Italian peace activists demand a moratorium on new weapons’ expenditure in 2021
Our Italian partners Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo, together with Sbilanciamoci!, are carrying out a campaign to demand a moratorium to the Italian lawmakers, urging them to reallocate the expected funding for new weapons in 2021 to Health and Education in order to better deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the details of the Budget Law currently under discussion in the Italian Parliament in 2021, Italy will spend over 6 billion euros to acquire new weapons systems: fighter bombers, frigates and destroyers, tanks and armor, missiles and submarines. A total figure that increases sharply in comparison with the last few years, and that comes from the sum of direct funds of the Ministry of Defense and those made available by the Ministry for Economic Development.
For the organisations Sbilanciamoci! and Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo this is an unacceptable choice.
While we are committed to find resources for Health and Public Education, we are wasting 6 billion euros to prepare for war – stresses Giulio Marcon, spokesman for Sbilanciamoci! – but the really important challenge today is another one: the pandemic. Hospitals do not have enough intensive care units or enough doctors and nurses to cope with such crisis, while (…) more than 10,000 schools have structures that are falling apart and do not comply with safety regulations.
The two Italian civil society organisations underline once again, as they did during the first phase of the pandemic, that in recent years military spending has increased while public health has been stagnant and resources for public education are lower than the European average. Unfortunately, if the Italian Parliament does not decide to change the budget proposal made by the Government this trend will continue for 2021.
In 2021, the budget of the Ministry of Defence is expected to increase by 1.6 billion (almost entirely for investment expenditure) amounting to a total of 24.5 billion euros. Therefore, it is not easy to estimate with precision the total expenditure of a purely military nature: to these funds of the Ministry of Defense we must subtract the non-military functions and add those of other related departments. However, it is easier to outline the resources destined for the purchase of new weapons: If you analyze the chapters specifically linked to the investment you will find just over 4 billion euros allocated to the Ministry of Defense and about 2.8 billion to the Ministry of Economic Development. To this must be added 185 million on interest for loans granted by the State to give in advance to companies the amounts allocated for specific multi-year weapons projects. This would lead to a total of 6.9 billion which is probably an overestimation (in the Multiannual Programming Documents the Ministry of Defence gives the figure of 5.9 billion). That allows us to confirm, at least, 6 billion euros of our estimate that will be spent in 2021 on new weapons.
Moreover, the allocation of these resources lacks transparency. In fact, the documents of the Budget Bill, do not provide detailed information on the acquired weapon systems, which is only explained by the Ministry of Defense months after the allocation of resources. Parliamentarians are in the dark when they vote.
For this reason Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo and Sbilanciamoci! proposed to all political forces a moratorium for 2021 on all expenditure on investment in armaments: to allocate 6 billion to Health and Education in a time of emergency and extreme need. According to both organisations, this is what Italy really needs today. Therefore, a new mobilization has begun, with online initiatives and informative materials, which aim to increase public pressure on political forces.
Sergio Bassoli, on behalf of the Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo, highlights:
The analysis we have been able to carry out concerns us and once again raises the question of the priorities of public spending in our country. More than ever before, we are all called to make sacrifices and act responsibly and in solidarity to combat the contagion and to get out of the pandemic as soon as possible with the least possible human, social and economic damage. In addition, we must be aware that public debt will weigh like a hard sandstone in the years to come. The moratorium of one year to suspend the purchase of new weapon systems is an act due to Italy, to those who struggle daily to save lives, to those who have lost their income and perhaps tomorrow work, to those who are forced to close their business. Every euro spent must respond to the conscience of the country. We ask the Government and the Parliament to be responsible and to suspend these expenses today.
These organisations raise the question: What defends us best against the pandemic? A new fighter bomber or 500 extra ICU beds and 5,000 nurses and doctors who could be hired for three years with the same money? For them, as for GCOMS, the answer is clear: more Health and Education, less weapons and military spending!