Offsets can be Upsetting

As anyone who has been watching the excellent TV adaptation of ‘The Night Manager’ will know, the arms business can be dirty and nasty.  Therefore, it is important to keep a close eye on each and every arms deal, especially if is conducted with a government as sleazy and corrupt as Jacob Zuma’s kleptocratic administration.    This is why our interest was aroused by a report in Engineering News about US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.   It is apparently seeking to sell some more Hercules aircraft to the South African Air Force, with the suggestion that SA manufacturers could be involved in producing the roll-on, roll-off systems for the planes.  Engineering News reports: “Roll-on roll-off modules can be used to configure aircraft for maritime surveillance, intelligence and surveillance, firefighting, medical evacuation and VIP roles, for example.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  We buy the aircraft and at the same time the deal brings offsets which give a boost to our manufacturing base. However, those of us with long memories recall the ANC government’s first big arms deal, which was concluded around the turn of the Millennium, and involved an array of industrial offset opportunities.  I am pretty sure that the jobs and investment South Africa was expecting did not materialize at anything like the promised levels, and it is also pretty certain that there were millions of rand which changed hands in murky and corrupt exchanges.   There was not a lot of transparency, either.

Would things be any better today?  I doubt it.  We are now seeing reports that on his latest visit to Saudi Arabia, President Zuma may have opened some joint-venture arms factory, an event which was not publicized at the time.  Why not?  So while I have no reason to believe that Lockheed Martin would act in anything other than an honest and above-board manner, my concern is that some well-connected crooks would benefit from any offset agreements.   So let’s just agree that if the deal goes ahead, instead of offsets, there are some well-audited donations to AIDS charities, rhino conservation and the ZA Confidential wine cellar?  Well, it was worth asking.


Tweet of the Day:

Shit Jokes (@ShitJokes):  Two peanuts walking down the road.  One was a salted.

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