16 October, 2021

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Defense Expenses In Sri Lanka

By Harsha Gunasena

Harsha Gunasena

The Minister of Finance presented the Appropriation Bill for the fiscal year 2022 to the Parliament. The highest allocation was made to the Ministry of defense, and this was the scenario for some time. At present the expenditure under the Ministry of Defense includes nonmilitary expenses such as the expenses of Multi-purpose Development Task Force as well. However, the direct military allocations comprising of the allocations to Sri Lanka Army, Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Air Force inclusive of both recurrent and capital expenditure was staggering Rs. 308 billion. This was 12.3% of the total estimated government expenditure of Rs. 2.5 trillion. In the Appropriation Bill of 2021, the direct military allocation was estimated as Rs. 283 billion which was 10.56% of the total estimated expenditure. Therefore, the allocation to direct military expenditure out of the total estimated government expenditure was increased by 1.74% in 2022. This is of course at the expense of various vital sectors of the country.

By Shanika Somatilake

Sri Lanka is a country which is having high military expenses among the fellow nations. If a comparison is made with few countries across the world representing different levels of development, ideologies, and geographic locations this is visible. For comparison purposes with Sri Lanka the countries of Japan, Sweden, Bangladesh, Germany, China, Australia, UK, India and Israel are considered. As the indicators, military expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), military expenditure as a percentage of total government expenses and military personnel as a percentage of population are considered and the relevant charts are given.

Source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.GD.ZS

As a percentage of GDP, Sri Lanka spent 1.93% in 2020 on military expenses whereas Israel spent 5.62% which was the highest. Japan, which is having external threats spent only 0.99%. Sri Lanka (10.29%) is second only to Israel (12.08%) in 2020 out of the selected countries in respect of military expenses as a % of government expenditure. The number of military personnel in Sri Lanka in 2018 was 317,000 which was lower than only China and India which countries maintain large armies. As a percentage of population in 2018 Sri Lanka (1.46%) was second only to Israel (2%)

Source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.ZS

The Sri Lankan problem, if any, is not similar to that of Israel. It could be solved very easily if not for the mindsets of the political leaders especially the current set who have no hesitation to grab the power even through blood.

Despite the end of the civil war in 2009, defense expenditure in the Sri Lankan budget was on the rise. A mentality was created in the minds of the people that defense was the most prioritized expenditure of the budget. Therefore no one including the opposition parliamentarians raised objections to the increasing defense expenditure of the country. Even at this juncture of the history of Sri Lanka where people are forced to undergo severe economic difficulties partly due to the bad economic management of the successive governments and partly due to the arrogant and foolish approach of this government in solving the issue, defense expenses are on the rise.

Source: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.TOTL.P1

It is understood that during the war defense should be the topmost expenditure. When it continues after the war, year after year, it is an indicator that the peace is not there. The successive governments after the end of the war have not done enough to bring peace to the country. The blame goes to the previous government as well although it had done a lot in this direction.

The simple formula to bring peace is to sideline the extremist elements in all the sides and implement a moderate solution acceptable to all. This is not a difficult task for a leader with a vision. If so, the defense expenses can be reduced drastically and that can be used to more deserved sectors of the country. Instead, the political leaders of the country intentionally create unrest and fear among the ethnic groups in order to get the votes of the majority Sinhala community. Eventually they increase the allocation to the military expenses to safeguard the country from an unborn enemy.

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Latest comments

  • 9
    1

    Other countries demob their armies at the end of a war. Israel has compulsory conscription, so that reserves are always available, but don’t have to be paid. The truth is that Sri Lanka is afraid of letting the ranaviruwos out. They could easily turn round and bite their patrons. A conscripted and trained reserve is the answer, but that is politically dangerous. In any case, who is the enemy? Are the Maldivians threatening to invade Welllawatta?

  • 7
    1

    A very well presentation of data at a time of need to open the eyes of the Sri Lankan people particularly Buddhist Sinhala community. I don’t know what proportion of the population knew this information. Most of the Arab nations are enemies of Israel and it has a permanent support of USA. Who is the enemy of Sri Lanka? None. The enemies are Tamils of Sri Lanka, Muslims of Sri Lanka and Sinhalese of Sri Lanka. Who are these Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims? There are the citizens of this country. Enemies were created by our politicians for their politics, not the country wanted. Who created the enemies? UNP and SLFP are creators of our problem. We thought when both were united as in 2015 they will solve the problems but they didn’t want to resolve the problems and it is they wanted to keep the problems and we people also gave green light. So, the people have to face the problems.

  • 2
    9

    Very poor comparison.

    Where is Singapore?

    Singapore never had a war. Their military expenses is 3.2% of GDP compared to SL’s 2% of GDP. SL has to increase it to 3.2% if trying to be like Singapore with wider participation.

    Most defence expenses of SL are for salaries, pensions, food and other locally purchased things. All that comes back to the economy. SL is doing UN peace keeping missions and the UN pays US$1,428 per soldier per month. Their cost is also in the SL defence budget (not the income to SL).

  • 4
    1

    Israel is perfectly justified in allocating such a lot of resources on defense because it is a matter of survival for them. They are surrounded on all sides and threatened by hostile countries that have vowed to destroy Israel. Their enemies are real!
    In Sri Lanka though, the purpose of the very high military expenditure is to create a fear psychosis against mostly imaginary enemies in order to get votes, subjugate the minorities, and cling to power through the use of military force if there is a risk of being ousted from power.

    • 1
      4

      Same in Colombo! Just like Israel.

  • 2
    0

    Sri Lanka is formulating their defense/ security policies on false supposition;
    .
    The assumption is that high military expenditure with more men and arms arms ensures security.
    What ensures security is a contented citizens .

    This means that the citizens are treated equally and their minimum basic needs are dealt in a fair manner.

    If the military expenditure is diverted towards this objective, there is no need to be paranoid about security.

    External threat for a small country is also managed by an enlightened foreign policy, not by having an armed race with the neighbors.

  • 3
    0

    So long as Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism is the ruling philosophy of the Sri Lankan State and its rulers, bloated Sinhalese armed forces are needed to prop up the regimes.

    This will result in disharmony among the communities, lack of progress and poverty for the people as a whole. This is what is happening for 73 years and continuing with vigor!

  • 6
    0

    Harsha Gunasena, Army is being fed so that they do not turn their guns at Rajapaksas and continue help in keeping them in power. In turn they will take up employment opportunities of qualified deserving people. They already are involved in farming and selling products, emergency situations, infrastructure building (bridge and roads ), covid management, vaccination, in North and East rebuilding —-. To keep their dole and perks , they will quell and snuff out any form of protest of dissent by the unemployed. Also now that Pandemic is getting under control , Rajapaksas are busy reviving LTTE to divert people from real crisis. There are news coming out about boats with weapons captured, ex militants arrested, India all of a sudden finding new leads, ever flourishing drug trafficking between India and Lanka is now presented as LTTE activities, Hindu News doing propaganda at this end and Senile Su. Swamy is invited to Lanka to celebrate Dasara festivities ??? When was the last time Rajapaksas officially celebrate Dasara and invite some one ?? he is there to strategize and help reviving LTTE, and Lankan expert who went unemployed after war Rohan . G is now back in business. Unfortunately late Rajewa is not around but Gamage can help.

    • 1
      0

      That certainly is the plan, chiv.
      .
      Those military promotions will mean more salary for them, too
      .
      I’m not sure that the people will put up with it.

  • 1
    0

    That certainly is the plan, chiv.
    .
    Those military promotions will mean more salary for them, too
    .
    I’m not sure that the people will put up with it.

  • 0
    0

    ‘”It is understood that during the war defense should be the topmost expenditure. When it continues after the war, year after year, it is an indicator that the peace is not there.”

    this has nothing to do with the peace.It has everything to do with defending the rajapakshe regime.

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