THE UK Government recently reported that it had completed work on the refurbishment of the airstrip at the Mount Pleasant military base in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands at a total cost of £7 million, adding to annual (official) expenditure there of more than £60m.

This base, a cornerstone of Britain’s colonial presence in the region and in contravention of UN resolutions, was built in 1985 at a cost of £200m (£750m in today’s values).

Let’s look at cold numbers.

As we said, the British Government currently spends more than £60m a year on the maintenance of one of the last colonial vestiges in the 21st century, ignoring what the international community demands, which is negotiation with Argentina to solve the sovereignty dispute.

This £60m, paid for by British taxpayers more than 8000 miles away, represents more than £30,000 a year for each inhabitant born on the islands. This is twice as much as it takes for a UK citizen not to be considered below the poverty line.

Today, the British Government spends £450 a year per child to provide one meal a day.

Only 3.5 million children out of 8.4m state school students are eligible for this meal, according to British regulations. One in four children in the UK is in poverty according to the latest official statistics, which are pre-pandemic.

READ MORE: The way to win independence? Removing people’s worries over money

Almost five million people had to apply for Universal Credit, a benefit for those who are unemployed and/or below the median income (£190 per week per person according to private studies) with an average amount of £85 per week (although for more than half of the households receiving this support, the real number is £64 after deductions).

Destitution is set at an income of less than £95 per week and, according to private studies, the basic cost of living being £120 per week.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s leading NGO for food banks, in the last year distributed 1.9m food parcels, half of them to children, at an estimated cost of £59 per parcel and rising.

These numbers are a tiny sample of the social situation in the UK and the needs that the British population lives with every day and where every penny counts.

The £60m that the UK spends to perpetuate its position in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands could cover the cost of 150,000 children having access to a free meal every day of the year. It could make permanent the temporary £20 increase to the Universal Credit which was introduced during the pandemic and then removed.

READ MORE: Wind farm curtailment costs see Scottish renewable power 'wasted'

Or it could also provide more than one million food parcels a year, or give more than 200,000 households access to the Cost of Living Payment.

While the number of people below the poverty line and social assistance from the state is insufficient, the British government spends millions of pounds a year simply to breach its international obligations and maintain one of the last vestiges of colonialism in the 21st century.

It avoids negotiating with Argentina, a state that is celebrating 40 years of democracy and which has bound itself internationally and internally to respect the way of life and the interests of the inhabitants of the Islands.

It was and is the Argentine government, unlike Britain, that has been concerned with the interests of the islanders.

The 1971 Communications Agreement and the Argentine effort of more than a decade both promoted the welfare of the island population and contributed significantly to the prosperity of the islanders.

Argentina brought gas and fuel to the Islands, built the islands’ first airfield, sent Spanish teachers and treated islanders in mainland Argentine hospitals free of charge as well as offering free education in schools and universities.

At the height of the pandemic, it was Buenos Aires that helped the population of the islands in various ways. Every year, the Argentine government offers a direct flight between the Falkland/Malvinas and mainland Argentina with a national airline and London.

Argentina has always shown a spirit of co-operation, good faith and respect for the interests of the islanders. Many of them know this. That the present inhabitants of the islands do not constitute a separate people – in the legal sense of the term – with the right to self-determination does not mean that they do not enjoy other rights or that they cannot be heard.

Of course, they are rights-holders, both individually and collectively.

In the 21st century there is no place for colonialism. The British government must be responsible to its citizens and resolve, once and for all, a dispute that has been going on for more than 190 years.

Facundo Rodriguez professor of International Law and co-author of The Malvinas/Falklands between History and Law