Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pennies a day

Well, the true cost in treasure - if not in blood - of the Afghan mission has been determined by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, and the number looks as large as the headline fonts of the stories about it:

A lack of federal government "fiscal transparency" has masked the true cost of Canada's Afghanistan mission but it could cost taxpayers at least $18.1-billion by 2011, the Parliamentary Budget Officer revealed Thursday.

Based on the available data, each Canadian household will have contributed the equivalent of $1,500 to support what will be a decade of military and political intervention, according to the eagerly awaited report by the office headed by Kevin Page.

Kudos to Mike Blanchfield for breaking the number down to a figure Canadian taxpayers could digest - what it means to them. I assume that since he started breaking it down, he won't mind if I take it a bit further...

$1,500 per household over a decade works out to $150 per household per year. Assuming three people per household, that's $50 per Canadian per year. That works out to about 13.7ยข per Canadian per day to run the Afghan mission.

Just to give you a bit of perspective, World Vision - certainly a noble-minded and worthwhile charity - asks for about ten times that daily amount to sponsor a single child.

And what are Canadians getting for that miniscule investment? Col (ret'd) Mike Capstick ventured an opinion in an interview with CBC earlier today:

You know, what's the price tag you put on global security? We have a country in an unstable area surrounded by nuclear powers. What's the cost of keeping that stable? At the same time, what is the benefit to the 33 million Afghans that were there to support in terms of their ability to move in to the future? You know, accountants can put costs on things, but this is -- warfare is a human activity, not a fiscal activity.

While he makes a valid point, can we at least quantify some of the benefit to ordinary Afghans? Well, just for starters...
  • more than 1,500 wells dug, 600 roadway culverts built, and more than 3,000 kms of canals rehabilitated

  • humanitarian food assistance to more than half a million Afghans in 2007 alone

  • more than 530 Community Development Councils elected in 9 districts, which facilitated more than 700 community projects completed, including improvements to transportation, water supply and sanitation, irrigation, power supply, education, health, and agriculture

  • maternal health care professionals being trained in emergency obstetric care and monitoring

  • approximately 350,000 children being vaccinated against polio

  • measles and tetanus vaccination program reached more than 76,000 children and 63,000 women

  • non-food kits (teapots, soap, gas stoves, towels, buckets, kitchen sets, blankets, floor mats, sweaters and health kits) supplied to 1,500 families

  • more than 30,000 Afghans received functional literacy training and more than 4,000 received vocational training throughthe World Food Programme in 2007 alone

  • More than 5,000 people (the majority of them women) have received literacy training through UNICEF

...and that's just in Kandahar province, folks. Click on the images below for more detail.

It's pennies a day, gentle reader, to help some of the most unfortunate souls on the entire planet, and to render our world a bit safer and more secure. And it would still be cheap at twice the price. Remember that the next time someone with an agenda starts throwing big numbers around.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the $18b is for the full life cycle cost - which includes all the pension and benefits for life for personnel included into perpetuity.

I's guess this would be for at least a 60 year period, probably more.

I wish we had a watchdog telling us the cost of running Parliament for 60 years, including all the super fat pensions and free travel for Senators.

4:07 p.m., October 09, 2008  
Blogger cousinarlo said...

Thanks for this breakdown and your website in general, which I found via smalldeadanimals.

It's incredibly sad that so many Canadians believe that our efforts in Afghanistan are in vain. Armed Forces critic Jack Layton would resign from politics if he had one ounce of shame in him.

God bless our military men and women.

You're a new favourite blog!

9:44 p.m., October 09, 2008  
Blogger Josh said...

Since it looks like the mission will turn out to be about ten years, that's an average of $1.8 billion a year. For perspective, that's:

0.76% of annual federal government expenditures

0.54% of total provincial and government expenditure

0.15% of GDP

And yet the government claims that it sees the mission as important. A commitment in line with the rhetoric from both the Liberal and Conservative governments would entail much, much more than this.

10:21 p.m., October 09, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

You are right Josh, when you look at this 10 year expense and its burden on all of us it kinda falls short of the importance it is.

12:02 a.m., October 10, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

The Parliamentary Budget Office has produced figures estimating the cost of Canada's Afghan mission; expect Canada's "progressive" media to let you know every Canadian household will have been billed the equivalent of $1500 by 2011.



5:11 a.m., October 10, 2008  
Blogger Dave in Pa. said...

What's the amount of the taxpayers' dollars going to subsidize the CBC over the same ten year period? Or to Parliamentary expense accounts and travel junkets over the same time frame?

Going a bit farther afield, the quarter billion Adscam graft would fund the Afghan operations for a couple of months.

What was the cost of Canada's participation in D-Day? Or in the liberation of Holland?

But let's not be bean-counters about the Afghan Campaign. These are fallacious arguments. Leftist politicians and their MSM propagandists aside, what it's really about is all the benefits that Col. Capstick and Babbling have so articulately listed. (Great graphics, BTW!).

1:01 p.m., October 10, 2008  

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