Italy spends about Euros 23 billion annually on the military, making it among the top ten worldwide in terms of defence expenditure per GDP. But in the packet of swinging spending cuts pushed through by the Government of Mario Monti last month that budget was left untouched.
The country’s imperialist adventures such as the Nato war in Afghanistan (otherwise known as “peace missions”) cost hundreds of millions of euros a year. But it is the spending on hardware, like the order for 131 F35 fighter plans, with a price tag of Euros 15 billion, that’s burning the biggest hole in the stretched public finances.
The huge order for the Lockheed airborne killing machines is more than the Euros 12-13 billion of spending cuts passed by parliament last month that ends inflation-indexing for many pensioners, increases the minimum pension age and, through cuts to central government transfers to local government, axes funding to health services and schools.
The Greens and other small left parties like Left Ecology Freedom and the Communists have lonng been campaigning for cuts to military spending, and that’s now been picked up by the larger Democrats, who are demanding that the Government curtails the generals’ ambitions.
For Angelo Bonelli, President of the Greens, it is “immoral” that its business as usual for armament companies who continue to make profits unfettered while “Italians must make heavy sacrifices” over pensions and healthcare. The Greens, who point out that just one F35 costs the same as building and running 83 nurseries, want to see immediate cuts of Euros 15 billion on armaments.
Premier Monti will be under pressure from the US not to dent the profits of multinational arms manufacturer Lockheed. But given the savage cuts to budgets that actually save, protect and develop – rather than end – lives, the Monti premier may struggle to duck the issue of downsizing Italy’s war budget.