Money is no object to Argentina and Great Britain as they jockey for the hearts and minds of the 1,800 inhabitants of the Falkland Islands.
Britain has been more lavish, committing $480 million to send a fleet 7,000 miles. This averages to $266,666.66 per Falklander, enough to send each one around the world about 100 times on commercial airlines. The very thought of this expenditure must be a boost to the islanders' egos.
Prior to the Argentine invasion April 2, the Falklanders' chief benefit from the motherland was a once-a-week short-wave BBC program, "Call to the Falklands." The Falklanders were so revered by the British Parliament that last year it passed a new nationality bill stripping them of the right to live in the mother country.
Argentina has been less grandiose, spending only $500,000 a day on its island defenses. Still, this averages to $277.78 per Falklander per day, not bad for a country in which per capita annual income is slightly over $2,000. If Argentina holds out for a year against the British, at this rate it will average $101,111.10 per Falklander.
Argentina does not want to be less lavish than the British, but it is in worse condition economically. It has a foreign debt of $34 billion and cannot stretch its credit any further. For Great Britain, however, this is not great news, as about $17 billion is owed to British financial institutions. The more Argentina spreads its wealth around the Falklands, the less it will be able to pay the money it owes Britain at a time when Britain needs the cash to pay its bills for fighting Argentina.
Britain has a legitimate complaint. In happier times it sold Argentina weapons, planes and ships which Argentina is now lining up against it. It's only fair that Argentina lend a helping hand by paying its debts to its enemy.
Gus Bono is foreign editor of the Washington-based National Catholic News Service.