Evil discusses defence cuts, Myanmar and rugby union…
I start with a letter from today’s Times. It could hardly be clearer:
“A failure to commit to a minimum of 2 per cent of GDP for defence could cost the Conservatives dear at the general election
Sir, The £38 billion black hole in the defence budget, first identified by the coalition government in 2010, is still cited as the reason for the draconian defence cuts since then, resulting in a 20-30 per cent reduction in our military capability. And yet the National Audit Office cannot support the figure, and attempts by the Commons defence select committee to be allowed access to the data were rebuffed in 2011-12.
The “black hole” nonsense has been used as an excuse to cut the defence budget to a dangerous level in a very unsafe world. A Royal Navy temporarily without carriers and fixed-wing aircraft, and with only 19 escorts, is insufficient for our security needs. The carrier situation will be resolved by 2020, but will we have the Sea Lightnings to embark in them? On the Army, the measures announced are a courageous attempt to match capability with reduced resources, but one has to doubt the readiness of the reserve element. In the RAF there are insufficient fast jets of the type we need.
We need to take a hard look at the impact of frontline cuts; we are in danger of changing our global status by default and without debate. As a minimum, the two main parties should make a manifesto pledge to increase the percentage of GDP spent on defence to 2 per cent throughout the next parliament.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead
House of Lords”
It should be borne in mind that the LibDems have sought to see that a minimum 0.7% of GDP is spent on overseas aid. These expenditures include military equipment for India which we, the donors, can’t afford ourselves. Those whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.
Yesterday evening, I was visited by Vassilios Carellas and Andrew King. Vassilios is of course a friend from Kryso (now CNG) days and heads Ortac (OTC). Andrew is a geologist and banker by upbringing and experience. Aged 50, he is married with two children and lives south of London. However, he has formed Highland Metals, incorporated in Singapore but entirely concentrated on developing tin/tungsten extraction in Burma, more recently known as Myanmar.
He described recent times in that country and, quite clearly, things are looking up. The military are proving slow to relinquish power but the forces lined up against them are irresistible. An election later this year will take matters along: the US will see serious development money put to work.
I am not subscribing for new at this time despite the fact that Andrew’s description of events is entirely plausible and most encouraging. In my opinion, Highland Metals is still an early stage company best grown in private. However, Andrew persuaded me that there are many sectors of Myanmar’s economy awaiting unlocking, particularly those in tourism. I suspect that there are huge opportunities for courteously managed capital.
Elsewhere, my legal- and eagle-eyed correspondent north of the border, Ross Annan, has kindly forwarded the following cutting covering rugby union football sixty-eight years ago: