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Strikes and Strikes

(First posted 28th June, 2011)

Thursday sees a day of industrial action in Britain in response to the Government’s attack on public sector pensions. 92% of teachers in the NUT and ATL voted in favour of a walkout  in response to the Tory government (and it is a Tory government) embarking on an ideologically-driven and anti-democratic program to dismantle public services under the guise of deficit-reduction.

Meanwhile, in the UK military spending is around £40 billion ($60 billion). A further £3 billion was set aside by the Treasury for the war in Iraq. An extra £330 million was set aside for additional domestic counter-terrorism measures – which translates as locking up Arabs in a paranoid and illegal fashion.

UK military spending is the fourth highest in the world (SIPRI). The military budget in 2009 was nearly 10 x the size of the entire International Development budget and 1000 x the budget for conflict prevention (Guardian) On average each UK taxpayer pays £589 per person on military spending per year (MoD figures)

These figures aren’t really that surprising when you consider that in the first two hours of the attack on Libya, allied forces fired over 100 cruise missiles, each Raytheon Tomahawk missile costing $1.4 million. That was just the first two hours, and they were just the cruise missiles.

SIPRI’s research indicates that the United Kingdom was third, behind the United States and China, on military expenditures in 2010. Even though it was faced with budget deficits, the UK managed to spend $59.6 billion on its military. Defence spending will be cut by by 8% over four years compared to an average of 18% across other departments. Ministry of Defence will receive an extra 100 million pounds to fund participation in armed conflict in Libya.

The UK government has also decided to postpone making a decision on renewing Trident nuclear systems until 2016. Currently, it costs the government 2.2 billion pounds to maintain current Trident nuclear weapon systems and as of January 2011, 687 million pounds had been spent on the ‘concept phase’ of procuring new systems. The government predicts that submarine and warhead replacements of Trident system will cost 20 billion pounds, while other sources predict at least £76 billion.

Now call it simplistic, but I see a solution.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimates that 2010 global military expenditure was $1630 billion. Globally it would cost $10 billion to provide universal primary education, $30 billion to eradicate world hunger, $30 billion to provide clean water to everyone without it.

Which is the better investment?


…and on the other side of the pond…


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