The defence budget is being maintained at last year’s level of Rs1,150 billion, said Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar in his budget speech on Tuesday. This claim was repeated on Wednesday by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh during his post-budget conference.
As is the case every year, defence spending becomes a topic of much discussion every time the federal budget is announced. It has become more important now because the government is choked for finances and needs to cut expenditures from wherever it can.
The military budget remains untouched when it comes to reducing the deficit but the development budget was, however, cut. So it came as no surprise that the government’s claim of freezing the military budget was scrutinised. Critics pointed out that the military budget has actually gone up and was not frozen. Here is why they are saying this.
Both the minister and the adviser quoted the figure of Rs1,153 billion allocated for Defence Affairs and Services, which is further divided into administration and services. This figure doesn’t include the money given for pensions. So when we break down the pensions for the last two years we see there has been a 26% increase in military pensions. The military pension in this fiscal year (FY2019-2020) is Rs327 billion compared to the lower Rs259 billion of the last fiscal year.
When military pensions are added to the overall military budget, it takes the total to Rs1480 billion, which is 9% higher than last year’s total military spending.