Threats against mothers of Soacha victims Friday links, increasing violence edition
Oct 222009

Though El Espectador’s website shrinks it to the brink of unreadability, the graphic below reveals an unhappy fact about the Colombian government’s recently approved 2010 budget.

For the first time, the country’s defense and security spending will exceed what it spends on education.

The Colombian government plans to spend 148.3 trillion pesos next year (US$78.2 billion at today’s exchange rate). 14.2 percent of the budget (and not of GDP, as the article erroneously reports) – roughly US$11.1 billion – will go to the armed forces and police. 13.9 percent – US$10.9 billion – will go to educate young Colombians.

5 Responses to “Defense > education”

  1. FARC among protesting university students? « Wies Ubags Says:

    [...] Espectador also published an article in which it revealed that the budget for national security is higher that the education [...]

  2. Marcos Says:

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    For those of you who can’t or won’t count though, the difference is 0.3%. It’s not like there is a huge gap there that would radically alter the situation now, either way, whatever you want to say.

    There is also the fact that Colombia’s other problems have a lot less to do with education in particular, even in the social or socio-economic spheres…because more education is good as a very long term investment but it barely changes anything in the short term. But lets pretend that all the other years where education spending was higher than security spending didn’t exist or that peace would spring forth full formed if only all of the budget was dedicated to education and nothing to security, because obviously that can only be considered as very unnecessary and fascistic.

    Regards,

    Marcos

  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Country down in the dump, thanks to Paramilitary Inc. Distressing

  4. lfm Says:

    Marcos: I agree that a one year change in the education budget wouldn’t make a substantial difference. Nobody in his right mind would deny this. In fact, I very much doubt that there is high discretionary component in this. Although I haven’t looked at the data, I’d bet that this year’s budget looks a lot like last year’s. It’s not as if we were spending endless lots of money in education and then decided to shift to defense.

    There is a deeper point, though. The FARC will never take power. It has never been even close, and I don’t care what the “revisionist history” says. In the late 90s the FARC had a snowball’s chance in hell of taking over. The real problem with the FARC is the one these figures show. Although so weak that it will never win the war, it is large enough to force the government to put a lot of money into fighting it with no end in sight. Let me repeat that last part: with no end in sight. After eight years of a frontal offensive from the government, the FARC are still there. Yes, they are weakened, but this means that they will be back to what they were in the 80s: not a fatal threat to the establishment, but a very persistent thorn on the side.

    Now, if you neglect education during one year, it’s not the end of the world. Any country can afford that. But if you go on and on and on, for five, eight, ten years, you’re talking of a major drain of resources. This is the real cost of the war.

    So, here’s the decisive question: the government’s offensive seems to have reached the spot where marginal returns flatten down. It is now abundantly clear that the FARC have been contained (as they were for most part of their history): the 80s are back. Now what? Do we keep spending lots of money in defense with each time smaller bang for the buck?

    The answer depends on the alternative. If the option is to surrender and let the FARC take over, then sure, keep fighting. I’m on record saying that a military victory of the FARC would be a historic catastrophe for Colombia. But that’s rhetorical posturing because nobody is suggesting that the government surrenders. The alternative on the table is to use the strength gained over the past years to look for ways in which a political settlement can be reached.

    “It has failed before!!” I can already hear people saying. Well, it’s a different situation, isn’t it? Haven’t we spent lots of years, lives and dollars trying to change it? Conflicts change, the IRA changed, Al Fatah changed, the FMLN changed, and so on. What do we have to lose from trying?

    If you believe that this is “appeasement” and a “sign of weakness” that the FARC will only exploit to take over, then you have, unwittingly, come to a conclusion: that Colombia is now, and will be for years, even decades, to come, in a state of war. That the current budget is the budget we will get for as far as the eye can see. Then you have to wonder if that’s the kind of country you want.

  5. Camilo Wilson Says:

    Very sound reasoning, IFM. I would add only one thing: should Colombia’s establishment every get around to discussing a political settlement, that settlement must address some of the reasons that explain the FARC’s emergence–and the emergence of something like a dozen other insurgent movements over the past 50 years. All of these are a response to Colombia’s “democracy.”

    In all deference to my friend Marcos, he does seem to think that Colombia is like Sweden, or Norway, or Denmark. I would like to say categorically, and on the record, that it is not.

Leave a Reply