FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Military Spending vs. People’s Health

by Dr. CESAR CHELALA

The latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that, considering some data uncertainties, the world military spending in 2012 dropped slightly (0.5 percent) when compared to 2011. It is the first decline in military spending since 1998. This could be a cause for celebration, except that it is still a perverse use of funds, which could be better diverted to improve people’s health and to promote peace.

According to SIPRI’s estimates, world military spending in 2012 was $1,75 trillion, of which $682 billion were spent by the US, $166 billion by China and $90.7 billion by Russia. There was a slight decline in spending by the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, and Western and Central Europe. Reductions in those countries, however, were upset by increased spending in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America.

In perspective, military expenditures were several hundred times the World Health Organization (WHO)’s annual budget of $3,95 billion for the 2012-2013 period. Programs funded by the organization include: addressing the global AIDS pandemic; controlling resurgent tuberculosis; dealing with the global disease burden among women and children; addressing accident and trauma victims’ needs; responding to emergency and humanitarian crises, and developing effective health systems, among many other tasks.

World military spending is also several hundred times higher than the annual budget of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of over $10.0 billion, and the Gates Foundation, which in 2012 donated $ 1.3 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Efforts by these agencies have succeeded in eliminating diseases or minimizing their negative impact on people’s health.

It is difficult to assess if the recent leveling of military spending represents a long-term change. Although some countries have diminished their disbursements others have maintained or even increased them. This slight decrease may be temporary, mainly due to the current economic crises and will resume as soon as these crises end. For example, most European countries’ dire economies may mean that spending will continue to fall for the next 2-4 years.

In the US, military spending fell 6 percent, mainly because of the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and the diminished number of troops in Afghanistan. In these cases, reduced spending on the additional war budget, also known as Overseas Contingency Operations, will probably continue falling if plans to end combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014 are fulfilled, and if the US doesn’t get involved in another major war. The US still spent more than the next 10 biggest military spenders in 2012.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has stated that redirecting just one quarter of developing countries’ military expenditure would allow for many drastic improvements in people’s health and well being. Funds could be better used to immunize children, eliminate severe malnutrition, provide safe water and universal primary education, and reduce illiteracy.

However, distorted priorities remain, and the leading industrialized countries share the responsibility, since they are the main arms suppliers. The top five arms exporters to developing countries are the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The leading world powers devote astronomical sums to activities aimed at destroying life in detriment of the paltry sums spent on improving people’s health (particularly of the most vulnerable.) This is a sad commentary about the possibilities of creating a peaceful, harmonious world.

Dr. César Chelala is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

February 11, 2016
Bruce Lesnick
Flint: A Tale of Two Cities
Ajamu Baraka
Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance
Shamus Cooke
Can the Establishment Fix Its Bernie Sanders Problem?
John Hazard
The Pope in Mexico: More Harm Than Good?
Joyce Nelson
Trudeau & the Saudi Arms Deal
Zarefah Baroud
The Ever-Dangerous Mantra “Drill, Baby Drill”
Anthony DiMaggio
Illinois’ Manufactured Budget Crisis
Colin Todhunter
Indian Food and Agriculture Under Attack
Binoy Kampmark
Warring Against Sanders: Totalitarian Thinking, Feminism and the Clintons
Robert Koehler
Presidential Politics and the American Soul
Thomas Knapp
Election 2016: The Banality of Evil on Steroids
Cesar Chelala
Is Microcephaly in Children Caused by the Zika Virus or by Pesticides?
February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail