Pakistani paramilitary soldiers display seized weapons and ammunition. Pakistan has again increased the size of the defense budget. (BANARAS KHAN/AFP)
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has followed recent trends and again increased the size of its defense budget, but also continued the trend of a steady decline in that rate of increase.
The government unveiled its FY2014-2015 budget on Tuesday, showing an 11 percent increase over the revised FY2012-2013 allocation.
The approved defense budget currently stands at 700 billion Pakistani rupees (US $7 billion).
The service breakdown is nearly US $3.4 billion for the Army, $1.5 billion for the Air Force and $725 million for the Navy.
Additionally, the Inter-Services Organisations and Defence Production Establishment have been allocated nearly $1.5 billion and the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate has been allocated the same amount, $1.5 billion.
Former Australian defense attache to Islamabad, Brian Cloughley, says, “It is likely that the increase is prompted largely by increased operating costs, with perhaps some allocations for capital equipment.”
However, counterinsurgency efforts against the Taliban are responsible for a large part of the operational expenditure.
“The most important aspect of expenditure is maintaining large forces in the west of the country, where vehicle fuel alone is a major item of expenditure,” he said.
The $7 billion budget amounts to 18 percent of the national budget and 2.36 percent of GDP, which is an increase from the nearly $6.4 billion allocated for FY2012-2013, (revised later to $6.6 billion).
Though this appears to be a large amount, compared to a total national budget increase of only 2 percent, $2.4 billion of the military’s budget will effectively be spent on salaries. This leaves $1.8 billion for operational expenses and nearly $1.6 billion for acquisitions and maintaining arms and ammunition. Some $744 million will spent on infrastructure improvement and maintenance.
Prior to what has been unveiled and approved, the new defense budget had been estimated at just over $7.6 billion.
Defense budget increases have also maintained their downward trend in percentage terms despite the defense budget overall having doubled in five years.
In percentage terms, the defense budget increased by 21.46 percent in FY2009-2010, 17.58 percent in FY2010-11, 14.73 percent in FY2011-2012 and 11.79 percent in FY2012-2013.
Overall, the government has claimed Pakistan is now on the road to economic recovery, but analysts are unconvinced.
Salma Malik, assistant professor at the Department of Defence & Strategic Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, said this seems to be more of “a smokescreen” that will not allow for capital defense acquisitions.
“If we look at the economic profile realistically, I doubt there is any definite improvement other than a cosmetic facelift for the economy; for defense outlays, there is a need for substantial outlays and reforms,” she said.
As a result, she does not believe the military can do anything other than maintain its present course of action, though alternatives could be explored.
“The defense sector will keep moving and improvising at the similar pace they were doing previously, but alternate procurement options are something to keenly observe, such as Russian and even British to an extent, though latter is just a dumping of their defense waste.”
Nevertheless, due to the budget increase, analysts are considering whether the military can get any of its capital acquisition/modernization back on track.
If so, analyst Usman Shabbir of the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank says the items at the top of each services shopping list are well known.
“For Navy it must be newer frigates and submarines, for the Air Force, more F-16s and JF-17s to replace F-7s and Mirages, but I am not sure for the Army as they are well covered, though most likely new attack helicopters to supplement the Cobra fleet,” he said. ■