The military establishment has sought an increase in the Rs495 billion defence budget proposed by the finance ministry to Rs524 billion, or 18.4 per cent more than the budget for the outgoing fiscal year.
After a briefing by the Ministry of Defence on next year’s defence and security requirements, the chairperson of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance Fauzia Wahab said the proposed defence budget of Rs495 billion might be increased keeping rising needs in mind. Wahab said the defence budget can be increased up to three per cent of the total size of the economy, while the proposed budget is 2.5 per cent of GDP.
The defence ministry has also sought restoration of the Armed Forces Defence Programme that had an outlay of $1.5 billion (Rs129 billion). The programme had been discontinued some years ago, which is creating problems, Wahab quoted the defence ministry as saying.
“Both the committee and the Ministry of Defence have shown concerns over not fully funding military research that has undermined the defence system,” the chairperson said.
The finance ministry has proposed Rs495 billion or a 12 per cent rise for next year’s defence budget. However, documents show that the defence ministry wants this to be increased to Rs524.3 billion, which is 18.4 per cent or Rs81.5 billion more than the defence budget of the outgoing fiscal year. For the current fiscal year the government had allocated Rs442 billion.
The defence ministry has also sought Rs202.4 billion for staff expenses, which is Rs25.6 billion or 14.5 per cent more than the expenses in the outgoing fiscal year. The expenses are for the salary and allowances of military personnel, documents show.
For operating defence expenses, the ministry has asked for Rs127.6 billion, which is Rs18.3 billion or 16.7 per cent more than the outgoing year’s budget. The operating expenses comprise travel allowance, daily allowance, PIA fares, railways charges, repair of vehicles, telephone, stationary, ration, petroleum charges, military farms, medical stores and reimbursement of training charges.
For building physical assets, the defence ministry has sought Rs148.2 billion, which is Rs30.5 billion or 26.2 per cent higher than the present year’s budget. The physical assets include indigenous purchases, defence imports and customs surcharges.
Meanwhile for civil works, the defence ministry has sought Rs46 billion, which is Rs7 billion or 17.9 per cent more than last year’s allocation. This includes maintenance, residential and non-residential schemes and specific projects.
The defence ministry told the committee that additional funds have been sought to meet expenses of troops’ deployments in restive areas, ration expenses and offset the impact of rupee depreciation against dollar as well as double-digit inflation.
Secretary Defence, Lieutenant General retired Syed Ather Ali told the committee that until April this year Rs360.8 billion or 82 per cent of the total allocated budget for the outgoing fiscal year had been spent.
Meanwhile, there were some conflicting reports about the panel’s recommendation to expel US officials and forces from Pakistan in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing. A committee member Kashmala Tariq had said on a television programme that the committee had unanimously recommended throwing Americans out the country. But Wahab denied that there were any such recommendations. “The issue did not crop up during the meeting,” she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.
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