A senior defence ministry official on Monday said that a modest defence budget of Rs 627billion would not allow the country’s military to procure new ships, aircraft and submarines.
“The defence budget only caters to maintenance of military installations, operating expenses, paying salaries and carrying out civil works and we cannot buy ships, aircraft and submarines from this meagre money”, said Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Arshad Qadoos, additional secretary at the defence ministry.
He was addressing an event organised by Senate Standing Committee on Defence which aimed at having an ‘open discussion’ on the defence budget, its size, structure and the armed forces’ perspective on budgetary requirements.
What AVM Qadoos called “meagre” accounts for Rs627 billion in the outgoing fiscal year — 27.5% of this year’s revised tax target of Rs2.275 trillion.
Explaining the distribution of funds between the fighting arms of the military, AVM Qadoos said that the army gets the lion’s share (70%) of the defence budget and 63% of it is used for salaries and allowance. The air force gets one-fifth of the total budget and spends 41.5% on physical assets while the navy’s share is one-tenth of the total budget and it spends 40% of it on procurements.
Giving details of expenditure, AVM Qadoos said that out of Rs627 billion, 43.3% is spent on salaries and allowances, 25.8% on transport, fuel, rations and medical treatment, 21.1% on physical assets and 9.9% on civil works.
He added that the 21% spending on physical assets was on account of maintaining existing fighting assets. “This year, our armed forces’ tail has become longer reaching 79%, while our teeth has shortened to 21%,”said Qadoos. Teeth are the proportion of expenditures being incurred on acquiring fighting assets, whereas expenses incurred on logistical infrastructure and maintenance of troops are called tail.
Qadoos claimed that the defence budget was only 16% of the national budget and expenses on account of procuring fighting assets should not be treated as part of the defense budget.
Pakistan has recently acquired F-16s from Jordan and the government has booked the cost outside the defence budget, according to finance ministry officials.
Qadoos’s comments came at a time when parliamentarians have called for more transparency in defence spending. “The truth is somewhere between 16% and 30% and people should have an idea about it,” said Senator Sughra Imam of the PPP, who is member of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence.
PPP’s Senator Farhatullah Babar said the defence budget should not be tailored in a manner that understates actual spending. “Pakistan’s defence budget is always formulated by the GHQ’s threat perception and anyone who dares to challenge this perception is called a traitor,” he added.
Babar said GHQ formulates its threat perception without consulting parliament. He said military pensions should be treated as part of the defence budget. There is need to look into state subsidies and other support provided to armed forces entities doing commercial businesses, he said.
Currently, a number of items related to defence spending are not part of the official defence budget. Apart from military pensions, the military receives Rs150 billion in grant as contingent liabilities every year which is also unrecognised as part of the defence budget.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2014.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ