my main blog page.