Monday, February 28, 2011

On arms and poverty

In 2000 I did a Thought for the Day for Suffolk Humanists on BBC Radio Suffolk to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17th. I quoted some statistics, as follows:
"The cost of providing basic social services for all in developing countries is estimated at about £27½ billion a year over the next 10 years, which is less than 0.2% of the world income of £17.22 trillion. The sum needed to close the gap between the annual income of poor people and the minimum income at which they would no longer be poor is estimated at another £27½ billion a year, so the total cost would be roughly £55 billion, or less than the combined net worth of the seven richest people in the world."
These figures are out of date now, of course, but the differentials will be about the same. When I wrote that piece, I didn't refer to the cost of arms sales worldwide. If some of that money was diverted into the eradication of poverty, it would make a huge difference. In 2000, Britain exported arms worth £4,406 million. In 2007, this had risen to £5,474 million. Many of these arms have been sold to Middle Eastern and North African countries that are currently in the news, where they're being used against civilians who are demonstrating for democracy. In the middle of all this, our Prime Minister goes to the same region, to try to sell more arms. You couldn't make it up.

The photo is of an F-15 fighter jet by Boeing. Last year (2010), the US was considering selling 84 of these to Saudi Arabia. They cost £105 million each. King Abdullah has just tried to bribe his disenfranchised young people with £22 billion, in anticipation of the widespread unrest affecting his subjects.

Mark Steel wrote a brilliant piece in the Independent about hypocrisy, suggesting that the US government's line on Mubarak was, "It's not our place to intervene in a country run by a dictator we've armed and financed for 30 years."

Click here to join the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

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