Military spending remains high

Despite being a peaceful country, Namibia is one of the world's big spenders when it comes to its defence budget.

18 December 2017 | Government


Military spending in Namibia has more than doubled in the past decade - from about N$2.8 billion in 2007 to close to N$7 billion in 2016 - remaining one of the sectors that receive the largest contribution when it comes to budget allocations.

Namibia’s military spending as percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) is currently the fifth highest in Africa, with only Algeria, Botswana, Congo and Mauritius that are above 4%.

This is according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (Sipri) military expenditure project, which aims to study issues relating to transparency and accountability in military budgeting, spending and procurement.

“Such transparency is often quite weak, which can affect the reliability of data, but more seriously can lead to wasteful and excessive spending, often unconnected to genuine security needs, and to widespread corruption,” said the institute.

Namibia's military spending as a percentage of GDP came under Sipri’s attention in 2015 when the country was highlighted as having the eighth highest increase in spending geared towards its military.

“Namibia's military expenditure spiked by 200%,” Sipri said at that stage.

It uses the US dollar in its analysis and uses an average exchange rate for the specific year being measured. In its estimations, 2014 was selected as the base year.

Namibia's military spending amounted to 4.4% of its GDP in 2015 and 4.1% in 2014.

The fact that Namibia is one of 20 countries that had a big military relative to its size was highlighted by the institution while it also pointed out the country was unique because it was not involved in any wars.

In its 2016 analysis, it said this was the second year of decreasing military spending in Africa after 12 consecutive years of increased military spending. Military spending in Africa stood at US$37.9 billion in 2016 - a 1.3% decrease compared to 2015.

Despite the recent decrease in military spending, African military spending was still 48% higher than it was 10 years ago (in 2007).

In Namibia it found that in 2007 military spending was US$203 million (N$2.8 billion) in 2007 and this increased to US$312 million (N$4.1 billion) by 2013, while it was the highest in 2015 at US$540 million (N$7.1 billion) and slightly dropped in 2016 to U$500 million (N$7 billion).

The country’s defence budget showed similar trends with an allocation of N$1.3 billion in 2007, which skyrocketed to N$6.6 billion in 2016.

In comparison, South Africa spent US$3 160 million on its military in 2016, Angola US$2 824 million, Botswana US$514 million, Zimbabwe US$358 million and Zambia US$292 million.

Sipri found during its analyses that world military spending was US$1.69 trillion in 2016, equivalent to 2.2% of the global GDP or US$227 per person.

The ten countries with the highest military spending accounted for nearly three quarters (73%) of this total. These countries are the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, UK, Japan, Germany and South Korea.

Military spending is not only money spent on weapons; it includes costs on wages, pensions, equipment, research and development.

Namibia’s budget for defence has always come under fire.

“One country, Namibia, functions as a democracy and has since 1990 never been involved in an armed conflict, but has a military expenditure of 4.6% of GDP,” the Institute for Public Policy Research recently said with regard to the defence budget.

It said as a result of the large allocations to defence, Namibia had the 12th highest defence spending relative to GDP in the world.

“While some defence spending is likely to be justifiable, the magnitude of such that we see in the current budget is certainly not.”

According to the IPPR, the bulk of the defence spend is allocated to personnel costs, which make up N$4.7 billion of the N$5.7 billion allocated.

When broken down by main division, the Namibian army is the largest recipient of funds, receiving N$3.2 billion of the total N$5.7 billion allocation to the vote.

“While this defence spending is undoubtedly predominantly a job-creation strategy, particularly for the creation of jobs for young Namibians, serious questions exist around the strategy with regards to its efficiency.

“In essence, the government’s strategy of creating jobs directly, rather than creating an environment for the business sector to create jobs, is sub-optimal.”

Almost N$349.9 million of the military's expenditure, which amounts to 53% of its 2017/18 budget allocation, was said to be for research and development.

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