Our big-spending defence ministry

13 December 2018 | Columns

Recent calls by parliamentarians in the National Council to increase the defence budget make for interesting reading. Onesi constituency councillor Titus Kanyele recently suggested more funds are needed to bolster the country's defence ministry, in order for it to, among other things, buy modern weapons to defend the country. There is no denying that defence is an important priority and government has a responsibility to protect the sovereignty of the nation, by enhancing national security and improving military infrastructure across the country. It is also indeed true that the cost-effectiveness of Namibia's defence budget spending is debatable, given the other pressing priorities such as lack of affordable land and housing that the nation is grappling with, as well as the ridiculously high civil service wage bill. For the current financial year, the defence ministry was allocated N$6 billion and an additional N$124.5 million in the mid-term budget review announced in October. According to finance minister Calle Schlettwein the money will be used for utilities and transport-related expenses. The world over, budget spending on defence has been closely watched and governments have been called out for not providing transparent and detailed explanations for allocations in their defence budgets. Obviously, some allocations are cannot be divulged owing to national security interests. But this lack of transparency can also easily spark corruption within the ministry, which may inflate defence budgets at the expense of other sectors such as health and education. There must be a transparent process, which includes making actual spending readily available to the public. The status quo has resulted in more questions than answers and there is a need to have an open and visible process, with the reasons for spending clearly outlined. Clearly, taxpayers deserve to know how their hard-earned cash is spent. This big-spending trend on defence can longer continue unabated, especially when it is not in the public interest.

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