Pakistan increases its defense budget by nearly 6%

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s government is giving the military a nearly 6% funding boost for the coming financial year under the budget unveiled on Friday.

A combination of inflationary pressures, unpaid bills and dwindling foreign exchange reserves prompted the Department of Defense to request increased funding to avoid shortfalls that would otherwise have hampered operational capabilities.

Although mainly covering salary increases, some of the extra money is earmarked for infrastructure such as the continued development of the Jinnah naval base in Ormara, the navy’s main operating base, and a naval air base in Turbat.

Official figures indicate that the increase of 83 billion rupees (412 million US dollars) pushes the defense budget up to almost 1.45 trillion rupees (7.19 billion US dollars). This implies that the 2021 defense budget was approximately $7.49 billion.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a Sweden-based think tank, found Pakistan’s military spending for 2021 to be $11.3 billion. However, the difference could come down to how the procurement budget is created.

Pakistan’s official figure stands at around 2.2% of its gross domestic product, a drop of 2.45% of its GDP from the fiscal period 2021-2022.

Amid the lingering threat of domestic terrorism and the need to maintain a credible deterrent force against India, the fate of Pakistan’s economy does not bode well, according to Pakistani expert Claude Rakisits, who teaches at the Australian National University.

“Pakistan’s economic situation is in dire straits. It is therefore difficult for the government to buy new equipment or even to plan new acquisitions in advance,” he said.

Brian Cloughley, an analyst and former Australian defense attache in Islamabad, has been following developments in Pakistan for decades, and he doubts the government’s budget approach is any different from previous ones that failed to address the problems underlying elements, notably the country’s elite which governs for itself. advantage, leading to Pakistan’s cycle of economic woes.

“It is likely, however, that there will be announcements of postponement of spending plans for at least some acquisitions, if only to try to convince the [World Bank and International Monetary Fund] let their current, rather benevolent, policy towards Pakistan be maintained,” he said.

But he also thinks Pakistan can probably count on its allies and other friendly nations to carry the burden. “The Chinese and Saudis will likely continue to support Pakistan’s military posture and plans, and the current economic crisis – the most severe – will have little effect on the military as a whole.”

Rakisits agreed that Pakistan could rely on China, although Beijing is likely to intervene for its own benefit.

“China has a vital interest in ensuring that not only does Pakistan’s economic situation not worsen, which could threaten the country’s overall stability and the viability of its CPEC project, but that it is able to maintain its defense capability,” he added. Rakisits said, referring to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which aims to improve infrastructure to boost trade between the two countries.

“As a result, it is almost certain that Beijing will help Pakistan financially in one way or another, especially in light of the increased Western interest in selling military equipment to India,” he added.

Usman Ansari is the Pakistani correspondent for Defense News.

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