A country at war spares just peanuts for its military


Pakistan’s budget 2014-15 presented before the Parliament highlights the priority its political leaders assign to national security. The country’s military, and by extension, the Pakistani State is at war. Foreign-aided insurgency that has claimed close to 10,000 military lives is raging though there are some signs of let up after the military (army and air force) have started targeting safe havens of the enemy in restive FATA region. Practically, Pakistan is at war if we look at the figures of casualties, both military and civilian, but if we look at the attitude of political leaders in power, everything is hunky dory.

Let us look at budget figures to know how much the government is insensitive to national security needs.

Consider this: The total defense budget is Rs. 700.15 billion as against total budget outlay of Rs. 4,302 billion which shows defense gets a paltry 16.27% of the budget. Annual increase in defense is 11% and if we adjust this increase with 8.5% inflation, effective increase works out to 2.5%. Defense gets no preference as overall increase in current expenditure over the past year is 8%.

And this is allocation for salaries of the troops and operation and maintenance expenses. The Armed Forces Development Plan is a forgotten story. The political government treats eferred dpayments on account of equipment purchased 10 years ago as an unnecessary burden. During the last seven years, there was no significant acquisition of military hardware which could make Pakistan’s defenses invincible vis-à-vis India.

And the army and air force are engaged in deadly battle with insurgents without any extra allocation that a country at war should make for its defense force.

By contrast, India, whose defense preparations are Pakistan-specific, allocates five times more to its defense services with a steady increase every year.

There will be hue and cry by the foreign-influenced media and ill-informed politicos about the defense budget vis-à-vis Pakistan’s development program. Fact of the matter is that Pakistan’s fiscal woes are not defense-related; these are related to elite-based taxation system where rich and mighty earn, plunder and steal but refuse to cough up due to their political clout. Pakistan is barely making both ends meet, not due to its spending but because of its failure to mobilise resources. According to credible estimates, the country can five time more revenues if its taxation system is not elite-friendly. Due to this, the share of development; education, health, infrastructure is also embarrassingly negligible in the national pie. Every penny government raises is from the poor and hapless segments of society through indirect taxes giving nothing in return.

In nutshell, budget gives a clear message; decision-makers are more concerned to appease the classes which have plundered country’s resources and as for the national security, it is not a priority of the political class.