Socialist Worker

What the cash spent on bombs could buy

We can have £3,500,000,000 for war, or we can have 1248 new Schools, 28 fully equipped Hospitals, 10 percent rise in basic pension or 10,000 childcare centres

Issue No. 1846

FOR THE next nine months, every penny of the money which the government is taking from workers in extra national insurance will go to pay for the war on Iraq. That's if the war 'only' costs the £3.5 billion that chancellor Gordon Brown has already set aside.

If the war costs closer to £10 billion, as many experts predict, it will swallow up the national insurance rise and the entire extra amount people across the whole of Britain are paying in extra council tax. In the local elections in May the Tories will be attacking council tax rises while supporting the war.

Worse still the Nazis in the British National Party (BNP) will be trying to win votes by using the lie that the extra council tax money will be going on refugees. In fact the money is going on the war.

The cost of one of Britain's Tornado fighter planes now raining death on Iraq could wipe out any council tax rise at all for all the people of Burnley and Oldham, two towns the BNP are targeting. The extra council tax that the people of Blackpool will be paying this year would be wiped out for the cost of just one of Britain's Challenger tanks whose shells are tearing people apart in Iraq.

The £3.5 billion that is the minimum cost for the war could pay for 1,248 new primary schools or 28 fully equipped new hospitals, or give every pensioner in Britain a much needed 10 percent rise in their basic pension. The longer war lasts the more public services will pay the cost.

The reputable US-based Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments says that the additional cost to Britain will ratchet up at a rate of around £75 million a day, every day. Just four days of this could settle the firefighters' pay claim in full. Instead firefighters are told there is no money, as are teachers, classroom assistants, health workers and others who need and deserve decent pay.

The immediate cost of the war is only a small fraction of the obscene amount the British government spends on 'defence' - preparing for war. Under New Labour Britain's military spending has just had its biggest increase for 20 years. Even before the war in Iraq it had risen to £33 billion a year. Imagine what could be done in just four years with that money instead.

  • Year one: build 200 fully equipped new hospitals.
  • Year two: build five new primary schools in every parliamentary constituency in Britain AND build over a million new, decent and affordable council homes.

  • Year three: a pensioners package giving each a £250 lump sum plus free TV, telephone and heating AND put £5 billion investment into a decent public transport system.

  • Year four: build a national network of 10,000 new nurseries and childcare centres, with free childcare places for those who use them, as well as continuing the free TV, telephone and heating for pensioners.

And over those four years that would still leave at least £20 billion to put into tackling global problems of poverty, clean water and killer diseases like AIDS and TB.

Bush and Blair talk of tackling global problems. But they won't use the money spent on war to solve them. Everyone I the world could have food and basic health and education services if the war budgets were used to help people.

The United Nations Unesco organisation says it would take around £3.5 billion a year to educate the 115 million children in the world now denied any education at all. That is the same as the money set aside this year for war by Britain's Gordon Brown.

The cost of just two of the cruise missiles launched by the US on Baghdad could feed 270,000 desperately hungry people in Angola for a month. The minimum £65 billion US war spending could pay the entire budget of the United Nations Unicef children's emergency fund for the next 80 years, or fund the World Health Organisation's budget for the next two centuries. The United Nations Human Development Report estimates what it would cost to give a basic minimum income and provide basic services such as water, health, housing and education to all the world's people.

It reckons that would cost around £52 billion a year for each of the next ten years. The US's spending on war against Iraq will cover more than a whole year's such spending. In the US, even without the extra spending on war demanded by Bush, this year's military spending was already budgeted at an awesome £257 billion. This is set to rise to a shocking annual total of £324 billion in five years time.

Just two years of this military budget would be enough to eradicate global poverty and give everyone in the world a basic living standard. What prevents that is not lack of resources, but a system based on profit and on war.

The struggle against imperialism is also a struggle to win back control of the world's resourses from the tiny elite who have grabbed them from us.

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Sat 12 Apr 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1846
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