The sums spent by the world’s richest governments on aid and debt relief pale in comparison to the amount they spend on weapons. In 2004 — the sixth successive year in which global arms spending increased — the global total spent on munitions topped $1 trillion for the first time since the height of the Cold War. The amount spent on aid that year was $78.6 billion.
The US alone spent $455 billion on arms, an increase from the previous year of 12%; its aid spending is about 4.1% of its total arms bill. It accounts for 50% of world arms spending, despite having only around 5% of the global population. Britain, the second largest arms spender, spent $47 billion.
In contrast, the debt relief plan being pushed by Tony Blair will amount to not much more than $20 billion for the whole of Africa, while George Bush recently announced $674 million of new famine relief for the Horn of Africa.
Meanwhile, the UK Campaign Against the Arms Trade has revealed that that seven of the G8 nations are among the world top ten arms dealers, responsible for the export of more than $24bn worth of weapons, half of which last year went to developing countries. Just five members of the G8 — the US, Britain, France, Germany and Russia — were responsible for 89% of arms sales to developing countries.
While the G8 promotes “free trade” for developing countries in Africa, its governments provide an enormous system of “corporate welfare” subsidies for arms giants like Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Thales.
The largest two single purchasers of arms last year were China and India, both countries with huge and growing populations and extremely high levels of poverty.