Leading article: 'Scare' today, catastrophe tomorrow

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The Independent Online

The Independent on Sunday is proud to have done this over bird flu. We have called attention to the dangers of it sparking a pandemic since the beginning of this year, when many politicians, civil servants - and journalists - were dismissing it as a scare. Some say that we helped to spur the Government into taking faster action, just as we are credited by some, and blamed by others, for frustrating ministers' plans to introduce GM crops to Britain. But there is a broader issue here. Governments are so swamped by a host of pressing issues, so preoccupied with getting through the next day or week, ultimately so concerned with the next election, that they find it hard to look even to the medium term.

Flu experts had been warning of the danger of a new pandemic for years, to little avail. Similarly, before the Boxing Day tsunami struck, the governments surrounding the Indian Ocean had long disregarded pleas from the United Nations to set up an early-warning system. And, despite President Bush's protestations to the contrary, there had been plenty of predictions that the levees protecting New Orleans would fail in a hurricane.

As this newspaper enters an exciting new phase, we will continue to remind those that govern us of their obligations to the future as well as to the present.

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