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article imageOp-Ed: No need for Greek austerity if weapons spending had been slashed

By Katerina Nikolas     Mar 23, 2012 in World
As the Greek people suffer under biting austerity measures, most often considered necessary due to profligate spending and corruption, it is galling to note that austerity could have been avoided if spending on unnecessary weapons had been cut.
Greek government ministers who may have earned lucrative backhanders in the form of brown envelopes for their part in unnecessary weapons procurements, will of course retain their immunity from prosecution. The continued immunity given to the 300 politicians who stuff the Greek Parliament is one of the most serious issues which they have failed to deal with in the current crisis, and one of the reasons why they expect to be pelted with yogurt if they venture into the public arena.
Greece has long purchased armaments on a scale quite out of proportion to its needs. Yet even as Germany has led the demands for Greece to curb its expenditure, it has benefited from Greece being the largest single customer of its weapons industry. Greece is also the second biggest importer of weapons from France. As Digital Journal reported in January, bail out loans to Greece are used to purchase arms from Germany, France and the U.S., and remains under pressure from its lenders to do so.
The Guardian has now cited figures which really puts the situation into perspective. It says "over the past 10 years its military budget has stood at an average of 4% of GDP, more than £900 per person. If Greece is in need of structural reform, then its over-sized military would seem the most logical place to start. In fact, if it had only spent the EU average of 1.7% over the last 20 years, it would have saved a total of 52% of its GDP – meaning instead of being completely bankrupt it would be among the more typical countries struggling with the recession."
The irony of course is that Greece did not even need the weapons in the first place, simply purchasing beyond its means in an attempt to keep pace with arms purchases from neighbouring Turkey. However, as a member nation of the EU it ought to feel less threatened by Turkey than previously: even if the threat could be argued as real it does not justify Greece being in the top ten buyers of armaments in the world.
Yanis Varoufakis, Professor of Economics at Athens University, highlighted the absurdity of Greece's expenditure on weapons. The Independent quoted him as saying "The EU and IMF keep giving loans to Greece to stop it going bankrupt, but countries such as Germany need to justify this to voters, hence the demand for spending cuts. But with Greece being such a crucial arms customer, it only takes a phone call to the German government from an armaments manufacturer to ensure that Greece's military budget stays intact."
Already Greece's lenders are demanding yet more austerity from the Greek people, and remain happy to keep pressing the point of Greek incompetence as the reason why austerity is necessary. As each evro is squeezed out in tax and living standards drop further, it is time for a halt to be called to the ridiculous spending on weapons which are bankrupting Greece's future.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about greek austerity, Greek weapons imports, Germany, France
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