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The French government has reportedly promised French Guiana a special payment of $4 billion if the region’s strikers end their protest actions. The national strike has closed down all activity at the French-owned spaceport at Kourou and the former prison of Devil’s Island.
Two French minsters of state flew to Cayenne last week with the promise of extra cash, well over the normal budget spend of some €430 million over the five-year budget period.
Matthias Fekl, a minister of the interior, and Ericka Bareigts, the minister for overseas territories, proposed a “pact” whereby the proposed €4 billion would be spent over the course of the next 10 years. Current spending in French Guiana (per head of population) is 44 per cent less than in mainland France, while the cost of living is 12 per cent higher.
Last week, more than 10,000 protesters marched in Cayenne to protest over the poor quality of life in the French department. Schools were closed, flights from the international airport and rocket launches from the European spaceport remain cancelled, and movement in the territory was halted by regular roadblocks.
Few doubt that more needs to be done. The population of some 250,000 suffers a very high unemployment rate (40 per cent of Guianese between the age of 15 and 24 are unemployed, and more than a quarter of them have difficulties in reading and writing, compared to 4 per cent in European France).
And during this civil unrest the Ariane launch routine has been badly damaged. Two satellites (for Brazil and Korea) are sitting atop an Ariane rocket, patiently awaiting a clearance to launch. Their two-week delay has a knock-on effect for equally patient Eutelsat and SES satellites.