Ending Poverty Vs Military Spending


The world spent approximately USD 1.7T on military expenditures in 2017 as per data published by SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). A little over one-third was spent by the U.S., followed by China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and India among the top five military spenders in the world.

It has been estimated by SIPRI that just 10% of this expenditure is enough to end poverty around the world (more than 800M people are below the poverty line) in just 15 years, meeting the U.N. goal to end poverty and hunger by 2030.

Does the world need to spend around 2.2% of its GDP on military expenditures which does not have a measurable ROI apart from waging wars and killing people? Is it necessary to keep investing in military R&D and expansion of war machinery especially when the entire world is hungry for peace? Was there any tangible benefits reaped by mankind by conducting destructive wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen?

In other words, the world can reduce its military expenditure not just by 10%, but by half and still have a decent defense mechanism against enemies. If the world wants peace, where are the enemies anyway?

We are going to finish the second decade of the 21st Century in couple of years. It is a shame that there still are hungry people around the world. It is a big shame that many people still do not have a roof over their heads, or do not know where their next meal will come from. There are millions of children suffering from malnutrition due to lack of food and milk. Poor people exist even in developed countries as we can see them under bridges in many first world cities in the West – the homeless folks beyond even the fringes of the moving world economics and society.

The collective conscience of the world should be focused on solving this intractable problem of poverty and hunger, instead of focusing on increasing the possibility of conflicts and wars by spending more on military. Is there a ministry for resolving human hunger and ending poverty in the major countries around the world? We only see defense ministries who are drafting the next year’s budget with a potential 5 to 10% increase.

World leaders meeting in the U.N. should make a choice between ending poverty and increasing their military expenditures. Even if the regular annual increases are scrapped, enough money will be released to take specific actions in humanitarian relief. If the military budgets are cut by 10%, that would release USD 170B towards poverty alleviation. If this money could be targeted at helping poor children, that is going to create a healthy workforce for the future. Think about it.

It is highly irresponsible for countries to spend more than 2.5% of their GDP on defense expenditures, when the allocation for poverty alleviation projects is not even 0.5%. What are we talking here? What about allocation for education and healthcare? What about allocation for eliminating hunger? Why are governments not allocating enough of their budgets to address the needs of poor people?

For most of us in a secluded area of society, the impact of poverty and hopelessness and hunger hardly strikes home. We rarely ever think about these things. We are happy if the government reduces our tax burden, leaving more money in our hands to spend. So, how are we different from our own governments? Governments spend money on things that they prioritize, not what citizens wish for. Citizens of any country would want better quality of living, better transportation, better roads and infrastructure, better access to education and healthcare, less poverty and less hunger. Are governments providing for these things everywhere around the world?

Poor people do not worry about taxes or at other items of government expenditure. They are worried about getting through today and then tomorrow – day by day. Most of us are not looking at our lives with the same lens – we have been lucky and fortunate to get through life in an easier manner. Have you ever felt hunger with no access to any food at all? Never. That is not the case for poor and hungry children all around the world.

So, we as educated citizens of the world, need to push our own government to reduce military expenditure and redirect the released funds towards eliminating poverty and hunger from our societies. This is the most important thing that a government can do during its term of office. If it does everything else well, but not do this one thing, that would mean it is a heartless government which has wrecked its legacy.

We do not get many chances to address the problems of poor people. The focus is not on them. Let us try to bring it back towards the objectives outlined in this note. United Nations better take action immediately instead of just lecturing in its hallways.

Have a good weekend folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

14th July 2018

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Kindergarten Fight with Nuclear Missiles


I like the maturity and pragmatic approach of Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, when it comes to his comments about global affairs. He is a diplomat par excellence, one of the best in the world, with solid experience and an intellect which challenges most others in the diplomatic arena. He is 67, yet going strong and has seen four Secretaries of State of the U.S. during his Foreign Minister tenure for the past 13 years. He is also very polished and known for his tough negotiating skills. No wonder President Putin kept him going on the job in a consistent manner over the years.

In his comments last Friday, he called the exchanges between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea as a “kindergarten fight between school children”. He also called for “hot heads to calm down”. So he called President Trump as a school child wanting a fight, and also as a hot head.

Most appropriate, right?

Only these two school kids are itching to get into a nuclear war with nuclear tipped missiles. That is a big problem for the world.

We also have President Trump on record in front of the august assembly of world leaders at the UN General Assembly that he would destroy North Korea completely if the “rocket man” attempts to attack the U.S. or its allies. That might seem OK, but it surely is not at the U.N. An irresponsible early morning tweet may be fine, but not in a formal address to the U.N.

President Trump has a long way to go before he is taken seriously as a true leader of the free world, like his predecessor was………he is acting unpredictable by the day, and is not in tune with world’s expectations of the U.S. Why go for another war, when the U.S. is still not able to resolve the wars it engendered in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere. President Trump, it appears, also wants to fight Iran, a much better equipped nation than North Korea, though not with a nuclear bomb as of now.

It is no wonder Mr Lavrov is feeling this way about this abominable exchange of words between the U.S. and North Korea. South Korea and Japan must be shaking with fear on this rhetoric, as they know that President Trump is impulsive, and Kim Jong-In is totally unpredictable with a lot up his sleeve. A nuclear holocaust over the Korean Peninsula will also not be allowed by Russia and China, both having land borders with the Koreas.

At the end of the day, the “hot heads” have to cool down. But, unfortunately they won’t. Simply because, Kim Jong-Un is probably preparing for the next missile launch or the next nuclear explosion, irrespective of what President Trump or his neighbours or the U.N. demand. All those demands and sanctions are totally irrelevant to him. He will proceed on his own plan, without any consultations with anyone, not even China. I think China has lost leverage over North Korea. It also appears that North Korea is leaning towards Russia.

If the U.S. – South Korea military exercises are postponed, that would be a first calming step in the process. Obviously, there is no lack of military preparedness on the part of the U.S. or South Korea – they are apparently ready for a war with North Korea any time. However, their collective maturity should make them defer their joint military exercises which annoys the North Korean Leadership every year. Why not do it when you can actually do it without any loss of face?

But President Trump won’t have it as he sees it as a concession to the “rocket man” on a “suicide mission”.

Who will blink first, then?

Surely not Kim Jong-Un. He will continue on his mission to make his country nuclear and missile capable, that is not going to stop.

I am sure that the Pentagon Generals are not advising President Trump to launch a surgical strike to take out the nuclear sites in North Korea. Whether there is a war or not, it is not advisable to provoke a reaction from the North on the hapless citizens of the South, just 30 KMs away from the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone). It is estimated that at least 1M citizens will perish even in a limited war with mutual attacks from both sides (the U.S. will primarily attack from air and sea). And a tactical nuclear weapon from the U.S. to stop the war will not stop it, as the Koreans (like the Vietnamese) have proved to be extremely resilient when it comes to war and hand-to-hand combat even. The war will not stop, and the Koreans will not forget the U.S. for taking an unnecessary military action which would plunge the entire peninsula into an endless war.

I hope Japan does not want war, either. Traditionally, it has sided with the U.S. thought process, so there could be some disparity here between South Korea (which surely does not want war as it stands to lose the most) and Japan.

At the end, I see that Russia is playing a wiser role, articulating a well-calculated strategy on how war is not an option and everyone needs to return to the negotiating table. Given that Russia has some leverage over North Korea (providing employment to the impoverished North Koreans), it might be time that the U.S. listens to Russia, though they both seem to be having interminable issues of all kinds.

But this is about War and Peace.

Everyone should strive very hard to stop war from happening.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th September 2017

India’s Missile


India finally entered an exclusive club of a very few nations who have the technology for ICBMs (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) earlier this week, when it successfully test-fired the AGNI V missile capable of reaching a distance of 5,000 KMs.

The message to the world – India just keeps trying ! Whether the rest of the developed world helps it nor not, India will just keep trying and slowly improving ! Exactly like the elephant !!

One day, India will have an array of operationally ready missiles in thousands of numbers (like what the developed countries possess) and will be asked to join the Missile Control Treaty and reduce its arsenal – that date is probably a decade away. Unfortunately, in the high stakes world of international diplomacy, nothing works better than credible threat deterrence. The U.S. and the erstwhile U.S.S.R. demonstrated to the world how powerful was the principle of deterrence.

India is a slow learner. Over the last 5 years or so, it has realised that self-sufficiency could not be achieved by indigenous research and development only. So, it started buying more defense hardware from established supplier countries with the cooperation of the respective governments – such as Russia, the U.K., Israel and the U.S. However, it also came to the conclusion that these countries will not hand over very critical technologies as part of large deals (which has been the demand of India for a long time), where there is a joint venture production being set up in India.

So, what is the big point when you cannot own the crucial technology that might be denied in any eventuality ?

So, India adopted multi-pronged approach to its defense preparedness. While it is always scandal-ridden, defense procurement in India is today far more refined and regulated than it ever was. One part of the strategy was to develop a range of AGNI missiles. Several such missiles for various distances have been developed, tested, productionized and stocked.

But the feather in the cap is the AGNI V. Its actual range could be in excess of 8,000 KMs. And, it will now become easier for India to develop even a missile which can reach 10,000 KMs or more, using indigenous technology. It is not inconceivable that India might eventually become an outsourced destination for developed countries to manufacture missiles !

So, this has been a proud milestone for India, notwithstanding the fact that there have been many failures in the past. India still does not have any long-distance missile that can be launched from submarines. India lacks many other key elements of an overarching defense strategy, but it has now understood the need for implementing one unified strategy and is apparently taking a multitude of targeted procurement and actions.

What India now needs is an increase in budget allocation for further missile development and testing. Hope the government will give more money to the missile folks. India needs to defend its borders and missiles are an integral part of its defense, including anti-missile and anti-satellite mechanisms.

Let us hope that the investment continues !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
21st April 2012
Mumbai