Anorak News | Small Mercies

Small Mercies

by | 17th, June 2003

‘IT is hard to know from reading the papers this morning which country is in greater chaos at the moment – Iraq or Britain.

The train on Platform 3 is the 08.16, calling at all stations to Baghdad

While the Telegraph leads on a British accusation that the post-war rebuilding of Iraq is in chaos, the Independent focuses on problems closer to home.

It labels transport ”Labour’s most spectacular failure” – an impressive achievement given the competition – and says the system is pretty well at crisis point.

Rail passengers face ”inflation-busting fare increases” and ”cuts in mainline services”, while the reliability of services remains – at best – static.

”Despite a massive increase in investment, train services are still deteriorating,” the paper says.

Some 19.5% of trains were late in the first three months of the year compared with 19.1% in the first three months of 2002, and complaints were up 8% on the year.

As for congestion on the roads, motorists face a 25% increase in traffic over the next seven years, unless congestion charging is brought in.

All of which should make the decision for Iraqi refugees on whether to return to their homeland that much easier.

However, a look at the Telegraph might make them think twice.

A senior British official in Baghdad tells the paper the US-led reconstruction effort is in chaos and suffering from a complete lack of strategic direction.

”This is the single most chaotic organisation I have ever worked for,” he says – and, given his pedigree, you can imagine just how bad that is.

The Telegraph says Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, has just 600 men to run a country the size of France in which the civil infrastructure is on the point of collapse.

Some April salaries have not been paid, the electricity supply is unreliable and resentment is growing at the coalition’s failures.

But, it could be worse, as a quick look at the Guardian front page confirms.

It could be Africa, where Washington’s determination to find a new source of oil is leading to an oil rush in the sub-Saharan part of the continent.

And that in turn ”threatens to launch a fresh cycle of conflict, corruption and environmental degradation in the region”, says the paper.

Suddenly, having to wait an extra 10 minutes for the 18.52 to Tunbridge doesn’t seem that bad after all…

Posted: 17th, June 2003 | In: Broadsheets Comment | TrackBack | Permalink