Namibia on military watch-list

Namibia is one of 14 countries that spend more than 4% of their GDP on the military.

17 February 2017 | Economics

Namibia's military spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product will come under the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's (Sipri) watchful eye when finance minister Calle Schlettwein tables the budget for the 2017-18 financial year.

Namibia has found itself on Sipri's blacklist of countries with abnormally high military spending relative to their needs. Sipri monitors 172 countries' military expenditure.

In its latest assessment, released at the end of 2016, Namibia is one of 14 countries with a military spending equal to 4% of its GDP.

According to the assessment, Namibia's military spending amounted to 4.4% of its GDP in 2015 and 4.1% in 2014. The latest budget documents prepared by the Ministry of Finance indicate that military spending was higher: 4.7% in 2015-16 and 4.6% in 2014-15.

Sifri uses military spending as a percentage of GDP not exceeding 4% as a comparison tool.

According to them, Namibia featured on Sipri's blacklist in 2014 and 2015, which was the first time the country had appeared on the list since 1991 and 1992. Then, military spending as a percentage of GDP amounted to 5.6% and 4.3% respectively.

In its report, Namibia was highlighted as the country with the eighth highest increase in spending geared towards its military.

“Namibia's military expenditure spiked by 200%,” Sipri said in its report titled 'Trends in World Military Expenditure 2015'. Sifri uses the American dollar in its analysis and uses an averaged exchange rate for the specific year being measured. In its estimations, 2014 was selected as the base year.

Sipri also highlighted Namibia as one of 20 countries that had a big military relative to its size. Namibia is also unique to Sipri because it is not involved in any wars.

“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 peace watchdog said.

Pruning shears

Provisional indications suggest that Schlettwein will try to keep military spending below 4% when he tables the budget. Fiscal consolidation measures may even see military spending drop to 3.3% of GDP.

The defence budget will get the fourth biggest budget allocation, eclipsed only by education, finance and health.

Figures in the medium-term expenditure framework for the period 2016 to 2019 indicate that military spending will amount to N$6.89 billion in the 2017-18 financial year – or 10% of GDP.

Of the estimated figure, N$6.23 billion is to be allocated to the military, and N$657.9 million to research and development.



Secret

Almost N$349.9 million of the military's expenditure, which amounts to 53% of its 2017-18 budget allocation, amounts to 'research and development'. Whatever the money will be used for, the taxpayer is in the dark as it is deemed to be classified information.

According to budget documents, the money will be geared towards “plant, machinery and equipment”.

“The intention is to build a modern, well-trained and well-resourced military force,” the defence ministry said in its argument for the budget

allocation.

The total cost of the project amounts to approximately N$6.7 billion. N$2.35 billion has already been spent on the military since the 2014-15 financial year, while it is estimated that a further N$1.3 million will be spent on the military until 2018/19.

An amount of N$16 million was deemed secret spending in the operational budget for the 2017-18 financial year, the defence ministry argued.



Military crowd

The military is the country's second biggest employer. With the tabling of the budget in February 2016, it provided employment to approximately 19 052 individuals. This amounts to 18.9% of the country's workforce which is estimated at 100 719. It is only with education that more jobs were provided which amounts to 37 874 individuals

It is also estimated that the total military budget for the 2017-18 financial year will exceed N$4.18 billion. This is approximately 16.3% of the total budget for the coming financial year, which begins 1 April 2017.





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