New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 163

new internationalist
issue 163 - September 1986

[image, unknown]

The world at war
The world spent $663,120 million on arms in 19851.
This affected all of us, however far we were from the nearest
missile base. Military expenditure distorts economies and
renders wars more likely - especially in the Third World.

Deadly priorities

Every government makes choices about how to spend its money. Comparing the amount spent on arms with that spent on health care indicates current global priorities.

[image, unknown]

The superpowers are by far the world's biggest spenders on arms. But when both military and health expenditure are calculated as a percentage of gross national product (GNP), they come much lower in the global league table.

Note that nine of the top ten military spenders are from the Middle East while nine of the top ten health spenders come from Western Europe6.

Military expenditure 1982

Health Expenditure 1982

% of GNP

Amount
($millions)

% of GNP

Amount
($millions)

1.

Iraq

29.7

8,042

1.

Sweden

9.0

10,387

2.

Oman

24.3

1,670

2.

Ireland

8.5

1,494

3.

Israel

23.9

5,061

3.

Iceland

6.7

190

4.

Iran

20.1

14,000

3.

Holland

6.7

10,413

5.

South Yemen

16.8

156

5.

Norway

6.5

3,825

6.

Saudi Arabia

16.6

26,045

5.

West Germany

6.5

49,210

7.

North Yemen

14.5

538

7.

France

6.4

40,146

8

Syria

13.7

2,176

8.

Denmark

6.0

3,788

9.

Jordan

11.3

472

8.

Italy

6.0

22,926

10.

USSR

10.9

170,000

10.

Canada

5.8

16,187

11.

Qatar

10.1

600

11.

Switzerland

5.6

6,037

12.

North Korea

10.0

1,750

12.

Belgium

5.4

5,610

13.

Angola

9.9

1,030

13.

Finland

5.3

2,774

13.

Mauritania

9.9

80

13.

UK

5.3

28,446

15.

Mongolia

9.7

160

15.

Panama

5.2

217

16.

Ethiopia

8.8

411

16.

Aotearoa (NZ)

5.0

1,260

17.

Morocco

8.8

1,544

17.

Australia

4.9

8,216

18.

Malaysia

8.6

2,291

17.

East Germany

4.9

5,810

19.

China

8.3

25,000

19.

Austria

4.8

3,574

20.

Libya

8.1

2,202

19.

Costa Rica

4.8

129

21.

Nicaragua

7.6

200

19.

Czechoslovakia

4.8

4,050

28.

US

6.4

196,390

24.

Nicargua

4.5

118

36.

UK

5.1

27,310

24.

US

4.5

136,830

77.

Australia

2.8

4,768

38.

USSR

3.1

48,000

89.

Canada

2.2

6,208

38.

Iran

3.1

2,184

92.

Aotearoa (NZ)

2.1

541

77.

Ethiopia

1.4

65


[image, unknown]


[image, unknown] GREAT DOUBLE ACT

The United States and the Soviet Union have just 11% of the world's people. But they spend more than half the world's military budget, perform 80% of its military research, account for 53% of its arms exports - and possess 97% of it nuclear weapons.

In addition, of the 1.8 million soldiers stationed on foreign soil around the globe, 69% come form the USSR and the US.9

Every time one of the superpowers develops a new weapon,
the other is obliged to follow suit as soon as possible.9

Action

Reaction

US

1945

Atomic bomb

1949

USSR

US

1948

Intercontinental bomber

1955

USSR

US

1952

Thermonuclear bomb

1953

USSR

USSR

1957

Intercontinental ballistic missile

1958

US

USSR

1957

Satellite

1958

US

US

1959

Photo reconnaissance satellite

1962

USSR

US

1960

Submarine launched ballistic missile

1968

USSR

US

1966

Multiple warhead

1968

USSR

USSR

1968

Anti-ballistic missile

1972

US

US

1970

Multiple independently targeted warhead

1975

USSR

US

1983

Neutron bomb

?

USSR

US

1985

New strategic bomber

?

USSR

US

1986

Anti-satellite rocket

?

USSR


THE ECONOMY UNDER FIRE

[image, unknown] Spending resources on arms may actually harm a country's economic health, as this table shows10.

This is because wealth spent on arms adds nothing to a nation's capital stock. And the UN estimates that one thousand million dollars spent in a major industrialized country on public service employment would yield 51,000 more jobs than if it were spent on the military sector11.

[image, unknown]

 


Sources:
1.
World Armament and Disarmament, SIPRI 1986. Expressed in US$ at 1980 prices and exchange rates. All other values expressed in US$ at 1982 prices and exchange rates.
2.
Ruth Leger Sivard World Military and Social Expenditures 1985.
3.
ibid. The 12 countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. Their combined health budget for 1982 comes to $204 million.
4.
ibid.
5.
ibid. The Third World spent $163,034 million on health and education in 1982.
6
. ibid.
7
. ibid.
8
. ibid.
9
. ibid.
10
. ibid.
11
The Relationship between Disarmament and Development, United Nations Centre for Disarmament 1982

last page choose another issue go to the contents page [image, unknown] next page


This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on The Facts

Leave your comment