Friday, 18 June 2010

I used to think that I was good at maths

Much was made of yesterday's announcement by the new ConDem government about plans to scrap £2bn worth of projects. This is being touted as a good thing, an essential bit of cost-cutting in these difficult fiduciary times. A bit of tough love, then, from the boys in office. And it's being trumpeted as an important step in putting our nation's house in order. Great.

Except aren't we £170bn in debt? When I went to school, 2bn out of 170bn worked out at something like 1.18%. I suppose in the interests of getting full marks, I should show my working out, or at least write "(2DP)" after that, but hey. 1.18%... sounds pretty trivial, doesn't it? All these great and good projects getting canned for a 1.18% saving? Seems a bit odd to me.

There will be plenty who read this and think, "Well, we've got to start somewhere, and every little helps," and they'd be right on both counts. But why not start with something bigger? Why not scrap plans to replace the Trident missile system? The last government reckoned this would cost somewhere between £15bn and £20bn. According to Greenpeace a more realistic figure is $34bn. £34bn out of £170bn - that's a whopping 20% saving right there, plus we'd be reducing the global nuclear stockpile.

Scrap projects that would make a difference to the day-to-day lives of UK citizens, and cut the budget deficit by 1.18%, or can the Trident replacement, taking us out of an old-school cold war arms race that has run its course, and make a 20% saving. I used to think that I was good at maths; I know I'm over-simplifying things by not taking into account the year-on-year costs but something here just doesn't add up.

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