In November, the Faroese Minister of Fisheries exaggerated the value of the newly signed Russian fishery deal. On the night of the Parliamentary Election, the Minister admitted he didn’t run the numbers by his staff. Expert calls it a “serious mistake”.
By Sigurd Skjoldaa Kempf and Anton Dahl Andersen
TÓRSHAVN – “I didn’t talk it over with my staff before the interview. It was a clear mistake, and it’s entirely on me.”
The Faroese Minister of Fisheries, Árni Skaale, used a figure describing the value of the Russian fishery deal incorrectly when he made a public statement, exaggerating the importance of the deal.
As he emphasised the deal’s value to the Faroese economy, he referred to the total turnover of the entire operation instead of profit.
In November, he said the deal accounts for about 5 % of the Faroese GDP.
As first reported by the Faroese national broadcaster, KVF, according to his own ministry and Hagstova, the statistical authority in the Faroes, fishing in the Russian part of the Barents Sea accounts for slightly below 1,5 % of the Faroese GDP.
Hallbera West, an assistant professor of political science at the University of the Faroe Islands, says the Minister knew what he was doing.
“The Ministry had already signed off on an assessment report with the correct information, so he knew it was incorrect. It’s a grave and serious mistake, but he didn’t misinform parliament. Legally speaking, that’s absolutely key.”
The assessment by the Ministry was signed off on October 17, more than a month before the incorrect statement by Skaale.
On December 8, Election night, Skaale elaborated on what went wrong.
“Before the interview, I prepared too quickly and found a figure online from our public broadcaster, KVF. I mixed up the numbers.”
Skaale never considered describing an estimate from the Ministry of Fisheries that was already public but won’t rule out doing so in the future.
Instead, the figure from KVF, according to Skaale and the Ministry of Fisheries, came from businesses in the fishing industry.
“Some of the businesses depend on trade with the Russians,” said Hans Ellefsen, a Faroese professor of economy and expert in international fishery agreements.
“It’s not against the law to say Ministry numbers, but to protect Faroese negotiating power, I refuse to do so,” said Skaale.