How UK taxpayers underwrite military sales to a Middle East autocracy

How the UK taxpayer is underwriting military sales to an autocratic middle eastern regime

Away from the political maelstrom of the News of The World hacking scandal, the government released the 2010-11 annual reports and accounts of the Export Credit Guarentee Department (ECGD) yesterday. This obscure government agency underwites British exports so if foreign customers don’t pay up, the taxpayer compensates the UK firms. Sectors traditionally financed include engineering, aerospace – and defence.

And this year, dear taxpayer, you’ll be glad to know that you helped facilitate the £114 million sale of an “Airbus multi-role tanker transport” – a plane that can fuel other planes mid-air – to the United Arab Emirates armed services. The UAE is a federation of seven absolute monarchies, where liberalisation in the wake of the Arab Spring has not exactly been the highest priority. Human Rights Watch reports:

” The United Arab Emirates expanded its crackdown on civil society on May 2, 2011, by dissolving the elected board of directors of the Teachers’ Association, Human Rights Watch said today. This was the second prominent civil society organization to face a hostile government takeover in less than two weeks.

“This attack on civil society is further proof that those in power in the UAE see anyone calling for reform as fair game,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “UAE authorities should immediately stop their hostile takeover of civil society and free the peaceful democracy activists.”

“The decree, signed by Social Affairs Minister Mariam Mohammed Khalfan Al Roumi, dismissed the Teachers’ Association’s board and replaced its members with state appointees. The minister issued a similar decree issued on April 21,dissolving the board of the Jurist Association. …According to the decree, the Teachers’ Association violated section 16 of the UAE’s 2008 Law on Associations, which prohibits nongovernmental organizations and their members from interfering “in politics or in matters that impair state security and its ruling regime.”

The UAE is also currently arresting pro-democracy activists, after a petition was gathered calling for free elections in the country.

Meanwhile, the ECGD is also facilitating the oil industries of Russia and Saudi Arabia, guarenteeing contracts worth £330 million and £62 million respectively. The taxpayer is effectively on the hook for a despotic middle eastern regime, and an oil industry based in the kind of authoritarian states that we want to be less dependent on for national security and environmental reasons.

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