Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News Shorts And Other Business

Paying The War Machine

Squall 10, Summer 1995, pg. 4.

One of the biggest arguments used by the Government in favour of the British arm’s trade is that it provides jobs and so helps the economy.

Britain’s arms manufacturers account for some 20% of the world market for arms exports. However, in 1994, the British arms industry was subsidised by taxpayers to the tune of £2 billion.

The Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), a government office that reports to the secretary for trade and industry, insures the exports of British industry, both civil and ‘defence’. The ‘defence’ industries now account for half of its business.

The ECGD guarantees industry refunds on contracts if the importing country defaults on payment. Those defaults totalled some £4.08 billion in 1994; arms manufacturers claimed £1.96 billion of it.

In 1992-93 (latest figures available) 53% of the arms defaults were from Asian buyers, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia. Other defaulters included Mexico, ex-Yugoslavia and Nigeria. There were more claims on exports to Iraq (£430 million) in the three years to March 1993 than on any other single country.

As with most industries, the arms industry operates on a credit system. Goods are manufactured to buyer’s specifications and then shipped. Only upon receipt of the goods will the buyer be expected to complete payment for them. The arms are already in the hands of the buyer when the buyer cannot, or refuses to, cough up. Thus, it would seem, not only are Britons and British companies involved in producing weapons used in the massacre of people such as the East Timorese and the indigenous peoples of Southern Mexico, but it would appear that the taxpayer is helping to foot the bill.

Rather than pay oppressive regimes to rid themselves of their political opponents, £2 billion would go a long way in getting some of Britain’s unemployed population back to work. And not in menial, soul-destroying jobs, but in imaginative schemes to improve the quality of life in this country. Put one way, £2 billion per year would pay 200,000 people £10,000 each, per year, to work on Agenda 21. Put another way, £2 billion would get over 150,000 nurses back in the NHS; saving lives, not destroying them.

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