Shamefully, this year New Zealand is ranked at number 13 in the SIPRI table ranking the highest increases in military spending around the world. The SIPRI figures, which are based on self-reporting by the government, put the 2019 increase at 19%.
However, the government figures do not include military spending across all three of the Budget Votes where it is mostly itemised: Vote Defence, Vote Defence Force and Vote Education.
The allocation for military spending in last year’s ‘Wellbeing Budget’ increased to a record total of $5,058,286,000 (NZ). By way of contrast, more than 20% of children here are estimated to live in a family with an income below the poverty line, and an estimated one in one hundred New Zealanders are homeless.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, essential public services including health, education, support for persons with disabilities and housing desperately needed increased spending, yet the government continues to prioritise military spending – in addition to the increase in last year’s Budget, in June 2019 the government announced that it would spend $(NZ)20 billion over the next decade on increased combat capability, frigates and military aircraft.
The shocking increase in military spending – whether here in Aotearoa or around the world – shows the same dominant ideology that focuses on outdated narrow military security concepts, rather than real human security that meets the needs of all, continues to harm us all.
If there is any lesson to be learnt from the current pandemic, surely it is that there must be a transition from combat-ready armed forces to civilian agencies that meet the needs of all peoples and the planet.