Malthus’s disciples

There are some 23,300 nuclear weapons, made and maintained at enormous cost and enough to destroy the earth a thousand times over, in the arsenals of eight states. A-bombs neither alleviate poverty nor raise literacy rates. There should be total nuclear disarmament. 

By Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur


Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur

The inexorable worldwide slide into the quagmires of poverty, social upheavals and environmental disasters is not only being ignored but positively speeded up by the powers who, blinded by their enormous profits from arms sales, have relegated peaceful conflict resolution to a very secondary position and allowed rulers to squander and spend a country into abject poverty by relentlessly pursuing confrontation.

Robert Fisk, in The Great War for Civilisation says, “In 1998 and 1999 alone, Gulf Arab military spending came to $ 92 billion. Since 1997 Emirates alone had signed contracts worth more than $ 11 billion. The figures are staggering, revolting. Between 1991 and 1993, the US Military Training Mission was administering more than $ 31 billion in Saudi arms procurement from Washington and $ 27 billion in new US acquisitions. To understand these figures one has to remember the total Saudi financial support for the Palestinian-Israeli, Gaza-Jericho accord: a mere $ 100 million. The UAE, which was buying $ 3.5 billion French Leclerc tanks, had pledged just $ 25 million to the Palestinians. The US sold well over $ 28 billion of arms in two years following the Gulf War, of which the Saudis accounted for $ 17 billion. Sale of weapons to Middle East in 1993 was running at $ 46 million a day.”

Ironically, the US and UK, the champions of democracy, dispense death and destruction in the name of freedom. Millions of Iraqis and Afghans have died or been displaced since 1990. In Fallujah three times more children with birth defects are born due to the munitions used by the Allies.

To date, $ 1.05 trillion dollars have been allocated to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In March 2008 The Washington Post said the war in Iraq alone will cost more than $ 3 trillion. A couple of years back a Quaker pacifist group disclosed that apart from the $ 8 billion the UK spends, the daily cost of the Iraq War is $ 720 million, or $ 500,000 a minute.

Paradoxically, when it came to fighting food poverty, Bush had announced a meagre $ 700 million although the New York Food Bank study found about 3.1 million (40 percent) residents of New York City struggled to put food on the table in 2007. The incredible amount of money being used for the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan exposes the obscenity and injustice of this reprehensible business of weapons and wars.

The 2009 SIPRI report presents a depressing picture: world military expenditure in 2008 reached $ 1.464 trillion. This represented a 4 percent increase in real terms since 2007 and a 45 percent increase over the last 10 years. It corresponded to 2.4 percent of world GDP or $ 217 for each person on earth. In contrast the UN spends about $ 27 billion each year or about $ 4 for each person. The entire UN budget is approximately 1.8 percent of the world’s military expenditure.

The US with its massive spending budget is the principal determinant of the current world trend, and its military expenditure now accounts for just under half, at 41.5 percent, of the world total. In 2008 it accounted for 48 percent ($ 710 billion), spending more than the combined spending of the next 46 highest spending countries. It also is the biggest arms supplier.

The world’s donor countries’ entire aid shortfall to the UN is over $ 3.6 trillion in promised official aid from 1970 till 2005. Little wonder a report said, “More than 80 million children and mothers will needlessly die in the developing world by 2015 unless the Millennium Development Goals’ aim to cut child mortality by two-thirds and maternal death rates by three quarters are met.” These figures convey the magnitude of the problem that diversion of precious resources creates.

According to UNICEF, 25,000 children die daily due to poverty. Annually more than six million children in the world under the age of five needlessly die. Diarrhoea kills over 2 million, pneumonia over 2 million, malaria about 1 million, HIV/Aids about 0.3 million and measles about 0.1 million. Overall, 10 million children die annually before they are five. Most deaths occur in just six countries  China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Although so many deaths from preventable causes occur in the subcontinent, yet surveying the defence budgets, India’s defence budget now stands at $ 32 billion and Pakistan hiked it to Rs 343 billion in 2009-10 with overheads breaching this by a wide margin; one would presume they are ignorant of the bitter realities.

During the year 2009-10 Pakistan spent Rs 249.858 billion on defence but only Rs 5.964 billion and Rs 22.6 billion on health and education respectively. Last year Fakhruddin G Ibrahim said, “During the last 30 years, Rs 178.3 billion had been spent on education and Rs 98 billion on health while on the other hand around Rs 2,835 billion had been consumed on defence alone.” Expenditure on health and education in 30 years is slightly higher than that for defence in 2009-10 alone. In Pakistan, 31 percent of the population lives on less than $ 1 a day, while 85 percent lives on less than $ 2 a day.

The situation in India is not much different. A panel headed by Suresh Tendulkar, former chairman of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council, concluded that every third Indian, i.e. 37 percent of people, is living below the poverty line.

The 1998 figures about other spending priorities also display insensitivity to these problems: cosmetics $ 8 billion, ice cream in Europe $ 11 billion, perfumes in Europe $ 12 billion, pet foods in Europe $ 17 billion, business entertainment in Japan $ 35 billion, cigarettes in Europe $ 50 billion, alcoholic drinks in Europe $ 105 billion, narcotics drugs in the world $ 400 billion, and military spending in the world $ 780 billion.

There are some 23,300 nuclear weapons, made and maintained at enormous cost and enough to destroy the earth a thousand times over, in the arsenals of eight states: the US, Russia, China, UK, France, India, Pakistan and Israel. A-bombs neither alleviate poverty nor raise literacy rates. There should be total nuclear disarmament.

Reason demands that the morally indefensible expenditure of trillions of dollars on wars and the military should end and be diverted to human welfare because malaria alone makes 300 million people ill and causes a million deaths worldwide annually. In sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of cases occur, a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds, but it seems Malthus’s disciples, driven by greed for power and pelf, are determined to continue profiting at the expense of human misery.  

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at

(Courtesy Daily Times)