The Global Day of Action Against Military Spending is being marked today, April 12th. Last year the world military budget was US$1,630 billion, with America well ahead of other nations. It spent US$698 billion, six times its nearest rival China on US$114 billion. Adding to the scandal, the US spends 20 times as much on its military as it does on economic aid to other nations.
If only a fraction of global military spending was diverted into achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) we’d be there fairly quickly. The world has made some progress towards MDG Goal One: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The number of people living under the poverty line of $1.25 a day has declined from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion. But on the other hand, it is estimated the recent economic crisis has pushed an extra 64 million people into extreme poverty. And around 24,000 children under the age of five die every day from mainly preventable causes – lack of access to adequate food, clean water and basic medicines.
This imbalance between military spending and development assistance is hard to overcome because the US war industry is now so big, and has so much lobbying impact in Washington, that no US president dares to cut the Defence budget.
By the way, New Zealand allocated NZ$2.85 billion to Defence for 2010/11 fiscal year. New Zealand ranks 30th in terms of per capita military expenditure which is above both the global median and global average. Our NZ aid budget did not do as well, with only NZ$525 million allocated for 2010/11.