Kevin Myers: Why do we send money to nations that can spend millions on arms?
THE good news is that land-locked Uganda is thinking of buying another squadron of Sukhoi Su30 MK Mach 2 anti-shipping strike fighters, even though, at its nearest point, it is 400 miles from the sea.
The not-so good news is that it's possible that the Kampala government might be introducing draconian anti-gay laws. Uganda receives €33m a year from the Irish taxpayer, so logically one might think that our Government has an opinion when Uganda spends zillions on military hardware, but if so, I haven't heard about it.
However, we apparently do have an opinion -- forcibly expressed by the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore during a visit to Uganda last July -- on the legal-sexual mores of the democratically elected Ugandan government.
Now I say "democratic" in the Ugandan context in much the same way that I might refer to Zimbabwean snowball fights or Saudi strip clubs. The Department of Foreign affairs website certainly suggests that the last Ugandan election was as fair as elections in Africa go -- and as African elections go, it went.
So why are we denouncing an African country for its laws on homosexuality, but staying silent as it spends our money on some supersonic combat aircraft, each of which probably exceeds the capital cost of our entire Air Corps?
Yes, yes, yes, I know our aid is "ring-fenced" (as that rather curious expression goes) by our "partner" (which is PC DFA-speak for the beggar with the bowl). But this ring-fence is a ring-fence: it has holes in it.
Firstly, 60pc of Irish government funds are administered by Ugandan government officials: say no more.
Secondly, if you take pity on the family of an alcoholic and start feeding his children, this becomes an indirect alcohol-subsidy, as it frees up the rest of the household budget for the lush to squander on booze. Similarly, Sukhoi anti-shipping strike-aircraft.
If this subject of sea-less Uganda buying 1,400mph maritime strike-fighters seems vaguely familiar, maybe that's because I was writing about it a year ago, after Uganda acquired its first batch of Sukhois. I don't know the actual purchase price, but the market price should be around €600m, which could mean that in about 18 years, with our aid at current levels, we shall have finally paid for them.
As for the next consignment, our aid will probably have covered the cost by around 2058, when the population of Uganda (at current estimates) will be around 150,000,000.
For Uganda is, like every other African country, doubling its population every 22 years or so, as western medicines and western aid reduce infant mortality, while doing nothing whatever to reduce African fecundity or African dependency. On average, every Ugandan mother gives birth to seven children.
This level of reproduction is only socially and economically sustainable if there is somewhere for the surplus population to emigrate to, as with Ireland in the 19th and 20th Centuries; or because mortality reduces population growth to a manageable size, as with the Middle Ages everywhere; or because capital-accumulation enables the creation of vast amounts of wealth and employment, as with Britain during the Industrial revolution (but even then, with the greatest population-growth in Europe since the collapse of the Roman Empire, it took over 70 years -- not 22 -- for the British population to double to 27 million from 1780 to 1851).
Without those factors, uncontrolled fecundity leads inevitably to a Malthusian catastrophe: a demographic explosion well beyond any possibility of feeding, watering, sheltering (never mind educating) the population.
This is the path to hell that Uganda (like virtually every other African country) is on.
Now there's a slightly cynical theory that China (population 1.2 billion) is actually giving Uganda the Sukhoi aircraft, plus pilots, plus ground-crew, as part of its long-term East African strategy. It can afford to: Chinese foreign exchange reserves now amount to €2,000,000,000,000, which is one-third greater than the value of the entire UK economy.
And no, I don't understand it either. But all things considered, why is little Ireland, (population 4.2 million) borrowing money to give to Uganda (population 36 million today: maybe 150 million by 2058, as our grandchildren finish repaying the loans), which will be used either to prop up Museveni's absurd military ambitions, or effectively to be subsidising Chinese empire building in East Africa?
Answers, please, to DFA, Iveagh House, St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2.